The next significant fight in the big, old mess that is the heavyweight division takes place this weekend when Dominic Breazeale challenges Deontay Wilder for the WBC title at the Barclays Centre in New York.
Following the Joshua versus Miller announcement in February, it became abundantly clear we were further than ever from the undisputed heavyweight fight the boxing world so badly craves. When it was announced Tyson Fury would bejoining up with ESPN and Top Rank just a few days later, the Wilder Fury rematch looked in serious jeopardy. The announcement in March that Deontay Wilder would next set foot in a ring when he takes on Dominic Breazeale, confirmed we would indeed not be seeing the Fury rematch most wanted any time soon.
Considering the Joshua and Fury fights were off the table, the next logical opponent for Wilder should have been Dillian Whyte, who has beaten everyone asked of him and well deserving of a world title shot. Nobody other than Wilder wanted the Breazeale fight; however, it is still arguablycredible.
Brezeale poses as much risk to Wilder as Povetkin did to Joshua. This is not to say Brezeale is on a level with Povetkin or similar in any way, he’s not, but he has the attributes to test Wilder as Povetkin did for Joshua. He is a potential banana skin for Wilder, and it makes an intriguing fight for several reasons.
Firstly, there’s genuine hate between Wilder and Breazeale that dates back to their brawl in 2017, when Wilder’s brother Marcellus struck Breazeale after Wilder beat Washington. There have been numerous comments thrown about viciously by either camp. These insults have involved crippling of Wilder, the younger Wilder’s shock stoppage loss and numerous repulsive comments from Wilder about the death of Breazeale in the ring. While undeniably tasteless, the comments demonstrate that these are two guys that genuinely want to hurt each other; an excellent starting point for what should transpire to be a brutal fight.
There is the hook up for Breazeale with Virgil Hunter, who has worked with some elite defensive boxers such as Andre Ward, whom he trained since the age of nine. Will Hunter get Breazeale to try and change to the slick defensive style that Wilder struggled so much with when he fought Fury? That may be the best way for him to proceed.
Then there’s the sheer bizarreness of Deontay Wilder and the unorthodox way he fights. He is never going to be a technical boxer; his footwork and ring craft are painfully basic, and he is often there to be hit. He was in serious trouble at times against Ortiz and arguably didn’t win a single round against Fury in which he did not put Fury down. He was also shown to be outboxed by Washington until he caught him in the fifth. To Wilder’s credit, he has demonstrated he does have an excellent chin in the Washington, Ortiz and Fury fights, and also in the famous clip of sparring with David Haye. His way of fighting is never not exciting. Wilder hits like a mule, his power is freakish, and all he needs is to land one punch to knock out any man stood in front of him. Tyson Fury was the only guy Wilder has fought to avoid that fate, when he somehow navigated through those two knockdowns in December. In a twelve-round fight, no matter how good a boxer you are, if you are fighting someone as wild and relentless as Wilder, you’re getting hit, at least once. Not if; when.
The question is, when Breazeale gets hit, how will he cope?
Indeed, he was stopped by Joshua three years ago. It was a very comfortable fight for Joshua, however, Breazeale has improved since then, which is evidenced by wins over Molina and Negron. In the AJ fight, he did show his toughness and a decent chin, which was eventually broken down by the superior boxer in Joshua. Joshua has serious power, of course, but it is different from Wilder’s. While Joshua’s power is indeed ferocious, it is a more gradual power that breaks you down, as opposed to Wilder’s, that relies on just one clean punch. Wilder poses a different problem to Joshua stylistically speaking, and Brezeale has a much better chance with him than he ever stood with Joshua, owing to his technical ability. If Breazeale can control his emotions and avoid a trade-off with Wilder, he has a chance. He must keep out of Wilder’s range and then get in close and work on the inside to spoil Wilder’s work. If Breazeale can do that, he has an opportunity for a late stoppage or a points decision. All he has to do is avoid that one clean punch, easier said than done. If Brezeale can indeed avoid being discombobulated by a frantic Wilder swing, he will win. Will he avoid that punch? I seriously doubt it.
Despite the disgusting death comments by Wilder, I feel I am speaking on behalf of most boxing fans when I say I do hope that Wilder wins. Who wants to see the Joshua Breazeale rematch, even if it is for all the marbles or Breazeale versus Fury? Nobody, other than Breazeale himself and his team. We fans want to see Fury get the right decision that was stolen from him in December, or the wild and exciting Wilder test AJ’s chin and vice versa. The three-way match up of the slick Fury, powerful Wilder and best all-around fighter in AJ, is what we need. A loss to Brezeale would ruin it for all of us and adds credence to the fact the best need to fight the bestbefore it’s too late and someone gets beat. TV deals and politics must be set aside to get that done, and sadly, it doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.
Hopefully, Wilder, Joshua, and Fury are all victorious in their upcoming fights, and we move closer to the heralded undisputed battle. I fear however we are still some way off that, and with talk of Wilder taking the Ortiz rematch and Whyte and Fury fighting after their respective fights, it doesn’t appear to be coming any time soon.
Wilder versus Breazeale is available from 02:00 on Sunday morning, live on Sky Sports.
By Aaron Ludford
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