Feature | Jan 11 2016

Can Deontay Wilder become the figurehead for the heavyweight division?

Wilder is promising to make a statement on Saturday, writes Olly Campbell
Deontay Wilder
Wilder  |  Lucas Noonan/PBC

AMERICA’S big-hitting WBC heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder (35-0, 34ko), is (unusually) set to make a third voluntary defence of the green belt on Saturday night, when he meets Polish contender, Artur Szpilka (20-1, 15ko) at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, NY.

The Alabama native’s latest voluntary defence was sanctioned by the WBC but dangerous mandatory challenger, Alexander Povetkin is due to fight the winner of Saturday’s clash in the spring. The 26-year-old Szpilka’s sole blemish is a tenth round stoppage at the hands of American contender, Bryant Jennings, who last year gave a good account of himself in going the distance with Wladimir Klitschko, and the “Pin” is promising he is the man to upset the “Bronze Bomber” and bring the WBC title to Poland. However, Wilder is keen to start the year with a considerable bang of his own and insists laboured displays over the unheralded Eric Molina and little-known Frenchman, Johann Duhaupas last year will not be repeated. “I’m looking for a grand show. It’s going to be a great performance to kick off 2016,” he said recently. “This is going to be a huge year for me. I’m knocking Szpilka out and I’m sending a message to everyone who stands in my way.”

The list of fighters ‘standing in the way’ is considerable and of course includes Povetkin, who at 36 years old is enjoying something of a purple patch, turning in two of the best performances of his career last year with his first round blow-out of Mike Perez in May and November’s final round stoppage of 6′ 8″ giant, Mariusz Wach. Thanks to the deep pockets of Povetkin’s Russian backers, it’s possible that the Al Haymon advised Wilder could lose a purse bid and be forced to travel for the fight in much the same way then-champion, Wladimir Klitschko did back in October 2013 when he fought – and beat – Povetkin on Russian soil.

 

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