Deontay Wilder is getting ready to defend his WBC Heavyweight Championship against Artur Szpilka on Saturday night, Jan. 16, from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but some are questioning whether the fight is even noteworthy.
That’s because Wilder never won the belt from the last titleholder, Vitali Klitschko, though the omission was from no fault of his own.
The elder Klitschko brother abandoned the title in September, 2012 after stopping Manuel Charr.
The win marked Vitali’s ninth and final title defense. Throughout his run, he and brother Wladimir Klitschko had refused to fight one another to unify the belts, thus holding the division hostage until one either lost or retired.
As a result, Wladimir was the unofficial “undisputed” champion until he recently dropped his titles to Tyson Fury in November, 2015.
The lack of unification is a point that annoys Deontay Wilder to no end, as evidenced in recent comments reported by Bleacher Report.
“There hasn’t been one [a champ who held all four major belts] since 1999. That was Lennox Lewis. Now I must make history. I can’t let any man get in my way from that,” Wilder said.
The four major belts he’s talking about include his own, as well as the WBA and WBO straps held by Fury, who was unceremoniously stripped of the IBF for opting to give Wladimir Klitschko his mandatory rematch ahead of the organization’s No. 1 challenger.
It took the IBF about a week to pull the trigger on that decision and add Vyacheslav Glazkov (No. 1 Contender) and Charles Martin to the undercard of Wilder and Szpilka’s bout for their now-vacated title.
As a result, many are justifiably starting to discount the IBF as one of the majors. Even so, Deontay Wilder is the only contender who is talking about bringing the broken home of the heavyweight division back together, IBF included, and that counts for something whether he’s silenced his critics or not.
Deontay Wilder has won all 35 of his fights thus far, 34 by way of knockout. The only blemish to that record is the lopsided unanimous decision he captured against Bermane Stiverne to win the WBC belt.
While there is some question as to the quality of his opponents, that has less to do with whom he is willing to fight and more to do with what has largely been an anemic division for going on two decades.
That is starting to change, however, with the rise of Wilder, Fury, and heavy hitters like Anthony Joshua and Luis Ortiz.
Joshua, at 15-0 with 15 knockouts, is the only fighter in the division who can claim a higher knockout percentage than the WBC Champ, and Luis Ortiz is an impressive 24-0 with 21 knockouts.
His most recent win was one of the most impressive, dominating and dispatching top contender Bryant Jennings in the seventh round.
You get a sense from both Joshua and Ortiz that there isn’t a mad rush to fight either one of these guys. Yet Wilder will do it if it means bringing the titles together.
Deontay Wilder is a champion, and he isn’t running from anyone. Furthermore, he is the only one of the titleholders vocalizing a desire to bring all the belts back together, so there really is an undisputed champion.
In a division that has for too long been ruled by money and politics instead of sensibility, it’s a refreshing change of pace.
Add to that Wilder’s larger than life personality, his six-foot, seven-inch frame, his chiseled physique, and his willingness to fight anyone and everyone put in front of him, and you have a heavyweight fighter actually deserving of his crown — exceedingly rare in a division as criticized for as long and as often as heavyweight boxing has been.
But what do you think, readers? Is Deontay Wilder the true Heavyweight Champion? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via Deontay Wilder Facebook]