According to the adage, there’s a first time for everything. In life and in sports, if you’re around long enough, you will have seen/done it all, good, bad and otherwise. Pertaining to Boxing, there’s the first amateur fight, first pro fight, first time going 4, 6, 8, maybe even 10 rounds. But for a championship level knockout artist like “The Bronze Bomber” Deontay Wilder (38-0, 37 KO’s), the first and only time he was taken the 12-round distance still doesn’t sit well at all. And he’s looking to rectify that blemish on his record this Saturday night, November 4th, reuniting with the only man who’s survived to hear the ding of the final bell, Bermane “B-Ware” Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KO’s). This rematch will be televised live by SHOWTIME Championship Boxing, 8pm CST, from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY.
This do-over is pure happenstance; Wilder was scheduled to defend his WBC heavyweight title against high risk, low reward Cuban, Luis “King Kong” Ortiz, who subsequently tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (Deontay’s third opponent to do so, no less). Stiverne was slated to appear on the undercard against 2012 Olympian, Dominic Breazeale. When Ortiz was rightfully deemed unfit to fight, it was a natural segue to match these two again, who made for a relatively fun, lively, entertaining scrap back in 2015. The roles were reversed then though, with Stiverne, the first heavyweight champion of Haitian descent, considered the more proven commodity and Wilder, having never been chin checked or past the 4th round, regarded as being untested.
The long and short of the inaugural meeting was Wilder’s jab and right cross. At 6’7, it goes without saying he’s most effective at range, and the 6’2 Stiverne could do very little to get past the 1-2’s and negate distance effectively. At the tail end of the 2nd round, Deontay hurt Bermane with a slapping right hook and flurry of shots that wobbled his legs so badly, he fell into Wilder and tackled him to the canvas. It should’ve been ruled a knockdown, yet wasn’t. Upon rising, Stiverne was still woozy and staggered back to his corner. He was hurt just as bad in the 7th, via flush 1-2, which knocked Bermane from mid ring to the ropes. Clearly fatigued, having never been that far previously, “The Bronze Bomber” did his best to end matters then and there, even punching thru the guard, freezing Stiverne with yet another left jab-right cross, to no avail. At the end of the day, Deontay received a passing grade on his first exam, sucking it up when he inevitably got winded and taking whatever Stiverne landed, without flinching. The durable Haitian gave all he could, didn’t get stopped or dropped (officially), validated the Alabama native and relinquished his title unanimously by scores of 118-109, 119-108 and 120-107.
In the interim, Wilder has successfully defended his laurels five times, whereas Stiverne’s entered a prizefighting ring just once since. Hard to imagine what he could do differently to reverse his fortunes. Technique notwithstanding, Deontay’s undoubtedly better, more seasoned and more confident this go around, an unfavorable coupling with Bermane’s inactivity. Many of Wilder’s recent pre-fight comments come from a dark, angry place; his pent-up frustrations from various foes costing him time, money and prestige by testing dirty for PED’s, how he “may catch a body” and is determined to “end his career once and for all” (speaking of Stiverne). This isn’t hype either, it’s the frighteningly candid thoughts of a man who’s probably the hardest puncher in the heavyweight division, faced with a guy he’s never cared all that much for anyways. Given what Wilder lacks in terms of skill and boxing acumen, for as wild and amateurish as his combinations can be, “The Bronze Bomber” changes the course of fights and his opponent’s health, with single shots. He sleeps guys for 10-counts and beyond, some of whom leave the ring on stretchers. If a green Wilder could visibly hurt Stiverne, a more mature, experienced and composed Wilder can right the wrong by finishing him this time. “B-Ware” Stiverne will taste the canvas and get stopped by the 6th or 7th.
The elephant in the proverbial room is of course Anthony Joshua, who just fought last weekend on SHOWTIME. It’s certainly no coincidence they’re featuring the two most interesting and intriguing heavyweights in the world, on consecutive weekends. All roads are leading to the most anticipated heavyweight showdown since Tyson-Holyfield. After Wilder beats Stiverne, there’s rumors he’ll next fight overseas against Joshua’s amateur nemesis, Dillian Whyte, before throwing bronze bombs with “A.J.” by Summer or Fall of 2018.