Convicted Artist Magazine

Feb 28th
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deontay-wilder-vs-bermane-stiverne Deontay Wilder triumphed over Bermane Stiverne in order to become the first title belt holder of US birth since Shannon Briggs in 2006.  However, those scenarios are entirely different.  Briggs won the belt last minute against Sergei Liakhovich, at a time when the title was splintered, and there was no linear champion.  Briggs looked pathetic in his first defense, and had already been largely exposed prior to him winning the belt.  He also showed nothing new.  He looked lazy and listless, and won with one or two big shots.  He also had a history (and future) of failure at the highest levels.  He also was not that removed from US fighters holding those belts, so it was not a novelty.

Deontay Wilder actually had the best possible outcome for him marketability Saturday night.  He, unlike Briggs is entering the championship pantheon at a time when Wladimir Klitschko holds all other belts, and the distinction as the linear and best heavyweight champion out there.  The only reason the WBC champion is given any credence is it's longer, more presitigous history, and the fact that Wlad's equal (his brother Vitali) last held that belt, and did not lose it in the ring.  Therefore, Wilder must impress us more.  He did that.

We already knew he could punch, however, what we did not know, was how his boxing skills would hold up against a fighter who kept coming.  We did not know his ring generalship abilities.  We did not know about his chin or his stamina, although both had received a bad reputation in light of lack of information.  He passed all of those tests, at least this time.  Wilder definitely hurt Stiverne worse than he himself was ever hurt.  Much was made about Wilder's power, but few rememebred that Stiverne had stopped 21 of 24 victims, and had dropped normally durable Chris Arreola multiple times.  Stiverne did connect flush a few times, and Wilder took it well.  I wouldn't even call it getting his bell rung.  I would call it getting woken up.

Wilder also did not get hit flush very often for many good, intelligent reasons.  He used subtle head movement, so he would not get caught during combinations.  He also maintained the best distance, forcing Stiverne to lunge and miss badly.  He also controlled the pace and action of the fight, so that he could rest when he needed to.  There were times when he looked downright Lennox Lewis-esque in there.  True, Stiverne followed him around, had no answers in the corner, and looked like a turtle in a shell, but I believe Wilder is to credit for putting him in that position.  He also showed he can go a full 12, and survive tense moments.  Wilder did not get flustered when he faced a fighter who would not go down, either.

Of course, I'd like to see him vs. Wlad right away, but that is not likely.  Big money fights with the Brits like Joshua, Fury, etc still loom, and are winnable fights for Wilder.  Also, it gives Wlad time to age.  Although we saw Wilder earn a number 2 spot in the division last night, I still do not know anyone who is picking him to dethrone Klitschko.  However, men like Klitschko, Haye, and even Lewis learned to conquer their stamina and chin issues from devastating losses.  Maybe we have witnessed the first heavyweight star in a long time, who is learning those lessons in the gym, and in fights he's winning.  A man with that learning curve, will be hard to beat.

Chris Strait

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