Ranking 5 Best Opponents for Deontay Wilder's Next Fight

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIIOctober 16, 2022

Ranking 5 Best Opponents for Deontay Wilder's Next Fight

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 23:  WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder celebrates after defeating Luis Ortiz in their title fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 23, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Wilder retained his title with a seventh-round knockout.  (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
    Steve Marcus/Getty Images

    And just like that, Deontay Wilder is back in the heavyweight big time.

    The former 10-defense WBC champ had spent a year on the shelf since an 11th-round knockout loss to Tyson Fury in a failed attempt to regain the strap he'd lost 20 months earlier.

    A week shy of age 37, Wilder returned with a first-round blowout of fringe contender Robert Helenius in a Fox/PBC pay-per-view production from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

    Wilder is now 43-0 with 42 KOs against fighters other than Fury, with whom he's drawn and been finished twice in a rivalry dating back to their initial meeting in December 2018.

    Helenius, now 31-4 in 14 years as a professional, had arrived with three straight KO victories but had been stopped twice by past Wilder title-defense victims Johann Duhaupas (sixth-round KO in 2016) and Gerald Washington (eighth-round KO in 2019).

    The triumph reopened the big-fight floodgates for Wilder and set the Bleacher Report combat writing staff to thinking about the best foes for his next appearance. Scroll through to see what we came up with, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

5. Frank Sanchez

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 09:  Frank Sanchez celebrates his unanimous-decision victory over Efe Ajagba in their heavyweight bout at T-Mobile Arena on October 9, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Unbeaten Frank Sanchez would be an interesting interim foe if Wilder can't land a higher-profile fight (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    We'll place this one in the conditional pile.

    If Wilder isn't able to land a match with one of the subsequent four names on this list, he could certainly do a lot worse than an unbeaten heavyweight who both shares his promotional apparatus and has gone on record saying he'd easily defeat him.

    We give you, Frank Sanchez.

    The Cuban-born Miami resident is 21-0 with 14 KOs in a five-year pro career and actually auditioned for a Wilder date with an appearance on Saturday's undercard, in which he defeated Puerto Rican veteran Carlos Negron by ninth-round stoppage.

    He's ranked as high as third in the division by the WBC and WBO, is listed ninth by The Ring and called for Wilder over the summer after aligning with Joe Goossen as a lead trainer.

    Sanchez and Wilder both work with the Premier Boxing Champions organization, which would presumably make a showdown easy to make if Wilder deems it worthwhile.

    "I have my eye on Deontay Wilder," Sanchez told Boxing Scene. "That's the guy I know I can beat easy and without a doubt I'll knock him out. That's an easy fight. I'm not Luis Ortiz."

    "The only thing that he has is power. He doesn't know how to box."

    Sounds like fightin' words.

4. Anthony Joshua

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    DIRIYAH, SAUDI ARABIA - DECEMBER 07: Anthony Joshua celebrates victory over Andy Ruiz Jr during the IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO World Heavyweight Title Fight between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua during the Matchroom Boxing 'Clash on the Dunes' show at the Diriyah Season on December 07, 2019 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
    Even after a recent skid, Anthony Joshua provides an inviting target (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

    Not too long ago, this was as big as it got.

    Wilder was an unbeaten WBC champion, and Anthony Joshua was his jewelry-toting counterpart in the heavyweight division while building a similarly pristine record and collecting the IBF, WBA and WBO title belts.

    These days, though, it's a clash of fighters since deemed damaged goods.

    Wilder is 0-2-1 after his three aforementioned clashes with Fury, while Joshua has been stopped once by Andy Ruiz and outpointed twice by Oleksandr Usyk in five fights since the end of 2018.

    He's frequently been on the verge of an all-England showdown with Fury but had those plans initially scuttled by the first loss to Usyk and then snuffed once again when Fury suggested Team Joshua had missed an agreed-to deadline for signing a deal.

    A Wilder fight would be a lucrative crossroads test for both men, and a win would be an ideal springboard toward a subsequent date with either Fury or Usyk, essentially serving as a final opportunity to advance out of the losers' bracket in their four-man series.

    "I would love to do that fight in Africa," Wilder told BBC Sport. "It's still the No. 1 fight in the world for everyone. Everywhere I go, people always talk about me versus Joshua.

    "We both have roots from there. I think it would be an amazing place to have it, to go back home. To go back to the motherland. A continent full of our people. I can just see that being an amazing fight, win, lose or draw."

3. Tyson Fury

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 09:  Deontay Wilder reacts after knocking Tyson Fury down as referee Russell Mora moves in during the fourth round of their WBC heavyweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena on October 9, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fury retained his title with an 11th-round knockout.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Tyson Fury is 2-0-1 against Wilder, but has been knocked down four times (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    We're open to debate on where this one belongs.

