On this day, Jan 17th, the date of Muhammad Ali’s birthday, in 2015, Deontay Wilder made it to the WBC heavyweight championship. Wilder, taken the distance for the very first time, decisioned Bermane Stiverne to take the belt, in winning it becoming the first American heavyweight champion since Shannon Briggs, who held the WBO strap in 2007. The jury was still out on just how good Wilder was; how long he would reign for.
Seven years on, we all know a whole lot was to come for “The Bronze Bomber” after that big night in Las Vegas. Today, with fans wondering what Wilder’s future may hold – will he or will he not box again being a big question – the critics say Wilder has done all he’s going to do at elite level; that his limitations have been exposed.
Wilder’s rep as one of the most lethal-punching heavyweights ever is pretty solid (although even here, some critics say Wilder never punched out an elite foe), and his supporters do wish to see him come back and get back to scoring chilling knockouts.
But can Wilder ever rule the world again? If he does fight on, Wilder, at age 36 and with a 42-2-1(41) record, faces a tough task. It’s pretty much agreed by all, even Wilder’s staunchest supporters, that he will never beat his nemesis, Tyson Fury – no matter how many times these two fight. So unless Wilder goes the WBA/IBF/WBO route, and fights Oleksandr Usyk, or Anthony Joshua if AJ manages to avenge his own 2021 defeat, he will not be able to rule the world a second time.
But can Wilder defeat Usyk and/or Joshua if he gets the chance to fight them? That’s the thing about Wilder: he makes for exciting fights, and he against Usyk or AJ would be huge events.
In fact, even with no titles at stake, a Wilder-Joshua fight would be a can’t-miss, must-see heavyweight explosion of a fight. But is Wilder in any way happy about the idea of fighting again but not becoming champion again? Wilder always believed he was the best, and it’s likely he must have that mindset if he’s to get back in there.
The heavyweight division is a funny and unpredictable thing. Anything could happen. Might Fury lose the WBC title, maybe to Dillian Whyte, and if so, might Wilder fight and defeat Whyte? It could happen. Might Fury even vacate the WBC title, and if so, could Wilder fight TBA for it? This also could happen. And if Usyk does as most feel will be the case and he beats Joshua again, might Usyk look for a fight with Wilder? This might not be all that likely – Wilder would need at least one comeback win under his best first – but again, it could happen.
Wilder shouldn’t be written off just yet. A lot will depend on how much that third war with Fury took out of Wilder, while the remaining desire “The Bronze Bomber” has will also be a huge factor in where he goes next. But ask his fans and his critics alike, and both will tell you, yeah, they want to see Wilder back in action. It’s pretty simple why: Wilder generates major excitement.
But ask these same people if Wilder can rule as a world champion again and you will get two vastly different answers. Will 2022 be Wilder’s big comeback year or not?