Heavyweight

Deontay Wilder vs. Nicolai Firtha: Preview and Prediction for Heavyweight Bout

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2013

Deontay Wilder vs. Nicolai Firtha: Preview and Prediction for Heavyweight Bout

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    This Saturday night at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., on the Bernard Hopkins vs. Karo Murat undercard, Golden Boy Promotions will once again showcase undefeated heavyweight sensation Deontay Wilder, as "The Bronze Bomber" meets veteran journeyman Nicolai Firtha.

    It's been close to a generation since any American heavyweight fighter has emerged with the excitement Wilder has. The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist has been a human wrecking ball since turning professional.

    Firtha is a big body with a lot of experience. He'll show up determined to slow down the Wilder Express.

Tale of the Tape

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images
     Per Boxrec     Deontay Wilder      Nicolai Firtha 
     Record:     29-0, 29 KOs      21-10-1, 8 KOs
     Height:     6'7"      6'6"
     Reach:     84"      Unlisted 
     Weight:     225-230 pounds      245-260 pounds
     Age:     28     34
     Stance:     Orthodox     Orthodox
     Hometown:     Tuscaloosa, Alabama     Akron, Ohio
     Rounds     49      177

    Wilder has above-average reach even for a 6'7" fighter. But against Firtha, he'll encounter an opponent nearly as tall as he is and more solidly built.

    Wilder's weight strikes me as a little low for a heavyweight with his height. He's built like a shooting guard in basketball, and I wonder how his frame will stand up to a heavyweight assault.

    As his 29 straight knockouts attest, his lean frame has no problem generating punching power.

Main Storylines

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    For long-suffering fans of the American heavyweight boxing scene, Wilder is the latest great hope. He just might be the most legitimate American contender to emerge in a generation.

    So far he has knocked out all 29 of his professional opponents without a single one making it through four rounds. His team has brought him along slowly and has not rushed him into dangerous encounters.

    But he has also been as dominant against more respectable opponents as he was against the trial horses he faced early on. In August 2012, he knocked out tough veteran Kertson Manswell in the first. Last December, he knocked out fellow unbeaten prospect Kelvin Price in the third.

    Last August, Wilder faced former world titleholder Siarhei Liakhovich. This was supposed to be a tougher test for Wilder, but he demolished the former champion with a frightening Round 1 KO.

    Firtha is not the best opponent whom Wilder has faced, but the young American cannot afford to overlook him, either. Firtha took the fight to Tyson Fury in September 2011 and had the British giant in big trouble in Round 3, before losing by TKO in five.

    He has lost decisions to Johnathon Banks and Alexander Povetkin. He is one of the most experienced heavyweight journeymen on the scene.

    Wilder should be able to look very good against him in another high-profile fight. But the unbeaten American could stumble against him if he's not completely on point.

Strengths

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Deontay Wilder

    He lands his power punches with the concussive impact of miniature atom bombs. The former Olympic star has the boxing skill to set those big punches up with his footwork and jab.

    The combination makes him a dangerous fighter. When an opponent is in trouble, Wilder gives him no room to recover. He can hurt his opponents quickly and then finish them in a flash. 

     

    Nicolai Firtha

    He is a big man with legitimate boxing ability. He's been in the ring with world-class talent.

    He throws a sneaky overhand right that he slips over the top of an opponent's jab. He varies his punches well when throwing flurries.

Weaknesses

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Deontay Wilder 

    So far, he has shown no signs of weakness as a professional fighter. He has walked through every opponent put in front of him, laying them out with his high-powered offense. 

    So it remains to be seen what will happen when he runs into an opponent who can either stand up to or avoid his bombs long enough to fire back. 

    As impressed as I have been with Wilder as a puncher, I remain skeptical of his lean physique. He's explosively athletic, but at 6'7" and 225 pounds, his torso and legs look a little thin for withstanding a true heavyweight barrage.

     

    Nicolai Firtha 

    He is a plodding fighter. His footwork and movement are solid but slow. Gaining a favorable position before the explosive Wilder unloads on him might be a challenge. 

    Despite how big and strong he is, Firtha's power is average at best for a heavyweight. While Wilder's chin remains a mystery, it's a safe bet that Firtha won't match the big bomber blow for blow.

     

     

Deontay Wilder Will Win If...

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is good advice for almost any situation. A fighter needs to be prepared to adapt and adjust, but Wilder should be able to beat Firtha exactly like he has beaten everybody else so far. 

    Wilder needs to avoid being overconfident and making mistakes when he attacks. He needs to be sharp when he's returning his jab to make sure he doesn't let Firtha slip his own right counter over the top of it.

    But he is trained by Mark Breland, who could jab with Thomas Hearns back in the day. In truth, Wilder fights like a heavyweight version of Breland.

    For old-school fans, that is a tantalizing prospect.

    He should have little problem finding range early with his battering-ram jab. He should be able to stop Firtha with his lead left and then let loose with his murderous right hand and left hook before his opponent has a chance to get set.  

Nicolai Firtha Will Win If...

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    Firtha knows Wilder is coming to knock him out, so he might as well settle back into a good defensive posture to respond to the opening assault. He should circle away from Wilder's monster right hand while looking to sneak his own right over Wilder's jab.

    Firtha's overhand is hardly the thunderbolt that Wilder possesses, but it's a good punch, especially if he can follow it with his left hook.

    When they fall into a clinch, Firtha should take advantage of his bigger body and muscle Wilder around.

    If he can avoid Wilder's bombs long enough to stun him with a good combination, then he will have placed the undefeated contender in an unfamiliar position.

    That's when he should step up the aggression and attack from all angles. Firtha has a good right uppercut that would further confuse Wilder, if he is already hurt.    

Prediction

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    When you put a couple of large men who know how to fight in a ring together, nothing is going to be a 100 percent guaranteed. But I'll be surprised on Saturday night if Firtha sees the start of Round 6.

    Wilder has fought bigger, more athletic and more experienced fighters than Firtha. And he's made like a lumberjack and chopped them down every single time.

    There's no reason to think he won't do it again.

    Some fans will probably grumble after this fight that it's time to see Wilder take a step up in class.

    But he is just two months removed from knocking out a former world champion. This fight with Firtha is a chance for Golden Boy to showcase him one last time before the end of the year. 

    I expect he will fight a more dangerous opponent in the spring. On Saturday night, I predict he will knock out Firtha by Round 2. 

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