Where next for Wilder?
James McHugh reflects on Deontay Wilder's destruction of Bermane Stiverne as the WBC heavyweight champion calls for a showdown against Anthony Joshua...
Saturday night in Brooklyn proved to be a rather easy night's work for WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, who made a statement by dismantling the former holder of the belt, Bermane Stiverne, with a vicious knockout in the first round.
Having wrested the belt from the Haitian-Canadian via a wide points decision back in January 2015, Wilder was unhappy at having to face Stiverne again, but was left with little choice after a drugs test controversy surrounding original opponent Luis Ortiz.
Wilder is more than aware that one criticism often thrown in his direction is that he lacks a credible name on his record in the way that Anthony Joshua is able to refer to his victory against former longtime divisional king Wladimir Klitschko. Undefeated Cuban Ortiz would have been the highest calibre opponent he had ever faced, but it wasn't to be.
The truth is that the heavyweight division doesn’t have the depth of quality compared to many other weight classes. At least by KO-ing Stiverne on Saturday night, Wilder was able to partially remove the only blemish on his otherwise spotless KO record - Stiverne having been the only previous opponent in his professional career to have heard the final bell.
Intent on proving a statement Wilder came out firing from the start, putting Stiverne on the back foot instantly with numerous stiff jabs. Midway through the round Stiverne ventured forward but immediately regretted it, Wilder's hand speed putting him on the canvas in a heap.
Stiverne managed to make it back on his feet but Wilder displayed his killer instinct, leaping on Stiverne once again and unleashing another quick combination. The challenger barely beat the count, but as the end of the first round drew near, Wilder ensured his opponent wouldn’t make the bell. A flurry of blows followed, a left hand proving to be the shot that ended it, splitting Stiverne's guard. The former WBC champion once again hit the canvas, this time slumping in a daze.
The fight which most boxing fans are now demanding is Wilder vs Joshua. The trouble is that we might have to wait for it. Following his victory against a brave and determined Carlos Takam a week earlier, Joshua stated that he intends to have three fights in 2018. His vision and aim is to hold all four versions of the heavyweight title - in order to do so he will need to beat New Zealand’s WBO title holder Joseph Parker and, of course, Wilder.
When asked post-fight about Joshua, Wilder claimed: “I’ve been waiting on that fight for a long time now," he said. "I declare war upon you [Anthony Joshua]. Do you accept my challenge?”
There aren’t many options for Wilder or Joshua when it comes to an alternative heavyweight 'super fight'. Tyson Fury is around six stone overweight and a long way from being ready to challenge for the title again. Although he is a regularly tweeting, promising his fans that he will regain his titles in 2018, the reality is that he’s some way off being in a position to challenge either.
So, if not Anthony Joshua, then who could be next in line to face Wilder? If you cast your eye over the WBC rankings, American Dominic Breazeale has now progressed to mandatory position, having registered an eighth round win over fellow AJ victim Eric Molina on the undercard in Brooklyn on Saturday night.
Eddie Hearn has also been trying to entice Wilder into accepting a bout against Dillian Whyte. Wilder is not keen though, stating on Saturday: “A king doesn’t chase the peasants, a king takes kings. I want Joshua. If he don’t give me the fight, we have other plans."
He then closed by adding: “Why should I go to England to fight a peasant without the king on the contract? The world want Joshua, I want Joshua."
The Alabaman's record is now 39-0 with 38 knockouts and confidence is certainly high in his camp that Wilder can 'take' AJ, with promoter Lou DiBella having declared: "Deontay will put Anthony Joshua to sleep."
As impressive as Wilder's performance was on Saturday though, it's worth noting that Stiverne was but a shadow of his former self - not only has he been inactive - having fought just once since the first Wilder match-up nearly three years ago - but he also came in carrying plenty of additional weight.
Anthony Joshua will be a different proposition altogether, but with both he and Wilder set on proving themselves the best in the division, 2018 could be an eventful year for heavyweight boxing.