Wilder steps back in time to prove his superiority over the undeserving Stiverne all over again, writes Chris Walker
WBC heavyweight king Deontay prepares to face old rival Stiverne
THE welcome trend of outstanding matchups gripping boxing throughout 2017 was set to hit the heavyweight division when WBC champion Deontay Wilder intended to put his belt on the line against enigmatic Cuban Luis Ortiz. Unfortunately, a failed drug test from the latter shelved the highly anticipated contest, and now number one contender, and former Wilder victim, Bermane Stiverne steps in for a rematch that doesn’t excite in the slightest.
I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous – that a one-sided bout from January 2015, in which Wilder staggered the compact Haiti native several times before earning a near shutout decision, is set for a sequel, or that Stiverne is mandatory contender. Since losing to Wilder, Stiverne has fought just once – going the 10-round distance against Derric Rossy – and also found time to fail a drug test himself ahead of an aborted clash with Alexander Povetkin.
Wilder’s career since capturing the belt from Stiverne has seen him keep his flawless record intact, but any hopes he had of taking over the division from Wladimir Klitschko are yet to be fulfilled. Tyson Fury became ruler when dethroning Wladimir two years ago before heading on a path of self-destruction, and then Anthony Joshua handed the wise Ukrainian another loss in April of this year in an epic showing that reminded people just how significant the heavyweight crown can be. During this period, Wilder has dominated against a cast of C-list contenders, but the lack of a marquee victim on his record has resulted in a lack of faith from the industry. Another victory over Stiverne will do little to appease that, yet Wilder – targeting a unification scrap with Joshua – knows he can’t slip
up. “In the first fight, I broke my hand in the third round and I still dominated,” revealed Wilder. “That was a lot of the reason why it went the distance. This time it is a different day, different time, and different fight, and it won’t end well for him. Despite all these obstacles that are thrown in my path, it will not stop me from reaching my goal, and that is to be the undisputed heavyweight champion. Stiverne is going to pay for Luis Ortiz screwing up.”
Boxing observers will probably not learn anything new from Wilder in this fight and it’s highly doubtful that his reputation will be enhanced with victory, because we’ve seen it all before.
This return falls into a similar bracket of Chad Dawson and Sergey Kovalev providing rematches to Antonio Tarver and Jean Pascal respectively. Nothing in the original meetings had anyone screaming for a sequel, and the same applies for Wilder and Stiverne, who clash at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on a show being screened by Sky Sports in the UK and Showtime in America.
Complacency from the champion is probably Stiverne’s best chance of obtaining an unlikely victory, but one doubts Wilder will come unprepared. Although he can be ragged and reckless when attacking, he demonstrated plenty of respect for Stiverne when they met in Vegas almost three years ago, and the manner in which he won showed that he is able to box when required. It’s likely he will adopt a similar approach on Saturday night, but increase the nastiness as the fight drags on to exploit the severe lack of inactivity of Stiverne and force a stoppage somewhere around the ninth.
Wilder can feel hard done by that his impressive slate does not include the valuable scalps of Ortiz and Povetkin – yet another found guilty of using banned substances – but the Stivernes and Gerald Washingtons of the world are not adequate enough quality to truly assess just how good the American world champion is. Those answers urgently need to be sought in 2018.
Two former Joshua victims face off on the undercard as Eric Molina and Dominic Breazeale collide over 12 rounds. Neither fighter covered themselves in glory when opposing the destructive Brit, but past analysis of both shows that Breazeale is probably the more polished of the two. It is hard to visualise the victor troubling any of the current champions, or leading contenders for that matter, but Breazeale should get a comfortable points win. Kazakhstan-born Russian Sergey
Lipinets should win his first world title when he goes for the recently vacated IBF super-lightweight crown against Japan’s Akihiro Kondo. Lipinets looks a very capable puncher and has not put a foot wrong yet during a 12-fight career, and he can add to his impressive KO ratio by halting Kondo somewhere after halfway.
There’s also action for the oft-entertaining Shawn Porter. The former world champion at 147lbs should be able to outscore the very durable Adrian
Granados – who shone recently in a losing effort to Adrien Broner – over the scheduled 10-round distance.
THE VERDICT A pointless return that highlights severe faults in the WBC rankings system.
LETTING LOOSE: Wilder wants to take his frustration out on old foe Stiverne
REPEAT OR REVENGE? Wilder will be aiming to punish Stiverne with right hands, just as he did in their first fight