Anyone still looking for the future of boxing’s heavyweight division can stop now. We’ve found him.
Deontay Wilder, the 27-year-old who captured bronze at the 2008 Olympics, is here folks, and he is the future.
Now, you may say to yourself, "But Kelsey, how can this be? Hasn’t he basically beaten up nobodies and has-beens so far? Isn’t it a bit early to call him the future of the division?"
I’m glad you asked. No, and here’s why.
First off, while it’s true Wilder has put the beatdown on a slew of relative non-notables, it’s also worth pointing out that he absolutely destroyed every single one of them. I’m not just saying he knocked every one of them into oblivion (which he did). I’m saying he did so with scary, stupid power, and that not one single person lasted longer than four rounds with the guy.
That’d be hard to do against 29 randomly selected cab drivers, much less actual professional boxers.
Second, while Wilder has built up his boxing resume against mostly non-descript opposition, the list does include several men who were notable in their time and place. The latest example, of course, would be former WBO titlist Sergei Liakhovich, who Wilder cracked so hard to the ground that it scarily seemed he might never make it back to his feet. Seriously.
Make no mistake: Liakhovich is passed it. His best days are behind him for sure. But no one had done this to him before. No one.
Third, Wilder absolutely embodies what a heavyweight boxer needs to be in order to take things to the next level. Physically, he’s big, strong and athletic. He’s got fast hands and feet. He’s in shape, and he stays that way year-round.
Mentally, Wilder has proven himself to be a stout competitor. More than just that, he’s a winner. When he took home the bronze medal in 2008, the lanky kid was a relative novice compared to every other fighter in Beijing. And it didn’t matter.
Wilder’s personality is a huge asset, too. He brims with confidence but doesn’t come off as being cocky or arrogant. He smiles large and wide, and he’s a good-natured extrovert who loves the limelight. Wilder is as adept under the lights after the fight as he is during the fight. That’s huge.
Finally, Wilder has just the right team in place to make something really big happen. It’d have been easy for his management to cash in on his name after the Olympics and push Wilder too far, too fast. But when I talked to his fight manager, Jay Deas, back in 2011, he told me Wilder had only logged about four hours of ring time under his belt thus far (h/t Fox Sports):
Deontay is moving along at a good pace. He’s only had about 30 amateur bouts, and his amateur and professional actual ring time total is about four hours.
Back then, Deas and his team had Wilder traveling all over the world to work fight camps for established heavyweights like David Haye and Tomasz Adamek. When I chatted with both fighter and manager a year later (h/t The Sweet Science), Wilder had just finished up camp working with the great Wladimir Klitschko.
Wilder told me back then something that is perhaps prophetic. I couldn’t help but be reminded of it last Saturday as Liakhovich hit the deck like a sack of anvils plunging into the ocean:
I keep telling everybody, I still don’t know the measurement of my power. It kind of scares me. Even sparring at some of these camps, I’ve licked some of these guys up pretty good and they tell me the same, you know.
And so, this gregarious giant with the fists of bronze and a smile of gold is also a fortune teller perhaps. And if that it so, he is surely the future of the heavyweight division.
Why? Because he told me so:
I want to be the one that takes both of the [Klitschko] brothers out of this game. When I beat them, I want them to be happy they are out of the game they’ve been holding down the whole time, and I want them to say ‘Deontay Wilder took us out, and we wouldn’t be more proud of anyone to hold our titles while we are retired and gone than him.’
So if you’re one of those people still looking for the next big thing in heavyweight division, look no further than Deontay Wilder. He’s it.
Kelsey McCarson writes about boxing for Bleacher Report and The Sweet Science. Follow him on Twitter @KelseyMcCarson.