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Deontay Wilder is a One-Man Rolling Tide in His Own Right

Bernard Fernandez

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Deontay Wilder

As a first-semester freshman at Shelton Community College in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala., Deontay Wilder had the same dream that many boys and young men in that state have harbored almost since birth. Tall, lean and athletically gifted, he would earn an associate degree at Shelton CC, then walk on at the University of Alabama where he could imagine himself starring for his beloved Crimson Tide as a wide receiver on the football team or a forward on the basketball squad. Maybe, he dared to believe, he could play and excel in both sports en route to being awarded the college degree his mother fervently hoped would be her son’s ticket to a better life.

But destiny had other plans for Wilder. His infant daughter, Naieya, was diagnosed with spina bifida, a congenital condition that affects the spine and usually is apparent at birth. Raised to believe that a real man is responsible for taking care of his children, Wilder dropped out of Shelton and took jobs that paid actual money, if not a whole lot of it, rather than hope to be drafted by the NFL or NBA, a long shot dependent, of course, on his even making one of Alabama’s varsity rosters and doing well enough to draw pro scouts’ attention.

It has been a meandering road for Wilder from former community college student to IHOP waiter to Red Lobster kitchen worker to Olympic bronze medalist in boxing and, since his unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 16, 2015, WBC heavyweight champion. The kid who once fantasized about catching touchdown passes and sinking jump shots in the cauldron of Southeastern Conference competition is now 33 years old, a multimillionaire and emerging state treasure famous enough to have been asked by Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who has led the powerhouse Tide to five national titles in the last 11 years and is bearing down on a sixth this season with a top-rated, undefeated team, to occasionally deliver motivational speeches to the red-clad players to whose ranks Wilder once hoped to join.

It wouldn’t be all that surprising if Saban again brought Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) — who makes the eighth defense of his WBC title Saturday night against former champ Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles — to give another rah-rah pep talk to the Crimson Tide if they make it to the national championship game on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif. After all, Wilder has shone on a stage that stretches beyond the boundaries of his state or even his country. It has been said that the heavyweight champion of the world holds the most prestigious title any athlete can have, although the proliferation of sanctioning bodies and multiple claimants to that distinction have diluted its historical importance. But a victory over former lineal champ Fury, and especially if it comes in the form of another exclamation-point knockout, would do much to bolster Wilder’s contention that he truly is the best of the best, the “baddest man on the planet,” and worthy of being mentioned in the same breath with some of the greatest champions and hardest punchers ever to have graced the division.

“Alabama is the national champion,” noted Jay Deas, Wilder’s co-trainer and the man who introduced him to all the possibilities that a foray into boxing might offer someone with his signature skill. “Deontay is a world champion.”

And not just some itinerant holder of an alphabet title whose place in boxing history is written in pencil and not indelible ink. To Wilder’s way of thinking, it is the awesome power he brings to his work – primarily packed in an overhand right that can instantly turn an opponent into a twitching heap of humanity  – that stamps him as a special fighter, worthy of taking his eventual place in the pantheon of such big-man blasters as Mike Tyson, Sonny Liston, Joe Louis, George Foreman, Rocky Marciano, Earnie Shavers, Jack Dempsey, Joe Frazier and Lennox Lewis. Put it this way: Wilder has no intention of letting the outcome of his high-visibility pairing with Fury rest in the hands of the judges.

“I say I’m the best. I say I hit the hardest. I say I’m the baddest man on the planet, and I believe every word that I say,” the confident-to-the-point-of-cockiness Wilder said of the great equalizer he possesses and will neutralize anything Fury might have going for him because, well, when hasn’t it? “I’m all about devastating knockouts. That’s what I do.  (Fury) knows he’s going to get knocked out. So he can whoop and he can holler, he can build himself up. But he’d better meditate on this situation because he’s going to feel pain that he never felt before.”

High-volume knockout heavyweights come in all shapes and sizes, and the power source from which they draw is not always readily evident to the untrained eye. Some fighters have ripped physiques that look more appropriate for contestants in a Mr. Universe contest, but they don’t hit especially hard, the impressively muscled Shavers being a notable exception. Foreman and Liston had thicker bodies and huge fists capable of almost casually dispensing blunt-force trauma. Tyson, Frazier and Marciano were stumpy, short-armed guys who could knock a brick building down with a single shot. And Wilder? Well, he’s 6-foot-7, with a stretched-out weight distribution that suggests an Olympic swimming champion more than a fighter capable of knocking larger men silly. To some – like, for instance, Fury, who at 6-foot-9 and 260 or so pounds is anything but lean – the WBC champ looks almost gaunt.

