You can’t take your eyes off a Deontay Wilder fight, writes James Dielhenn. He is never truly winning until he has conclusively won.
He may never look like the heavyweight king until he wears the crown. Some of Wilder’s punches are crudely unorthodox, and he has been out-boxed for consecutive rounds by Artur Szpilka and Gerald Washington. His feet and hands appear like they are controlled independently of each other. But, after toppling ‘King Kong’ in New York, Wilder believes that he has a better win on his record than any of his peers.
So, was Wilder’s victory over Luis Ortiz more impressive than Anthony Joshua’s landmark win against Wladimir Klitschko?
‘King Kong’ was undefeated, Wilder said. Wladimir had been beaten many a time and when he fought Joshua he was already beaten. He wasn’t the king. He had been dethroned. He was coming off almost a two-year lay-off. And really Joshua didn’t win that fight. Wladimir lost. He had the opportunity to get that guy out of there. He made the wrong decision at the wrong time and it cost him.
They’re still on their high horse about that win, Wilder said. But how can you be on your high horse when somebody else already dethroned him? And we know who did that – Tyson Fury. They can celebrate that for only so long.
I feel with Ortiz, he got the better skills. Nobody wanted to fight this guy. Everybody ducked this guy. Once I unify the division they can have all their belts back. I just want to prove a point to myself and the world that I am the best in the world.
Klitschko’s career achievements are incomparable to Ortiz’s, but it’s reasonable to debate who the more dangerous threat was at the time that Joshua and Wilder, respectively, fought them.
Klitschko, in theory, was a surer bet than Ortiz for all his strengths and weaknesses. We knew more about him. The arc of his career had been laid bare – he was 41, two years removed from lethargically losing to Fury. But he was still the former 10-year ruler of the division, with more fights for a world title than Joshua had of any kind.
Ortiz, despite being 38, still had to justify his mysterious reputation as the heavyweight bogey-man because, although he boasted 30 unbeaten fights, he lacked a standout result. Much of the fear behind him was speculation as to what he might produce.
The intangibles come with what Klitschko and Ortiz each produced in their fights that Joshua and Wilder did not see coming, and how the eventual winners dealt with those problems.
Klitschko arrived notably lighter against Joshua than he was before losing to Fury, and was obviously more agile on his toes. The right hand that hurt Joshua so badly was always a trademark weapon, though it hadn’t been road-tested for a few years. But what Joshua could never have expected was the bravery and determination that his veteran rival displayed. Once hurt and put down in the 69th fight of a 21-year career, it seemed improbable that Klitschko could summon the grit to be competitive until the penultimate round.
Ortiz, nearly to the detriment of Wilder, proved to be the difficult puzzle that potential rivals worried he was. Defensively sound as a southpaw and capable of hitting back, only his gas tank let him down and that was likely because Ortiz went for broke during his most successful spell. The hope in fighting Ortiz is that you discover a glaring flaw mid-fight that had never previously been obvious. Wilder found nothing of the sort but still prevailed.
The interpretation of whose win was more impressive also lies in how close Joshua and Wilder came to losing.
Joshua hit the deck, Wilder did not, but Klitschko is a bigger puncher than Ortiz. Joshua and Wilder both dropped some of the early rounds before their battles heated up. Wilder’s stamina held up while Joshua overcame periods of exhaustion. Whoever you think came closest to falling off the edge of cliff into defeat, does that make their victory even greater?
The elephant in the room, of course, is WBO champion Joseph Parker, who unifies his belt with Joshua’s on March 31, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Young, unbeaten and able to hold a shot while having proved his credentials at pacing 12 rounds, Parker will automatically become Joshua’s toughest challenge, and could be the man to derail his bold plans. Parker has not beaten an opponent of Klitschko or Ortiz’s ilk but is at the perfect stage to earn the biggest scalp in the division later this month. Joshua must be wary of Parker before he can afford to pit his wits against Wilder.
Watch Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, March 31, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
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