Deontay Wilder returns to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center – a happy hunting ground in recent years – to defend his WBC heavyweight title against former IBF title challenger Dominic Breazeale on Saturday night.
Wilder’s dramatic battle with Tyson Fury last December ended in decidedly anticlimactic fashion when it was declared a split-draw after twelve compelling rounds worthy of a Hollywood movie.
The result was somewhat contentious in certain quarters, as although Wilder scored two knockdowns and nearly ended the fight in the final stanza, Fury was deemed by many observers as the deserved winner; someone who consistently outlanded his counterpart and therefore dominated most of the rounds.
Tuscaloosa native Wilder will undoubtedly be looking to avoid controversy this time round with an emphatic and ruthless victory against Breazeale, someone for which he has expressed a lot of contempt following an altercation between the pair in April 2017, which by all accounts quickly turned violent.
Two years ago. Wilder pummelled Californian contender Gerald Washington into submission on the main event of a PBC card in Birmingham, Alabama, while Breazeale – a friend of Washington’s – stopped then-undefeated hopeful Izo Ugonoh in the fifth round of a see-saw shootout.
Animosity has been brewing between the pair since that date as they became embroiled in an ugly post-fight confrontation in a hotel lobby, reportedly also involving Wilder’s younger brother Marsellos, who currently campaigns as a cruiserweight.
‘Trouble’ now has the opportunity to settle a long-festering score and win a world title on the second attempt, following a comprehensive stoppage defeat inflicted by Anthony Joshua in June 2016.
Joshua, now a unified champion, was successful in the maiden defence of his IBF belt against Breazeale, immediately forcing the Californian on the defensive with sharp combination punching before the referee intervened in the seventh round to prevent Breazeale from sustaining any further unnecessary punishment.
On the comeback trail since suffering his sole career reverse, Breazeale has registered wins over former world title challenger Eric Molina and most recently Carlos Negron, before ultimately being designated as the WBC mandatory challenger in dubious circumstances at the expense of the ‘Silver’ champion in number-one ranked Dillian Whyte.
Despite the markedly uncompetitive nature of the Joshua fight, Breazeale showcased his stubbornness and durability, at least, in withstanding the unrelenting onslaught from the powerful Joshua up until the point where he was mercifully stopped.
Wilder, meanwhile, is someone who unabashedly defies boxing convention and scoffs at any notions of boxing science. It appears that, for the most part, there has been a method to his perceived madness; as evidenced by the fact that he is undefeated in 41 fights. Nevertheless, he still has his detractors, who are generally inclined towards insisting that he was the beneficiary of favourable judging against Fury, and that it is only a matter of time before his many shortcomings are exploited by a fundamentally superior opponent.
At the end of the day, however, it’s unlikely that Breazeale is the one capable of bringing Wilder’s incredible run to an end. Although he is strong and aggressive, uncharitable commentators could also describe him as slow and defensively porous, while Wilder demonstrated against Ortiz and Fury that he is similarly tenacious and capable of finding the mark against the trickiest opponents in the division.
‘The Bronze Bomber’ punches with a destructive force that belies his gangly frame, circling his opponents menacingly before spontaneously connecting with a devastating shot and – more often than not – crudely forcing the stoppage with follow-up combinations.
Sometimes this approach can take him a couple of rounds, but against someone as hittable as Breazeale, it is likely that Wilder will make good on his baleful promises by expediting this process and dispatching of his counterpart before the midway point.
The chief-support features WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr defending his title against seasoned Spaniard and former IBF super-bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez.
Russell’s recent career has been largely characterised by injury-related inactivity, but nonetheless champions still makes infrequent appearances to fulfil his mandatory obligations.
Russell – who sole defeat came at the hands of pound-for-pound superstar Vasyl Lomachenko in 2014 – outpointed undefeated contender JoJo Diaz last year in Oxon Hill, Maryland; and is accordingly expected to see off this latest challenge with relative ease.
Martinez makes his second world title attempt at featherweight, after falling short against WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz in 2016 via fifth-round stoppage.
Article by: Navi Singh