“How am I going to let this little, skinny spaghetti hoot beat me?” Fury asked, rhetorically.

Wilder doesn’t necessarily dispute the notion that he is pretty much a lightweight for a heavyweight in an era where more and more of the sport’s big boys are beginning to resemble the Alabama defensive ends that he could never have been unless he wolfed down maybe six or seven carb-loaded meals a day. A bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, hence his nickname of the “Bronze Bomber,” the closest physical approximation to Wilder might be the welterweight version of Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, who also had a spindly build but a sledgehammer of a right hand.

“I don’t care how big he is,” Wilder said of the taller (by two inches), much heftier Fury. “I done fought big fighters. Everybody I’ve fought has outweighed me. (Actually, it’s only 35 of 40.) But when you possess my kind of power, you don’t worry about a lot of things, man. I got the killer instinct. I got the most feared, the most dangerous killer instinct in the boxing game. It’s natural. It’s born.”

It is axiomatic that big hitters are born, not made, which might not be entirely accurate when you consider that the very young Tommy Hearns, who found his way into the late, great Emanuel Steward’s Kronk Gym in Detroit, didn’t have much pop until he learned some of the finer points of power punching, like hip rotation and turning your fist over at the moment of impact. But Wilder was basically a grown man of 20 when he checked out Deas’ gym in Tuscaloosa and learned, as Deas soon did, that the tall, skinny guy had a gift that might translate into something of value greater than a weekly $400 check from Red Lobster.

After taking a bronze in Beijing as a relative neophyte (he had an OK but hardly extraordinary 30-5 amateur record), the still-learning Wilder turned pro at 23 with a second-round knockout of Ethan Cox on Nov. 15, 2008, in Nashville, Tenn. Wilder weighed a career-low 207¼ pounds for his debut and, in what would become something of an oddity, actually outweighed Cox by 6½ pounds. Over the course of his 10-year pro career, Wilder – who has come in for three fights at a career-high of 229 pounds – has averaged 220.2 pounds per bout to 242.9 for the guys he’s been blasting out, although that gap might not be quite so wide were it not for the two chubbos who made the scales groan at 398 and 352½, respectively, that a still-rough-around-the-edges Wilder got out of there in the first round.

Only one opponent – then-WBC champ Stiverne, whom Wilder dethroned – has gone the distance with the “Bronze Bomber,” but Stiverne was decked three times in losing a one-round quickie on Nov. 4, 2017, meaning that the heavyweight champion with the highest career knockout percentage has kayoed every man he has been paired with as a pro. True, Wilder’s victims haven’t all been top-shelf, but that hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Fury’s scoffing putdown that 35 of Wilder’s 40 victories have come against “total tomato cans who can’t fight back” notwithstanding, Deas correctly points out that Wilder was poised to go to Moscow to fight the very formidable Russian Alexander Povetkin, a bout that went by the wayside when Povetkin tested positive for a banned substance, and he was insistent on proceeding with a twice-postponed matchup with the even more formidable Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz after Ortiz twice tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Wilder, who was in trouble himself in the seventh round, won that slugfest on a 10th-round KO on March 3.

“Deontay and Tyson Fury both let their representatives know this was the fight they wanted, this was the fight the public wanted,” Deas said in holding the bout up as proof that his guy was willing to fight anyone, at any time and any place. “It’s a huge fight between undefeated fighters. Both guys should be commended for stepping up and giving the fans a fight they really want to see.

“But that’s Deontay Wilder. He will be involved in the two biggest heavyweight fights of 2018, having fought Ortiz and Fury. Nobody can match that resume. Joshua fighting (Joseph) Parker and Povetkin just doesn’t stack up. And if – when – Deontay beats Fury, I think he deserves to be recognized as Fighter of the Year.”

It is reasonable to believe Wilder will be one of two finalists for all the Fighter of the Year awards on the strength of wins over Ortiz and Fury, if he survives the upcoming test, arguably the biggest challenge of his career to date. His primary rival as the top fighter of 2018 would be undisputed cruiserweight ruler Oleksandr Usyk, who also has had a very commendable year with victories over quality opponents Mairis Breidis, Murat Gassiev and Tony Bellew.

