SAN DIEGO, January 15, 2016 – Lennox Lewis of Great Britain was the last unified world heavyweight champion. It was in the last century, in 1999. Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder would like to be the next man to achieve this. He will take one more step down the road toward this goal on Saturday at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. The bout airs on Showtime starting with the co-main event at 9 p.m. ET. It is a free Showtime weekend. Cable customers will all have access; those without a cable subscription can watch live streaming online.
Wilder (35-0, 33 KOs), age 30, who currently holds the WBC title, will face Polish heavyweight Artur Szpilka (20-1, 15 KOs), age 26. Szpilka’s only loss was to Wilder’s fellow American Bryant Jennings, a tenth round TKO loss with just 40 seconds left in their bout. Since then, Jennings suffered a knockout loss to emerging division threat Luis Ortiz of Cuba.
Szpilka is only the third contender in the top 20 Wilder has faced in three dozen bouts, and just barely. He is the third southpaw Wilder has faced in a row, with an extensive amateur career, and the best opponent in the ring with Wilder since he defeated Bermane Stiverne one year ago.
The lingering question about just how good Wilder really is takes on new urgency since the seismic shift in the heavyweight division. In late November, Britain’s Tyson Fury won a decision against Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine, who dominated the division for a decade. Now aspiring stars like Wilder, Ortiz, Britain’s Anthony Joshua and New Zealand’s Joseph Parker see possibilities for them to ascend to the top without the roadblock at the top once presented by Dr. Steelhammer.
With the opportunity as open as it’s been in years. Wilder believes he’s the man to make it happen. “The last undisputed champion was Lennox Lewis in 1999. Now it’s 2016, where you see a young champion trying to follow in the footsteps of the great champion, Lennox Lewis. Those that know me know when Deontay says he’s going to do something, you don’t have to second guess him.
“I am hungry. In 2016, the things that I say I don’t say just to sound good, just because of all these cameras and all these people. I really feel it, I’m confident in what I’m capable of doing. Whoever becomes the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, that’s when the true division starts. It’s going to be a tough path to fulfill, but I’m that man. It’s time to have a handsome strong tall young American champion,” laughed Wilder.
“I want it all. I’m sick and tired of interim, regular, there’s too many belts going on. People get confused, I get confused. When people say “heavyweight champion of the world,” I want there to be only one,” said Wilder.
Wilder has done a lot of learning on the job. He has tremendous physical advantages standing 6-foot-7 with an 83 inch reach challenged only by Fury and Ortiz, light on his feet for such a big man with superb punching power. The knocks on Wilder are his lack of boxing skills and ring generalship, but he’s greatly improved both. The final test is whether Wilder can take a punch from the likes of someone like Ortiz or Alexander Povetkin of Russia. Povetkin was named Wilder’s mandatory WBC challenger after his win last fall, but Wilder said Povetkin would need to wait until April or May. Wilder said he’d really rather fight Fury than Povetkin, but Fury will be the one keeping Wilder waiting until his rematch with Klitschko.
Szpilka has his own goals; he wants to be the first Polish heavyweight champion. One year ago he moved to Houston, Texas to train with veteran trainer Ronnie Shields. Shields says Szpilka will not wait for Wilder to make the first move. Shields trains his boxers to be diversified in their attack; if Szpilka can do damage to the body, he may put himself in the position to overcome Wilder’s superior height and reach. Determination will serve Szpilka well.
Wilder needs more than a win. Now is the time for him to make an impression. It’s a free Showtime weekend, and it would be ideal for him to impress casual fans who might be tuned in and make his case as one of the top half dozen contenders in the newly revitalized heavyweight division. Then Wilder will get the chance to get serious about his quest.
Wilder’s comments about there being “too many belts” at this week’s news conference must have caught the attention of heavyweights Charles Martin (22-0-1, 20 KOs) and Vyacheslav Glazhov (21-0-1, 13 KOs). The American and the Ukrainian will fight in the co-main event for the vacant IBF heavyweight title. Glazkov was supposed to be the mandatory challenger for Tyson Fury. But when Klitschko exercised his right to the immediate rematch, Fury was not able to honor the mandatory defense. The IBF belt was stripped from him as a result. The winner between Martin, age 29, and Glazhov, age 31, will go home with it.
Neither Martin or Glazhov will be considered the heavyweight champion. Fury still owns several remaining heavyweight belts and will cash a much bigger check to fight Klitschko again than Glazhov. Martin got the call as the next leading contender. He was already training at home in Carson, California to take on Dominic Brezeale but pulled out of that bout for the better offer. Whoever wins here needs to put on a good show to get into the battle underway for heavyweight supremacy.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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