3 More Rounds

Prizefight Preview: WBC World Heavyweight Championship

Deontay Wilder is going to become one of two things this weekend in Vegas:

a) The poster boy for fraudulent boxing contenders who attain glossy records through clever matchmaking, powerful promotional connections, and premium cable hyperbole…

OR…

Photo: Gene Blevins-Hoganphotos/GBP

Photo: Gene Blevins-Hoganphotos/GBP

b) the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

One way or another, the ’08 Olympic medalist will be making a monster impact on the sport of boxing this Saturday night at the MGM Grand, as he challenges WBC champ Bermane Stiverne for his slice of the heavyweight pie. The 12-round contest will air on the Showtime network, headlining a card that also includes rapid-fire WBC super bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz making the 3rd defense of his title (against an opponent so awful that I won’t even bother looking up their name).

The American boxing public has been yearning for a new star in the heavyweight class, and for the past 6+ years, Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KO’s) has been the most promising prospect to pull for. Although he is generally regarded as an untested product, it’s hard to argue with how quickly and viciously he has demolished his recent competition. He may have never seen the 5th round in a pro contest, but that rarely matters when you have the physical gifts that a man like Wilder possesses.

From a technical standpoint, Deontay’s strengths and weaknesses inside the squared-circle are eerily reminiscent of the early 90’s version of Lennox Lewis: lights-out power with the right hand, combined with awful footwork, shaky balance, and questionable defensive tactics at center ring. Will the matchup with Stiverne look like the Lewis-Ruddock 2nd round blowout, or will the Alabama native get rolled-over ala Lewis-McCall 1?

If ever there were ever a measuring stick to test this question upon, it would be Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KO’s), a strong puncher with fluid combinations, a sturdy chin, and excellent ring generalship.The Haitian-Canadian earned his stripes by out-gunning top American contender Cris Arreola on two separate occasions, and has the look of a champion who is unfazed by the hype train surrounding the challenger.

This matchup may very well come down to who lands the first clean shot, as neither athlete has ever truly been in the ring with an opponent who could turn out the lights with a single scoring blow. While the champion may have the more sturdy whiskers, he has never eaten a right cross like the one that Wilder dishes out. At 6’7″, Deontay will also be able to potentially maneuver around the ring at a distance and avoid return fire during the early stages of the contest.

If Stiverne is able to weather the early storm and dial-in his own counter shots, he will likely take advantage of the openings that Wilder initiates with his poor stance and shoddy head movement. From that point, this match may look like a glorified sparring session with Stiverne teeing-off on the young challenger with shots from all angles.

I have been debating my prediction for this match ever since the bout was announced last month, and for once in my less-than-glorious boxing journalism career, I am left without a clear choice, whether through technical analysis or pure gut instinct. I guess I’ll simply have to sit back and enjoy the event for what it’s worth: a competitive, intriguing heavyweight championship contest, where somebody is likely going to get starched at center ring.

PREDICTION: 1st clean right cross by either fighter wins the match!!!

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