But, as the recent mid-term U.S. elections should have demonstrated, the only sure thing in boxing, as in politics, is that there are no sure things. It’s wonderful to have confidence in yourself, but Wilder’s pronouncements of virtual invincibility call to mind Mike Tyson’s mistaken belief that he, too, was too good to ever lose to anyone inside a roped-off swatch of canvas. That idea went by the boards, of course, when Tyson was felled by 42-1 longshot Buster Douglas in Tokyo.

Reminded that Fury has always had a difficult style to decipher, Fury said with a vintage Mike Tyson-level of imperiousness, “I will figure him out. I don’t know when it’s coming, but when it does come, it’s good night, baby. I’m a true champion. A true champion knows how to adjust to anybody, any style. Fury has a lot of great attributes, but I’m the best in the world. And I’m going to prove it again. My confidence is over the roof.”

Whoever survives Saturday night’s fight likely moves on to a clear-the-decks showdown with WBA/WBO/IBF heavyweight champ Antony Joshua in 2019. But that won’t just be a fight to determine the best heavyweight of the here and now; to the winner likely goes the opportunity to sit at a table reserved only for the bluest-blooded members of heavyweight royalty. It’s a highly exclusive club, and Wilder is impatient to receive his invitation.

“I’ve worked my ass off to get to this very point in my life,” he said. “And now I’m here.”

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Tyson Fury Blasts Out Germany’s Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas

David A. Avila

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Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz

LAS VEGAS-In his first Las Vegas show Great Britain’s Tyson Fury showcased a neon light kind of performance with a second round knockout over Germany’s Tom Schwarz to retain the lineal heavyweight world championship on Saturday.

“I came to put on a show for Las Vegas and I hoped everyone enjoyed it,” Fury said.

Though facing an undefeated fighter like himself, Fury (28-0-1, 20 KOs) proved to Schwarz (24-1, 16 KOs) and the more than 9,000 fans at the MGM Grand there are elite levels in the prizefighting world with a quick, decisive knockout victory.

The heavyweight known as the “Gypsy King” had recently signed with Top Rank after giving a riveting and inspiring performance last December against WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder. Both electrified the crowd in Los Angeles and around the world proving the heavyweight division is alive and well.

It had been decades since heavyweights had sparked interest outside of Europe. But Fury and Wilder’s performance proved exciting despite ending in a majority draw after 12 rounds.

On Saturday, Fury met Schwarz and in his first fight in Las Vegas and easily out-classed Schwarz with his ability to use distance, slip punches and basically hit the German fighter with ease, even as a southpaw.

“Key tonight was telling myself to use the jab, and slip to the side,” said Fury.

After a rather tepid first round Fury changed to a southpaw stance and invited Schwarz to try and hit him. In one flurry the German fired a six-punch combination and every blow was slipped by the smiling Fury. He then smoothly slipped around Schwarz and fired his own six punch combination and capped it with a right to the chin that dropped the German to his knees. Schwarz got up and was met with another dozen blows that forced referee Kenny Bayless to end the bludgeoning at 2:54 of the second round. Fury was declared the winner by technical knockout.

“I put on an extra 12 pounds. This time it was only a few months out of the ring and I’m back,” said Fury. “I came here a southpaw and I hoped everybody enjoyed it.”

When asked if a Wilder rematch was on tap Fury was effusive and declared that promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank assured it would be in September or October.

“I’ve never seen promoting like this,” said Fury. “God bless America.”

Once again the heavyweights seem to be the darling division with Fury, Wilder, Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua the leading heavyweights.

Mikaela

Mikaela Mayer (11-0, 4 KOs) started slowly but once she figured out the awkward aggressiveness of Lizbeth Crespo (13-4, 3 KOs) she slipped into overdrive with the right cross and right uppercuts and rolled to victory by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. The former American Olympian retains the NABF super featherweight title.

For the first two rounds Crespo scored well with overhand rights and constant punching. Though Mayer scored with solid left jabs, she was countered by looping rights and lefts that caught the taller American fighter pulling out.

Adjustments were made and by the third round Mayer was staying close and using lethal right hands that boomed off Crespo’s head and body. After charging hard for two rounds those blows suddenly slowed down the Argentine’s attack.

Mayer took over after the third round and kept the momentum going with that lethal right and check left hook. Crespo tried but couldn’t solve the right of Mayer.

After 10 rounds the judges scored it 100-90, 99-91, and 98-92 for Mayer.

“Crespo was a tough challenge, but I got through it and I’m ready to move on to bigger things,” said Mayer. “I am ready for a world title fight next. It’s time for the champions to step up and get in the ring with me.”

