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American Heavyweight: Bermane Stiverne vs Deontay Wilder preview

It’s been more than eight years since there’s been an American born heavyweight champion and longer still since the division had a real US based star. Deontay Wilder is looking to change that on Saturday night.

Wilder (32-0) was the last Team USA male boxer to medal at the Olympics. Since taking Bronze in Beijing in 2008, he’s ran up the biggest KO streak in the sport today with 32 consecutive stoppages since turning pro. That record ranks him fourth on the all time list for longest running KO streak in Boxing history. He will tie Bob Allotey for third should he add one more to it this weekend.

The stats are impressive for sure, but there’s not much behind the numbers. Even a cursory glance at the 29 year old’s record shows it to be superficial. Few of his 32 victims to date were there to test him, and those who potential could have, really didn’t. The three best names on his record, those of Audley Harrison, Siarhei Liakhovich and Malik Scott, didn’t provide the competition needed. Harrison, like so often in his biggest bouts, was beaten before he stepped between the ropes. Liakhovich was too long in the tooth to do much of anything, and the Scott fight was over and done with before we had a chance to learn anything we didn’t already know: Wilder can punch and punch really hard.

There is one other thing connecting the three though; they all fell in the first round and that’s a trend not to take lightly. The Scott victory is the one which carries most weight. Malik Scott is a capable heavyweight. He’s fought at contender level for a while now and had never been wiped out prior to meeting Wilder. His only defeat was a somewhat controversial 6th round stoppage to Dereck Chisora, so for Wilder to run through him in 90 seconds was impressive, even if there isn’t much else that can be deduced from it. Should the Bronze Bomber do the same thing to Stiverne, it can no longer be dismissed as good fortune or clever matchmaking. He will have proven himself as the real deal.

Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1) is not flashy. He’s not a big talker or personality, but he can fight. He showed that in his two wins over Chris Arreola and his victory over Ray Austin. he takes a shot well and he has a way of finding the openings left by his opponents. There’s a good boxing IQ there and he has a very natural sense of how to pace a fight. He knows when to box within himself and he knows when it’s time to put his foot on the gas. He can be a spiteful puncher too on the counter and he hunts a finish as well as any. His 21 career KOs didn’t come about by accident. Make no mistake about it, if Wilder give him an opportunity, he will take it.

For a new heavyweight draw to emerge in America, he’s going to need certain attributes. Size is one. In a division with guys like Wladimir Klitschko, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, among other giants; the day of the smaller heavyweight has passed. At 6’7 Wilder has the frame needed to compete in the modern game. Personality is another quality needed. To bring life back to a division that’s out of favour, it require somebody with the ability to sell himself and the fights he is in. The third and final thing they’re going to need is in ring performances. This is the era of the action fighter. It’s no coincidence that the buzz boxers of right now are guys like Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev and Nicholas Walters. Boxers who are finishing fights and putting on exciting shows. Wilder can do that too. He talks like a million dollars and hits like ten million. His archive is nothing but highlight reel knockouts and he’s more than capable of promoting himself. If he can keep doing what he’s doing at the elite level, there is no question about it, he will become a major attraction.

There is still however equal reason to have reservations about the big man from Alabama. He remains unproven. He’s been matched very cautiously so far, and perhaps that’s part by design. He looks there to be hit. Technically he makes mistakes – lots of them. There’s a fearlessness to the way he seeks stoppages and it’s what has made him so exciting. It’s the reason he’s starched 32 straight and it’s the reason why no opponent of his is yet to see the 5th round. That fearlessness though could also make him vulnerable. What happens when somebody can take his shot (or make him miss) and still be around to answer back? Will the failed aggression leave him exposed? If so, how does he react and how quickly can he do it? These are the things we don’t yet know, and Stiverne may be just the guy to ask those sort of questions because if Wilder gives him the opportunity, Stiverne can and will finish this fight.

For me, it comes down to Wilder either blasting him out early or else getting caught on the counter while trying it. As tough and as durable as Stiverne is, he does still take shots, and those are shots nobody can afford to give up against Deontay Wilder. If Deontay is finding connections, the fight is not lasting; it doesn’t matter who is in the other corner. Stiverne will have a narrow window to figure out the puzzle and land that game changer or else he will be taken out himself. I don’t see him finding it in time. The Bomb Zquad clears up here and the hype train rolls on. It won’t be dull.

Prediction: Wilder KO 3

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