The most significant heavyweight matchup in the United States in a decade was formally announced on Saturday night. Hard-hitting WBC Heavyweight World Champion Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs), of Las Vegas, is set to defend his title against unbeaten knockout specialist and mandatory challenger Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, Jan. 17. The potentially explosive bout between the two big-punching heavyweights will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and be televised live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/7p.m. PT).
The event is co-promoted by Don King Productions and Golden Boy Promotions and will feature undefeated IBF Bantamweight World Champion Leo Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 KOs) defending his belt against a challenger to be announced.
Ticket information for the event will be announced shortly.
SHOWTIME Sports® will offer the latest installment of the award-winning original documentary series ALL ACCESS the week prior to the heavyweight showdown on Friday, Jan. 9 at 10:45 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME.
Stiverne vs. Wilder is set up to be a gripping, intense encounter for as long as it lasts. Neither boxer is a fan of the other and, with a combined 54 knockouts in 58 fights, both men expect to win by knockout.
“Don’t blink on Jan. 17. I am the heavyweight champion of the world and nobody is going to beat me,” Stiverne said. “I’m excited and I’m looking forward to making a statement. Talk is cheap. I do my talking in the ring.”
“I’m expecting a short night because we have bad blood,” Wilder said. “I really want to hurt this guy, and I haven’t felt this way in a long time. I want to show him this is no joke, this is real. This is business. This is the hurt game and my power is real. I told him that I’ll whoop his ass and I’m going to keep my promise.”
If triumphant, Wilder will become the first United States-born heavyweight champion since Shannon Briggs, who captured the WBO title in November 2006 and lost the crown in his first defense.
“Now I can make all my dreams come true, I can make it a reality,” Wilder said. “America is yearning for a heavyweight world champion. We haven’t had a real one since the days of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Everyone just sits back and remembers the glory days. America has been waiting for their champion and I’ve arrived.”
“This will be a momentous day in heavyweight boxing history,” said legendary Hall of Fame promoter Don King. “Just more than 40 years removed from the Rumble in The Jungle with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, the heavyweights, WBC world champion Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder, will “Return to Glory” live at MGM Grand on SHOWTIME. The little guys in boxing are great but it’s the heavyweights that have always excited fans the most. Bermane, he’s a knockout artist just like Mike Tyson. Wilder, he talks trash but is a good fighter, too. This is a must-see fight. The heavyweights are back and ready to “Return To Glory.’ ”
“Fight fans across the United States have been clamoring for an American heavyweight
champion for nearly a decade — and Deontay Wilder may well answer their wishes on Jan. 17,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Founder and President of Golden Boy Promotions. “Stiverne brings power and experience. Wilder brings power and youth. This is set up to be an explosive fight that I can’t wait to see.”
Stiverne, the first-ever Haiti-born boxer to own any portion of a heavyweight crown, will be making his first defense of the WBC title he won with a convincing sixth-round technical knockout over Chris Arreola in his last fight on May 10, 2014. It was Stiverne’s second consecutive impressive victory over Arreola and earned him the WBC belt vacated in December 2013 when Vitali Klitschko retired. Stiverne was a 5:1 underdog going into their first fight on April 27, 2013. Stiverne won that fight via clear 12-round unanimous decision.
Since suffering his lone loss in July 2007, the supremely talented 6-foot-2 Stiverne, 36, has emerged as one of the world’s most feared and destructive heavyweights. He is 12-0-1 in his last 13 starts, 10 of the victories coming inside the distance. Of his 21 knockouts, 18 came inside three rounds, 14 of them in the initial three minutes.
“I’m all business,” Stiverne said. “The only time he’s going to get my attention is the night of the fight. I promise you, he will get more than he bargained for and more than he’s expecting.”
The 6-foot-7 Wilder, 29, hasn’t come close to putting in a full night’s work. He has gone four full rounds just one time since turning pro in November 2008. The virtually untested slugger has fought a total of 58 rounds, an average of 1.8 rounds per outing. He’s registered 18 knockouts in the first round, eight in the second.
“I can’t help that I always knock my guys out,” Wilder said. “It’s not my fault I make it look easy. When I knock Stiverne out I don’t want to hear any whispers; I don’t want to hear people say that he was a bum. I want the world to bow down and praise the heavyweight champion of the world. They have to finally admit that I’m just that good.”
In his bout before last in March, in what was expected to be his most demanding assignment, Wilder blasted Malik Scott in 96 seconds. Wilder is coming off a fourth-round technical knockout over Jason Gavern in August 2013. Wilder dropped Gavern twice, once in the third and once in the fourth. The referee halted the one-sided proceedings at the end of the fourth round.
A 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and the last American male boxer to medal in The Olympics, Wilder will once again enter a boxing ring while carrying the weight of U.S. boxing fans on his shoulders.
“We have a fight between two huge punchers,” said boxing historian and SHOWTIME expert analyst Steve Farhood. “There’s going to be a lot of drama because you’ll want to see who lands first. Who lands first may end the fight. It’s that kind of matchup.
“Stiverne is a big puncher and more proven than Wilder, having fought Chris Arreola twice. He’s an exciting heavyweight because of his power, and he’s proven to be the type of fighter that will take two to give one.’’