Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wilder takes another big step in boxing

Deontay Wilder, the 2008 Olympic heavyweight boxing bronze medalist, barely broke a sweat Friday night en route to dispatching Sergei Liakhovick in less than two minutes at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino.  

The former WBO heavyweight champion was supposed to provide Wilder, a Tuscaloosa native solid work in extending him past the fourth round for the first time.  Instead, Liakhovich didn't make it through the first round.  Previously, no opponent had been able to get rid of the Scottsdale, Ariz., resident in less than nine rounds.

Wilder was largely a project after turning professional.  Though he won a medal in Beijing, China, he was still a novice with less than 50 amateur fights to his credit.  

Over the past five years, Wilder cut his teeth against modest opposition, mostly away from bright lights and expectations that come with major television.  Friday's Showtime-televised main event could force Wilder to be moved quicker than anyone anticipated.

Wilder has sparred Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, the two-headed heavyweight monster that has reigned over the division for much of the last decade.  Is Wilder that far from being ready to test himself against either brother without headgear?  Is it something Wilder would be interested in if the time comes?

"I thought about that after camp, because I gave such tremendous work to them (as a sparring partner)," said Wilder after Friday night's victory.  "The reply I got from sparring them, I got the feeling maybe they'll hold off on fighting me, because they know what I'm capable of doing.

"At the same time, those guys are very competitive to where if you think you're ready, and I know if you talk enough, they will fight you."

While Wilder is still a few considerable steps away from being in that position, it is not out of the realm of possibility.  His first focus is establishing himself as the premiere American heavyweight. 

Alongside Wilder, there are two other stateside heavyweights making a name for themselves.
Andy Ruiz Jr. would never win a body building contest against Wilder, but has shown impressive skills despite a less than appealing physique.  That he is promoted by Top Rank, while Wilder is with bitter rival Golden Boy Promotions, means a showdown between the two is unlikely.

A more reasonable fight would come against Bryant Jennings of Philadelphia.  Jennings and Wilder have exchanged words in the media and Wilder just starched a guy that Jennings took nine rounds to eliminate.

Next month, American heavyweights Seth Mitchell and Chris Arreola meet in a  crossroads fight.  Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer has already indicated the winner could be next for Wilder.  It would be a solid jump in class, and the first fight where some might go against Wilder in pre-fight predictions.

Wilder is determined in his mission to become the first American heavyweight champion since 2007, when Shannon Briggs held the belt briefly - after beating Liakhovich, ironically.

"I think I've got America behind me," said Wilder.  "There can only be one American heavyweight, and his name is Deontay Wilder."

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