Let’s be honest, we’ve all made derogatory remarks about Deontay Wilder’s technique.
‘Can’t box for shit’, ‘More windmills than Holland’, Bambi on ice’: just a few examples of insults I’ve heard friends throw the Alabaman’s way, since he first made headlines in Britain with a trademark violent, unorthodox assault on Audley Harrison.
But is it time for boxing fans and pundits to draw a line under their obsessional criticism of the heavyweight champion?
In New York on Saturday, The Bronze Bomber once again proved he can do it his way, moving to 40-0 with an action-packed stoppage win over Luis Ortiz. Unflinching Deontay detractors have since been out in force, claiming a younger version of Ortiz – who’s probably closer to 50 than the alleged 38 years of age- would have followed on from a dominant seventh round and finished the fight. Instead of praising Wilder’s ability to bounce back to victory, some have gone as far as suggesting the fight should have been stopped during the Cuban’s onslaught. Praise for Wilder’s toughness has clearly proved difficult to muster for some, in particular those who predicted a glass chin was waiting to be exposed by legit opposition.
But it’s the recurring focus on Deontay’s style that has dominated the criticisms of his latest performance. The question is, why would any fight fan want Wilder to change?
Some may have forgotten how he won the title, boxing ultra conservatively against Bermane Stiverne, back in 2015. It was a disciplined twelve round display against an underwhelming champion. It was also Wilder’s least entertaining fight to date. On Saturday, Wilder seemed to be looking to reproduce the Stiverne gameplan early, respecting Ortiz’s hand speed and timing while backing up to keep the action at distance. After losing the first four rounds to the more naturally gifted boxer, he turned the chess match into a fight and the fun began.
Ortiz should be praised for his effort, it’s always nice to see the sweet science executed effectively by a big guy. But is more jabbing and movement really what the sport is crying out for from its heavyweight belt holders? Are the same fans who claimed to have been bored to tears by the Klitschko reign seriously encouraging a fighter to deviate away from his all-out, attacking instincts?
The wind-milling madness that concluded the Gerald Washington fight won’t be coached to kids in gyms anytime soon. Yet Wilder’s unstable, unrehearsed attacks might prove the most dangerous threat to Anthony Joshua’s unbeaten record. OK, Ortiz’s age possibly let Deontay off the hook this weekend. But AJ received a similar get-out-of jail card from a Wladimir deep into the twilight years of his own career. It’s difficult to see the athletic and relentless Wilder showing the same mercy, should he have Joshua in trouble at any point of their inevitable future clash.
If instagram stories and reports from Marbella are to be believed, we’ll soon have a Gypsy King added to what’s quickly becoming a colourful division. Without being disrespectful to Fury’s fighting style, Tyson does most of his entertaining outside the ring; his effective and frustrating approach, at times, a difficult watch. Suggesting Wilder should try to adapt a similar, fundamentally sound strategy is counter-productive to what’s promising to be an exciting mix of heavyweight styles, all lining up to clash over the coming months and years.
Wilder will never get the respect of so-called boxing purists. So what? Their illegal streaming and chat-room trolling don’t pay the bills anyway. The division’s green belt holder has finally become a must watch attraction because of – not in spite of – his flawed but dangerous skill set. He’s broken jaws and a few of his own bones to get here, now is not the time to fix it.