    Because Tyson Fury, when active, is widely considered the world's best heavyweight, it makes all the sense in the world that Wilder would deem him his No. 1 target.

    But the last couple meetings haven't gone so well from his perspective, so it's just as logical that he'd want to win a few elsewhere before another try at a 6'9", 270-pound mountain.

    That's the logic that ultimately prevailed when it came to compiling the list, taking into account that Fury is also penciled-in to engage two-time victim and countryman Derek Chisora in a trilogy bout on December 3.

    Fury beat Chisora by unanimous decision and stopped him after 10 rounds in 2014.

    Fury may be using that bout as a time-filler before his own shot at Usyk, so it'd make sense that a fourth meeting with Wilder, if it occurs, would be more a long-term proposition.

    And even after 30 often-brutal rounds, Wilder remains all in.

    "I think that there's definitely a chance of a fourth fight again," he told Adam Smith of Sky Sports. "Boxing is a business. Many people call it a sport, but it's not a sport.

    "The heavyweight division is very small. I'm still a big fish in the business, especially here in America. As long as we're all in the same division and all still currently fighting, why not? It only can lead to that. With all that being said, it's definitely a possibility."

2. Andy Ruiz

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    TOPSHOT - Andy Ruiz of the US celebrates after knocking down Anthony Joshua from England in the 7th round to win by TKO during their 12-round  IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO World Heavyweight Championship fight at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 1, 2019. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)        (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
    Andy Ruiz has built back to title-chasing status and would provide a worthy obstacle for Wilder (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

    Given the rationale for Fury at No. 3, here's Andy Ruiz.

    The affable Californian is another former champion in the division, having memorably stopped Joshua in the Englishman's U.S. debut at Madison Square Garden in June 2019 before losing the belt back to him in an immediate rematch six months later.

    He was roundly chastised for coming in at a gargantuan 283.5 pounds for that return bout and has rededicated himself to conditioning in two fights since, outpointing former title challengers Chris Arreola and Luis Ortiz over 12 rounds while weighing 256 and 268.75.

    The wins have moved his needle as high as No. 2 among contenders for Fury's WBC belt, placing him one spot behind Wilder and possibly on to his would-be rival's agenda.

    Like Sanchez, both Ruiz and Wilder work with Premier Boxing Champions and could get a contract negotiated easier than parties working with rival operations.

    Ruiz echoed that sentiment to TalkSport's Michael Benson in September, saying: "God willing (Wilder) wins in October. We're in the same organization. I wanna thank Al Haymon. We can make this fight happen and let's do it, let's get it on."

    Wilder, though perhaps less directly, seems OK with the idea, too, as a final step before another championship opportunity.

    "We’re always looking for great, exciting fights," he told The Mirror's Harry Davies. "If that’s what lies up next, I’ve gotta handle business, but after that, we can get it on."

1. Oleksandr Usyk

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    JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - AUGUST 20: Oleksandr Usyk celebrates after their victory over Anthony Joshua in their World Heavyweight Championship fight during the Rage on the Red Sea Heavyweight Title Fight at King Abdullah Sports City Arena on August 20, 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
    Oleksandr Usyk offers both a makeable fight and a title-belt opportunity (Francois Nel/Getty Images)

    At the corner of title-chasing ambition and big-fight availability lies Oleksandr Usyk.

    The Ukrainian cemented his status as a legitimate heavyweight with a second straight clinical schooling of Joshua in August and made himself a must-see commodity for any man claiming pre-eminence in the big-man division.

    He and Fury went back and forth about the possibility of a summit meeting, and that seems to be the ultimate goal presuming each man gets through interim tests of choice.

    For Usyk, that means Wilder, and he was ringside Saturday night to make the desire public.

    Wilder, too, welcomes the opportunity to regain title-holding status against a fighter now ranked No. 1 by The Ring in the pound-for-pound race, and against whom he'd have massive advantages in height (6'7" to 6'3") and reach (83 inches to 78).

    "If I get the choice, of course, I’m going with Usyk," he said on The Good Fight with Kate Abdo. "I’ll go with Usyk, whoop Usyk, and then give Ruiz a title shot. That’s how it would work. Who wouldn’t? We’re in this business to obtain greatness and collect belts."

    "So if you got a champion that is giving you the opportunity to collect belts, why would you not deny it unless you weren’t ready? Whenever he’s ready. I ain’t got no time to lose. I don’t think he wants to be in too much longer either. Me neither, so why wait? Whenever he’s ready, I’ll be ready. Most definitely."