THIS weekend sees the boxing year really get under way with a fascinating heavyweight clash in Las Vegas, when Bermane Stiverne defends his WBC belt against big-hitting but untested Deontay Wilder. It’s the sort of fight where one can make a reasonable case for just about any result – a win for either man, and that win either early or late. It could be a blow-out, or a distance job; a thriller or a desultory maul.
There was a time when heavyweight title bouts tended to end up in Vegas by default, as in the late 1980s and through the 1990s when Mike Tyson followed by Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield held sway. But in recent years the domination of the Klitschko brothers has seen most major fights in the division happen in Europe.
Stiverne against Wilder – admittedly only for the WBC belt, with Wladimir Klitschko holding the other titles – reverses that trend, and it will be interesting to see what sort of crowd turns out at the MGM Grand this weekend. Wilder, a puncher with a colourful personality, will give the sport a boost if he wins, because a genuine American heavyweight contender is always welcome.