Other Bouts

Albert Bell (15-0, 5 KOs) proved a little too slick for Northern California’s Andy Vences (22-1-1, 12 KOs) and won the WBC Continental America’s super featherweight title by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. The scores were all 97-93 for Bell.

WBC International featherweight titlist Isaac Lowe (17-1-3, 6 KOs) won a boring unanimous decision over Wisconsin’s Duarn Vue (14-2-2, 4 KOs) after 10 rounds. Lowe ran and ran some more with occasional pot shots but there were long stretches where it was more a track meet than a prize fight. It was like amateur boxing for 10 rounds. The scores were 98-92, 97-93 and 99-91 for Lowe.

Italian heavyweight Guido “The Gladiator” Vianello (4-0, 4 KOs) showed off agility and power before knocking out Louisiana’s Keenan Hickman (6-4-1, 2 KOs). Vianello, who is trained by Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, floored Hickman three times before the fight was stopped at 2:22 of the second round.

Germany’s Peter Kadiriv (4-0) had no problems with Houston’s southpaw heavyweight Juan Torres (3-2-1) and won every round with a steady lead right and occasional combinations. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Kadiriv.

Philadelphia’s Sonny Conto (3-0, 3 KOs) knocked out Youngstown, Ohio’s Daniel Infante (1-2) with an overhand right at 2:08 of the second round of their heavyweight confrontation. Conto had floored Infante earlier in the round with a seven-punch flurry.

Fight of the Night

In the final fight of the night super middleweights Cem Kelic (14-0, 9 KOs) and Martez McGregor (8-2, 6 KOs) electrified the small audience remaining in the crowd with a memorable slugfest.

Chicago’s McGregor started quick and floored Los Angeles-based Kelic in the first round with a right cross. That was only the beginning.

For the next seven rounds the two 168-pounders blasted each other with blows that would have taken out normal human beings. Both gave super human performances until Kelic connected with a left hook that staggered McGregor forcing referee Tony Weeks to halt the fight at 1:45 of the eighth and final round.

It was truly the best fight of the night.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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Fast Results From Latvia: Mairis Briedis and the KO Doctor advance in the WBSS

Arne K. Lang

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Briedis vs Glowacki

The semifinal round of the Wold Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament played out today in Riga, Latvia, the hometown of Mairis Briedis who was matched against Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki. Both fighters had only one blemish on their ledger and in both cases their lone defeat came at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk.

The fans left happily after Briedis (26-1, 19 KOs) knocked out Glowacki (34-2) in the third frame. But it was messy fight that invites a lot of second-guessing and likely a challenge from the Glowacki camp.

After a feeling-out first round, Briedis cranked up the juice. An errant elbow landed behind Glowacki’s head, putting him on the canvas. For this discretion, Briedis was docked a point. A legitimate knockdown followed — Glowacki was hurt — and then another knockdown after the bell had sounded. The referee could not hear the bell in the din. It was a wild scene.

The fight was allowed to continue, but didn’t last much longer. Coming out for round three, Glowacki wasn’t right and Briedis pounced on him, scoring another knockdown, leading referee Robert Byrd to waive the fight off at the 27 second mark. It wasn’t Byrd’s finest hour.

The tournament organizers anticipated the complication of a draw and assigned extra judges to eliminate this possibility. They did not anticipate the complication of a “no-contest.” If the outcome isn’t overturned, Briedis, a former WBC cruiserweight champ, is the new WBO title-holder.

Dorticos-Tabiti

In the co-feature, Miami-based Cuban defector Yunier Dorticos, nicknamed the KO Doctor, lived up to his nickname with a smashing one punch knockout of previously undefeated Andrew Tabiti. The end for Tabiti came with no warning in round 10. An overhand right left him flat on his back, unconscious. Referee Eddie Claudio didn’t bother to count. The official time was 2:33.

It was easy to build case for Dorticos (24-1, 22 KOs). He was three inches taller than Tabiti, packed a harder punch, and had fought stronger opposition. But it was understood that Tabiti, now 17-1, had a more well-rounded game. Moreover, there were concerns about Dorticos’ defense and stamina.

Dorticos was ahead on the scorecards after nine frames. He rarely took a backward step and let his hands go more freely. And it didn’t help Tabiti’s cause that he was docked a point for holding in the sixth frame. Earlier in that round, an accidental clash of heads left Dorticos with a cut over his right eye. The ringside physician was called into the ring to examine it and let the bout continue.

