The War Report: Wrektime (Week 44, 2017)
“Not at all. I’m well rested.”
Those were the parting words from heavyweight Bermane Stiverne to Showtime’s Jim Gray in a pre-fight interview, last Saturday night. With his two-year layoff coming to an end in about an hour, Stiverne was asked if rust was a worry, going into his rematch with WBC titlist Deontay Wilder and, while getting his hands wrapped, the 39-year-old’s careless interview was a precursor to what was about to ensue.
Wilder, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, furiously threw his jab for the first two minutes of the contest and did so with the same fiery temperament he had leading up to the date – one originally scheduled for him to face the unbeaten Cuban, Luis “King Kong” Ortiz. Wilder’s chances to achieve his biggest win to date were dashed when Ortiz botched another VADA drug test and, with this not being the first case, Deontay proceeded to take his frustrations out on Stiverne.
It was officially “Wrektime” in Brooklyn just as the first two minutes elapsed. Wilder, 32, pumped his chest in order to entice a hesitant Stiverne to come forward. Then after positioning himself on the outside, he delivered a one-two, off the jab, that ended with a tremendous right hand that sent Stiverne crashing onto his backside. Deliriously, Stiverne complained of a phantom blow to the back of the head upon getting up but referee Arthur Mercante Sr. quickly disputed that claim and let action resume. Once it did, there was peculiar moment that sort of encapsulated the fight as a whole.
Much like the bronze statue currently being crafted in his home state, the “Bronze Bomber” stood there with his hands down for what seemed like an eternity. Fortunately, there was another statue in front of him that resorted to just putting his guard up and steering clear of taking advantage of his position. Stiverne barely even reacted to Wilder, as he quickly went back to unfurling left and right hands, which sent the former back onto his butt seconds later. It had been a hellish final minute in the 13th round with Wilder and, with the 10-second warning sounding, Wilder made sure Stiverne wouldn’t make it out.
At that point, the fundamentals of his punches had gone out the window but Wilder’s ferociousness was turned up to 11. A wide but well-placed left hand through Stiverne’s guard is what stunned him but a follow-up right hand put him to sleep. Mercante had to wrestle Wilder out of the way as Stiverne’s body folded neatly to the ground and, with the bottom rope supporting his slumbering head, he didn’t seem so rested, when trying to rise seconds later.
Whether or not Stiverne, 254.75-pounds, was fit to fight, physically or mentally, is nothing more than an inconvenient matter to bring up, after such a blood curdling knockout – especially considering the rematch lasted longer than the time boxing fans spent thinking about it. How Stiverne could hold a No. 1 contender’s ranking, while not having fought for two years, is a question of equal importance.
“So, this past Saturday night, I saw three elements from legendary Hall-of-Famers (Muhammad) Ali, (Larry) Holmes and (Mike) Tyson – all in one – and the heavyweight division is BACK!”
Those are the words of WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman Jr., who, in his weekly newsletter, recalled what he saw from Wilder, whle at ringside. Considering those same eyes evaluated Stiverne as the WBC’s No. 1 contender, all these years (literally), it’s easy not to take Sulaiman’s account too seriously but there has been a yearning for the past 20 years to find the next American heavyweight fit for such a description. One thing is for certain, however: Like Ali, Holmes and Tyson, at one time, Wilder is undoubtedly THE American heavyweight to be excited about, at the moment, and there is a super fight on the horizon that could push him to non-hyperbolic levels.
“I’ve been waiting on that fight for a long time now,” claimed Wilder post-fight, when the premier heavyweight from the United Kingdom, unified IBF/WBA titleholder Anthony Joshua was brought up by Gray. “Listen mate; I declare war up on you. Do you accept my challenge?”
With “AJ” defeating Carlos Takam two weekends ago (also televised on Showtime), there really is nowhere else for Wilder to go other than to face Joshua. However the business side of the sport is sure to rear its ugly head. With Wilder as the decided B-side, there’s no telling what Joshua can do, on the other hand, having managed to fill a 70,000-plus seat stadium under the same hindrance of fighting a replacement opponent. In other words, the ball is in Joshua’s court, as Wilder awaits a contract that has the Brit’s name on it but, as he awaits the return and the numbers to be crunched, let’s just hope Wilder doesn’t end up “well rested” going into it.