Heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder is back in the ring for only the second time in 2017, putting his belt on the line Saturday night against the only man he has failed to stop to this point in his nine-year professional career.
Bermane Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs) is the mandatory challenger taking on Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs), looking to win back the WBC world heavyweight title he lost to the Bronze Bomber in a 12-round slugfest nearly three years ago.
Wilder won that bout by a wide margin on the cards and has successfully defended the title five times since. Stiverne has fought just once since that bout, and is back in the ring after a two-year absence.
Wilder was originally set to fight Luis Ortiz, but the Cuban boxer was removed from the card after testing positive for two banned substances found in blood pressure medication, per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael.
The Showtime card also features two other bouts. Adrian Granados will challenge Shawn Porter in a 10-round welterweight fight, and Akihiro Kondo will take on Sergey Lipinets for the vacant IBF world super lightweight title.
Wilder vs. Stiverne Fight Info
When: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in New York City
TV: Showtime (U.S.), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
Live Stream: ShowtimeAnytime
Considering Stiverne's myriad disadvantages in this bout and Wilder's big win in their first contest, it should come as little surprise that the latter is the heavy favorite. According to OddsShark (as of Thursday, Nov. 1), Wilder is a massive -2500 favorite (bet $2,500 to win $100), Stiverne a +1000 underdog.
At 39 years old and likely with plenty of ring rust accumulated in the two years between appearances, one has to wonder what, if anything, Stiverne has left in the tank. The Canadian's last fight was a decision win over the journeyman Derric Rossy in November 2015.
Wilder is just 32 years old and has fought consistently since winning the WBC world title. He's knocked out the likes of Eric Molina and Artur Szpilka in late rounds, while forcing Chris Arreola to retire. His last time out was a fifth-round TKO of the overmatched Gerald Washington in February of this year.
Stiverne's status as a late replacement would also seem to tip the bout in Wilder's favor, though he has been in the mix since February due to his status as mandatory challenger. He also has in-ring experience and plenty of tape on his foe, plus the confidence that he can take whatever Wilder is dishing. Per the Boston Herald's Ron Borges, Stiverne claims he was sick during that bout, and yet was still on his feet after 12 rounds:
“Everything he gave me I ate it like breakfast, as a sick man in the ring. The man couldn’t knock me out. Nobody can knock me out. Nobody. You see what I’m saying?”
Perhaps Stiverne does have the chin to withstand Wilder's best punches a second time out, but it's not like the champion will be forced to pursue a knockout to win this time around.
Wilder has a five-inch height advantage, and his reach is 83 inches compared to Stiverne's 77, per BoxRec. He can bank rounds with movement and a strong jab, a strategy that proved effective in their first meeting. The Alabama native feels so confident in his abilities to beat Stiverne a second time around, he's promised to walk away from the sport if he loses.
“The way I’m feeling about boxing right now,” he said, per BoxingInsider.com's Sean Crose, “if Bermane Stiverne beats me, I will retire. You can put that down. I will be out of the way.”
Part of Wilder's frustrations with the sport may stem from criticisms that he hasn't taken on his division's best, but as Bad Left Hook's Scott Christ notes, that isn't entirely his fault:
"He tried to go to Russia to fight Alexander Povetkin. Povetkin failed a drug test. He tried to fight Luis Ortiz. Ortiz failed a drug test. Unless you believe there is a vast conspiracy keeping Wilder’s potentially dangerous opponents sidelined via bogus testing, you can’t blame Wilder or his team, at least not for all of it.
Personally, I think Wilder is a pretty good fighter — better than some of his harsher critics believe, but not as good as his biggest fans probably believe. The one thing all of us can agree on is this: he’s got an eraser right hand, and that makes him more than just “dangerous” against anyone. Anyone."
If all goes well for Wilder on Saturday, he'll have another win under his belt, but the win won't do much to burnish his credentials. He should be able to beat Stiverne handily considering his power and advantages.
Beyond this bout, Wilder will be looking to take the next step, perhaps rescheduling Ortiz before a potential blockbuster against Britain's emerging superstar Anthony Joshua.