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5 opponents for Deontay Wilder (if he carries on fighting)

Plus, AJ to fight Ngannou, Vergil Ortiz wins in Vegas and More

This post originally appeared in Steve Wellings’ Substack

We sat waiting for him to land the same big shot he’s always landed. And we waited…and waited some more. It never came. The Deontay Wilder of old has gone. No more windmill finishes or frenzied bursts of anger. A tame, predictable clone has been unleashed – and it wasn’t pretty to watch. In fact, it was pretty sad.

Hats off to the winner. Joseph Parker’s deceptively sneaky jab took away Wilder’s intimidation and ability to land power shots. The unfancied New Zealander had a better game plan and commendable fitness. Any gaps Wilder left were ruthlessly exposed as Parker grew in confidence.

Passive Wilder was indulging in toad medicine in the build-up

Some reckon Wilder’s heavyweight hunger has gone. Any semblance of athletic ability dissolved away. Only wobbly thin legs and a rake-like frame remain. The Fury fight understandably sapped the resolve and wore down his spirit. The 38-year-old has lost that aggressive edge. 

The “body on the record” shtick has been replaced by a comfortable, family-oriented outlook. The calm advice of veteran Mark Breland replaced by the even calmer non-advice of a passive Malik Scott and the ever-present Jay Deas. Neither could inspire him.

Assuming the ‘Bronze Bomber’ carries on fighting and re-activates his desire, some possible options are waiting for him…

Joe Joyce – We wondered for years what would happen if the ultimate nuclear bomb came up against the immovable object. That intrigue has since slipped away now that Joyce has been forcibly moved (twice) and Wilder’s nuclear weapons have grown rusty. It doesn’t seem as much fun.

Andy Ruiz Jr – The lesser spotted Ruiz has been dining out on the Joshua win, literally and figuratively, ever since. A fight with Wilder was discussed last year on PBC. It never materialised. Ruiz has spent his time indulging in every vice possible and feeling his wife’s ferocity amidst a torrent of allegations. The Wilder vs Ruiz fight is still a big American clash, should they seek to make it.

Anthony Joshua – This bout looks further away than ever now that Wilder has lost and Joshua has moved on to clash with Francis Ngannou. Never say never, this is boxing after all. Expect to see a washed-up pair of grey-haired chancers swinging at one another in 15 years’ time. Before that, forget about it. Eddie’s had enough opportunities to nail it down.

Dreamland: A clash between Wilder and Joshua looks further away than ever

Zhilei Zhang – A surprising move that is becoming increasingly more likely. ‘Big Bang’ is a swift southpaw mover with heavy hands for a sizeable unit. He does gas late on, however. Showing a reasonable beard, if Zhang can withstand the power rushes, he could catch Wilder hard and heavy. Conversely, an impressive display from Deontay and he’s suddenly back in the mix. Very interesting matchup.

Joseph Parker 2 – The chance for redemption, anybody? Not really. Parker soundly outboxed a listless Wilder and will be seeking a big payday. Wilder needs a knockover or an opponent who can take him a few rounds (that he will actually beat at the end of those rounds). No call for a return between these two.

Retirement – A rogue number six to throw into the mix. Could Wilder hang up the gloves? It seems unlikely, as there are a number of options remaining on the table, given his name, stature and past currency in the bank. The Alabama banger won’t want to go out as the meek figure we witnessed in Saudi.

Boxing Round-Up

Vergil Ortiz returns with KO + Ohara’s world title woe

Vergil Ortiz made a welcome return to the ring in Las Vegas, blasting away Fredrick Lawson in a single round. Well, he was certainly on top before trigger-happy referee Tony Weeks jumped in and stopped the fight prematurely.

Ortiz looked extremely comfortable boxing almost in his new weight class. A fit-and-firing version is better for boxing. He later called out Tim Tszyu, which would be a cracking fight. Third man Weeks has previous form with competitors on this card, namely a Venezuelan upset king who featured in the chief support…

Safety-first: Tony Weeks reportedly travels through life in a Hazmat suit

Entering the ring to The Final Countdown song, it may well be the final count at this level for Ohara Davies, who was one win away from a world title shot before Ismael Barroso brutally upset his plans.

Fighting aggressively, Davies was caught on the way out by a left hand that caused mayhem with his senses. Failing to recover, Ohara’s dream was shattered seconds later in the opening round.

Making his Golden Boy debut, following a period of increasing frustration under Top Rank, Arnold Barbosa Jr broke down Xoliseni Ndongeni after round eight. Following a consultation from the doctor and referee, the South African’s corner agreed it was time to end matters.

Enjoying a steady, uneventful start, the tide turned when Barbosa found range for the body shots and right uppercut. The winner later called out Teofimo Lopez and Ryan Garcia, throwing some F-bombs in for good measure. DAZN apologised.

Big-punching former Olympian Raul Curiel busted up and stopped brave Elias Diaz in round eight. Diaz’s closed left eye did him no favours as he failed to suspect a right hand that dropped him at the close of the fifth round. Curiel, trained by Freddie Roach, is talented and needs to get active.

Big ask for Smith against beastly Beterbiev

Can Callum Smith topple Artur Beterbiev? It’s a big ask for the big man out in Canada on January 13. Despite Smith’s punching power, he’s been knocking people on a level or two below the Russian brute.

Age is starting to catch up on Beterbiev, who has suffered many injuries and spells of inactivity since bursting onto the scene. There is hope for Smith, but Artur is a solid favourite to get the job done and move on to clash with rival Dmitry Bivol. Catch our recent brief preview of his fight here…

Can Callum Smith topple Artur Beterbiev? Winner to face Dmitry Bivol [hopefully]

Anthony Joshua leads the heavyweight charge

Anthony Joshua will return to the ring on March 8 against Francis Ngannou. It’s not an ideal contest, but it makes sense from a promotional perspective. If AJ blasts the UFC fighter away and looks impressive in the process, it will steal a march on Tyson Fury, at least in the mind of casual observers. Ngannou has elevated his stock and bargaining power no end since entering boxing. Fair play to him.

After beating Wallin, AJ looks to steal another march on rival Fury

Joe Goossen’s big heavyweight, Gurgen Hovhannisyan, recorded a fifth-round stoppage on Thursday, January 4, in Washington. The Armenian clearly enjoys his chosen craft and throws quick combinations. Opponent Colby Madison couldn’t get out of the way of the left hook and, despite firing back frequently, was exhausted and on his knees when the referee intervened.

Media Credits: DAZN News US, Marca, Larry Brown Sports.

About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 500 eps. 20 years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief video script writer for Motivedia channel and BN+. For enquiries: stevenwellings1982@gmail.com.

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