With the victory, Dorticos became the IBF world cruiserweight champion and moved one step closer to acquiring the coveted Muhammad Ali trophy in what will be, win or lose, the most lucrative fight of his career.

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Angel Ruiz Scores 93 Second KO in Ontario, CA

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Angel Ruiz

(Ringside Report by Special Correspondent Tarrah Zeal) ONTARIO, CA – “Path to Glory” featured some of Southern California’s hottest prospects carving their image into the boxing world through the Thompson Boxing Promotions platform at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, CA Friday night.

Undefeated welterweight prospect Angel Ruiz (14-0, 11 KO) of Maywood, CA finished veteran Miguel Zamudio (43-13-1, 27 KO) from Los Mochis, Mexico with an impressive stoppage at 1:33 in the first round scheduled for eight.

At 21 years young, Ruiz (pictured) came into the night with four KO wins in his last four bouts and looking to continue his streak. A second-round body shot win over Gerald Avila (8-17-3) on May 10th and first round KO win against Roberto Almazan (8-9) just this year.

Ruiz was just getting started in the ring using his long distance and power punches to punish Zamudio.

Twenty seconds into the opening round, Ruiz’ mouthpiece went flying out and a timeout was called. Once the mouthpiece was placed back in, Ruiz administered a quick flurry of punches but with no exchange from Zamudio, referee Raul Caiz stepped in and stopped the main event fight.

After the fight interview Ruiz was asked about what he saw in the fight, “I see this guy. He wants to fight. He was trying to fight but I’m too hard. I got you.” Ruiz said. “I feel ready. I want to fight with the best.”

With 89 amateur bouts under his belt, although not signed with any promoters, Ruiz is verbally challenging Vergil Ortiz, “Vergil if you see this video, remember me”.

Brewart

In he co-main event, a six round junior middleweight bout, Richard “Cool Breeze” Brewart (6-0, 2 KO) of Rancho Cucamonga, CA won a unanimous decision over Antonio “El Tigre” Duarte (2-1) of Tijuana, Mexico.

Brewart was coming into the fight looking like the faster, more technical fighter of the two. Duarte over-telegraphed all of his punches, allowing Brewart to use his overhand right and awesome agility to angle out of reach.

Even after Duarte checked Brewart on the chin with a strong punch, Brewart’s power punches always ended the rounds. The judges scored the bout 60-54 twice and 59-55 for Brewart.

Other Bouts

A victorious unanimous decision at the end of a six-round toe-to- toe bantamweight fight was given to Mario “Mighty” Hernandez, (8-1-1, 3 KO) of Santa Cruz, CA over lefty Victor “Lobo” Trejo Garcia (16-11-1, 8 KO) from Mexico City, Mexico.

Continuous hard punches were exchanged from both brawlers starting at the bell of round one. Fans were excited after a flurry of punches and then a clear push from Hernandez sent Trejo to the floor at the end of round three, giving the crowd excitement for the coming rounds.

It deemed to be a bit of a challenge for both, as orthodox Hernandez managed to match southpaw Trejo’s overhand right punches with his own in response. After six rounds of continuous action two judges scored the bout 57-56 and one 59-54 for Hernandez.

In what would be an exciting and entertaining four-round heavyweight bout, Oscar Torrez (6-0, 3 KO) from Riverside, CA took on Allen Ruiz (0-2) of Ensenada, Mexico.

A surprising uppercut from Ruiz, in the beginning of round one, put Torrez on the canvas and every eye in the room were all fixated on both brawlers. The look in Torrez’ eyes were more calculated, as he was careful from then on.

Wild punches were being thrown from Ruiz without fear of repercussion, but then a quick liver shot from Torrez sent him to his knees. After a couple of seconds to adjust back into the bout, Ruiz was then checked again by left hook to the chin knocking out his mouthpiece. There were 20 seconds left in round two and the round ended with no mouthpiece.

Torrez showed he was stronger and the more technical fighter and finally ended the bout by KO with a right hook to Ruiz’s body at 1:08 in the third round.

Jose “Tito” Sanchez, a rising featherweight prospect with two knockouts in his first two fights and training under star trainer Joel Diaz, out of Indio, CA, took on veteran Pedro “Pedroito” Melo (17-20-2, 8 KO). Even with his low experience in the professional boxing world, Sanchez showed his maturity in the ring by controlling the fight when following Melo around the ring and landing clean left hooks and powerful body shots. After four rounds Sanchez won by 40-36 on all three cards.

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