Deontay Wilder, America’s Great Heavyweight Hope, Shines in Primetime

Deontay Wilder, Eric Molina
The Associated Press

WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder made his network television debut with a victory over a game Johann Duhaupas in perhaps the stiffest test of the Bronze Bomber’s career.

Wilder punished the Frenchman with a Larry Holmesesque jab early, a fury of uppercuts in the fifth, and a series of power shots in the seventh. The raucous Birmingham crowd erupted with every blow and remained on their feet throughout much of the intense action. Though lopsided, the first heavyweight title bout on network television in thirty years entertained.

Duhaupas shrugged off Wilder’s best shots and opened up a mouse on Wilder’s left eye early that closed as the fight progressed. Not intimidated by Wilder’s CV of 33 knockouts in 34 previous fights, Duhaupas stalked the champion in a plodding, methodical manner, eating hard shots with heart and occasionally connecting for his efforts.

Wilder unloaded again in the tenth, unleashing looping shots that elicited close looks by the referee but did not knock down the too-durable-for-his-own-good Frenchman. Wilder exploded with a flurry of hard shots in the eleventh that coaxed a merciful intervention by the third man in the ring 35 seconds into the round.

Wilder pitched a shutout over the ten full rounds and improved to 35-0 with 34 knockouts. Duhapaus, though stopped, remains innocent of the taste of the canvas over his 35 professional fights.

“I see why he’s never been stopped before,” Wilder told NBC after the victory.

At 6’7” and boasting an amazing 83-inch reach, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist represents the United States’ best hope to reclaim the lineal heavyweight championship that Americans owned for most of the 20th century. An American last claimed the legitimate heavyweight title in 2001, when Hasim Rahman shocked Lennox Lewis with a fifth-round knockout before losing the rematch later that year. Lewis and the Klitschkos reigned over the division for the next fourteen years and counting. Ring magazine’s champion and ten top contenders include just three Americans.

But Wilder’s size, power, sound boxing, and athleticism makes him an interesting challenge to the Ring champion. Wilder holds height and reach advantages over lineal champion Wladimir Klitschko that the Ukrainian almost always enjoys over opponents. His knockout power also speaks well of his chances. Klitschko knows the knockdown, showing a suspect chin against Corrie Sanders, Sam Peter, Lamon Brewster, and others. Wilder’s defense, however, appeared second rate against a third-rate heavyweight on NBC. He showed little head movement, kept his hands low, and endured numerous shots from the Frenchman. One imagines Klitschko’s stiff, mechanical jab finding a landing spot often against the American. But Wilder keeps getting better as the 39-year-old Klitschko keeps getting older.

“Hopefully, we can do it sometime by the end of next year,” Wilder said of a money fight against Klitschko. He divulged that he owns more than fifty rounds of sparring experience against both Klitschko brothers. The Alabaman promises, “That fight is surely coming around.”