The past decade has seen Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and other fighters from the lighter divisions hog the limelight at the expense of the heavyweight division.
While the Klitschko brothers are also great fighters and superb athletes (both stand above 6’6” and weigh over 240 pounds), the reception of boxing fans toward the Ukrainians pales in comparison to that accorded to Pacquiao and Mayweather. Even Oscar Dela Hoya in his last fighting years was watched more by boxing fans and got more hefty paychecks.
With no fighter in the lighter divisions ready to succeed either Pacquiao or Mayweather or both, the heavyweight division has the chance to regain its old stature as the premiere division in boxing. And that is a great possibility in the next 12 months.
Mike Tyson was the last real superstar in the heavyweight division, and none of the heavyweight champions that followed him were able to duplicate his following.
But on January 17, 2015, American heavyweight Deontay Wilder made his presence known in the boxing world by scoring a wide unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne to claim the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight title.
Wilder, who stands 6’7”, reminded fans of boxing great George Foreman in terms of punching power and ring ferocity. Wilder can hardly be described as a methodical or technical boxer like the Klitschkos, but he can punch. Anyway, his record is 33-0 with 32 knockouts.
Wilder, somehow, surprised fans with his easy win over Stiverne, who came into the fight with a record of 23-1-1 with 21 KOs. Stiverne also stopped once promising heavyweight Chris Arreola on May 10, 2014 in the sixth round to claim the WBC crown.
Emboldened by his win over Stiverne, Wilder wants a fight with Tyson Fury of Great Britain. Fury, who stands 6’9” and has a record of 23-0 with 17 knockouts, has failed to fight any of one of the Klitschkos in the past three to four years.
While Fury is undefeated, he got knocked down in the second round by former cruiserweight (200 pounds) champion Steve Cunning-ham on April 20, 2013 although the Briton eventually stopped the American in the seventh round.
The only thing that can come between a potential fight between Fury and Wilder are their handlers wanting instead a showdown with either of the Klitschkos. Besides, Fury getting knocked out or stopped by Wilder would be damaging to the Briton’s young career, and vice versa. (The record of the 38-year old Wladimir is 63-3 with 53 KOS and the 43-year old Vitali 45-2 with 41 KOs.)
But since Wilder holds the WBC world title, he is one step ahead of Fury who holds the World Boxing Organization International title.
The American boxing media is also placing a lot of hope on Wilder to make the United States the dominant force in the heavyweight division. With the Klitschkos nearing the twilight of their careers, it is possible that the Ukrainians may avoid the heavy-punching American which could result to Wilder and Fury battling it out for the other heavyweight belts from the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Organization, International Boxing Federation and what have you.
And with the fighting days of Pacquiao and Mayweather already numbered whether they meet in the ring or not, boxing fans will surely be seeking a “messiah” who would inject life into the sport. Wilder fits the bill at this point.