Deontay Wilder vs. Malik Scott: Preview and Prediction for Heavyweight Bout

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2014

Deontay Wilder vs. Malik Scott: Preview and Prediction for Heavyweight Bout

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Saturday night in Puerto Rico, heavyweight knockout machine Deontay Wilder enters the ring for the first time in 2014 against experienced veteran Malik Scott. 

    With a perfect record and all 30 of his fights ending by knockout inside of the first four rounds, Wilder has sparked flickers of excitement in the largely dormant U.S. heavyweight scene. But his quality of opposition to date has been on the soft side by world-class standards. 

    Scott represents a step up in competition. It's the kind of fight I would have actually liked to see Wilder making two years ago, but it remains an intriguing matchup even now.

Tale of the Tape

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press
    Per BoxRec      Deontay Wilder     Malik Scott
    Record:     30-0, 30 KOs      36-1-1, 13 KOs
    Height:     6'7"     6'4"
    Reach:     84"     Unlisted
    Weight:     About 225 lbs     About 230 lbs*
    Age:     28     33
    Stance:     Orthodox     Orthodox
    Hometown:     Tuscaloosa, Alabama     Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Rounds:     53     223

    I've placed an asterisk next to Scott's weight because while he has generally been around 230 in most fights, he has come in as much as 20-25 pounds heavier and was 255 when he fought 7-11-1 club fighter Grover Young last January. 

    I would be shocked if he doesn't come in at his ideal fighting weight for this one, but it's something to watch. 

    Wilder's total of 53 rounds in 30 fights means that his average fight has lasted less than two rounds.

Main Storylines

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    JON SUPER/Associated Press

    Wilder won a bronze in the 2008 Olympics at super heavyweight. He turned pro shortly afterward, and so far, it has been 30 up and 30 down for the Bronze Bomber, with nobody making it out of the fourth round.

    Nobody can really argue at this point about whether or not Wilder can punch. He's blown out tough journeymen such as Kertson Manswell, Audley Harrison and Nicolai Firtha.

    He stopped fellow unbeaten prospect Kelvin Price in three. His Round 1 KO of former champion Siarhei Liakhovich was scary to watch.

    But at this point, Wilder is way overdue for a genuine step up in competition. Scott represents one in a sense, although his lack of knockout power means we probably won't get any questions answered about the durability of Wilder's chin.

    What we will get to see is how Wilder does when confronted by a big man with world-class boxing skills. A Philadelphia native, Scott is among the best pure boxers in the heavyweight division.

    Scott had a rough 2013. In February, he got robbed via split-decision draw against Vyacheslav Glazkov. John Postura, who scored the fight 98-92 for Scott, was the only one of the three judges who seemed to watch the same fight I did.

    In July, Scott suffered his first career loss against Dereck Chisora by controversial stoppage with six seconds left in Round 6 in a fight he was winning. But a victory over Wilder Saturday night will erase both those blemishes and put him in line for a world title shot.

Strengths

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Deontay Wilder is a well-trained offensive fighter, gifted with dangerous power in both fists. He's trained by former gold medalist and welterweight champion Mark Breland, and he fights something like a heavyweight version of Breland.

    He uses his length and footwork to keep opponents at the end of his punches, battering them with skull-jarring overhands and lead hooks. He looks to end the fight in every second of every round.

    Malik Scott is an experienced fighter with well-developed craft. He's one of the finest technicians in the heavyweight division.

    Scott has a strong jab and outstanding defensive movement. He is skilled at fading back out of danger and luring his opponents into combinations as they come forward.

Weaknesses

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Deontay Wilder has been brought along as a professional with extreme caution. His streak of 30 straight knockouts to start his career is eye-popping, but he hasn't exactly fought a murderers' row.

    It's not unusual to move up slowly with a fighter at heavyweight, where one big punch can derail everything in a hurry. But the glacial pace of Wilder's development makes me wonder if his team has concerns about his chin.

    At any rate, the Bomber is certainly untested at the championship level.

    Malik Scott has not exactly spent a lot of time swimming with the big fishes himself. In fact, his quality of opposition has been less impressive than Wilder's. Scott started his career 35-0, but his biggest win came in 2012 against Bowie Tupou.

    Scott has knocked out just 13 opponents in 38 professional fights, an anemic KO percentage for a heavyweight contender, especially when you factor in the quality of opponent he has faced. A lack of wallop is always going to be a problem against the big boys, especially facing a monster puncher like Wilder.

Deontay Wilder Will Win If...

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    The major trap Wilder has to avoid in this fight is letting Scott draw him into a game of chase. Scott has very good movement, and if he can entice Wilder into chasing him rather than stalking him and cutting off the ring, he will be able to reposition and land combinations over and over again.

    So Wilder is going to need to remain patient, at least until he knows he has hurt Scott. He's going to need to keep putting his jab on Scott, both to stuff the timing of Scott's own jab and to keep a steady gauge on the distance between them.

    Wilder has to make sure to remain facing Scott as Scott tries to evade him. He needs to be ready to slide forward and to his left, as well as sideways to his right. He's going to need to be able to pivot quickly on his lead left foot.

    In the early rounds, Wilder should look to chip away at Scott with his jab and pound at his body with lead hooks to the torso. Once he's done enough damage to start slowing Scott down, it will be time to let loose with the big bomb—the overhand right.

    If Wilder can rock Scott, it will be time for him to really open up. We've consistently seen now that once Wilder has a fighter hurt, the fight is as good as done.

Malik Scott Will Win If...

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    To borrow an old boxing phrase, while Wilder is playing checkers, Scott has to play chess. He knows Wilder is going to come forward, attempting to cut off the ring and knock him out.

    To stop that from happening, Scott is going to need to use a lot of movement and guile. Even though Wilder's overhand right is his most dangerous punch, Scott needs to entice him to throw it.

    But he's got to get Wilder to throw the punch from just beyond range to land it, so that Wilder will miss and end up in bad position. He's going to have to give Wilder the range to land for just the split second necessary to get him to throw, then take that range away and circle back in for the counter flurry.

    A single punch from Wilder can end the entire fight. So Scott is going to need to remain mentally alert for every second of every round.

Prediction

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    This fight is hardly Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. It's not Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe. It's not even Floyd Patterson and George Chuvalo.

    But it is an intriguing heavyweight matchup, nonetheless. It's a classic stylistic clash, the monster puncher vs. the slick technician.

    In a 12-round professional fight, the big puncher is always going to have the advantage, unless the technician is simply light-years better in the boxing department. And I don't think that's the case with Wilder and Scott.

    Wilder won an Olympic bronze medal and has shown good offensive boxing skills. He's trained by Mark Breland, a fine boxing mind who will have him prepared.

    If Scott had respectable punching power of his own, I'd feel a bit more unsure about my assessment. But Scott has to dance on a tightrope all night long to win this one.

    Wilder just has to stay patient and be ready to jump when the opportunity presents itself.

    That's a much simpler game plan to execute, and it's why I'm picking Wilder. I do think this will be his toughest test yet, and I can see him being pushed all the way to six rounds.

    But eventually Wilder is going to catch up to Scott. And when he does, the lights will go out.

    Wilder by Round 6 KO.