Opening Bell: Wilder shines but wants more
NEW YORK — Heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder’s first-round obliteration of mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn only added to the hunger for the real fight boxing fans want to see: the undisputed title showdown between Wilder and British star Anthony Joshua.
Wilder did his part, retaining his belt courtesy of his money punch, a devastating right that knocked Breazeale out for the count at 2 minutes, 17 seconds. The video clip went viral almost instantly and wound up as the top play of the day on SportsCenter.
Wilder is showing himself to be a puncher of historical proportions. By retaining his title for the ninth consecutive time, he tied Muhammad Ali (in his first reign), Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson (in his first reign) and Lennox Lewis on the all-time heavyweight list in that category. In those defenses, Wilder has eight knockouts. Ali, Frazier and Tyson had seven. Lewis had four.
Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) has made six defenses and knocked out five of his opponents, including Breazeale (20-2, 18 KOs) in 2016. But it took AJ seven rounds to get rid of him, while it took Wilder less than one round.
Joshua’s turn in the spotlight is on deck and figures to add to the anticipation of the big one. He will make his United States debut against contender Andy Ruiz Jr. on June 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Undoubtedly, his performance will be compared against Wilder’s, but Joshua is a huge favorite and if he comes through, the intense pressure to make Joshua-Wilder will continue.
The camps have tried before and failed at different points for various reasons. I am not at all hopeful the fight will be made for the fall unless both fighters put their foot down and tell their handlers to make the fight, period.
More likely, Wilder is headed to a September rematch with Luis “King Kong” Ortiz, whom he knocked out in the 10th round of a terrific fight of the year candidate 14 months ago, followed by a January fight with unbeaten contender Adam Kownacki. Groan.
If that plan happens, a Joshua-Wilder fight wouldn’t take place until mid-2020 at the earliest.
Deontay Wilder lands a devastating right hand on Dominic Breazeale, who falls to the mat and can’t answer the 10-count.
But Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn has said repeatedly he hopes to make the fight for the fall if Joshua wins next month. After drilling Breazeale, Wilder said the fight would happen, but wasn’t sure when.
“I think it will happen. It’s gonna happen. I’m just gonna cut to the chase: It will happen,” Wilder said in an interview in the ring with the United Kingdom’s Sky Sports. “I believe in all my heart it will happen.”
Then Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KO), following his first fight since an exciting draw with lineal champion Tyson Fury in December, compared the prospect of his fight with Joshua to another massive heavyweight fight between a top American and a top Brit that never did happen.
“I don’t want this to be like a Lennox [Lewis] and [Riddick] Bowe situation,” he said. “I definitely don’t. The heavyweight division is so lit right now. It’s on fire right now. I think it’s our obligation to do this and give the fans what they want. We’ve tried and tried, but it’s gonna come back around again and I think the next time it comes around, the discussions that deal with me and Joshua, I think something’s gonna get done. Like I tell people, I just want them to have patience and just let us have our moments and let us do what we do.”
Asked if he was sure the Joshua situation wouldn’t wind up like Bowe-Lewis, Wilder’s response was: “Not at all, I promise you that.”
We will hold him to it, but Joshua also has to get on board.
“I don’t know what’s next, to be honest,” Wilder said later at the post-fight news conference. “There’s so many different things going on. I just want the best fights possible. I’ve tried to prove myself for a very long time. We’ve tried many a times to make the best fights possible for the fans. I’ve lowered my standards to make these fights happen [with Ortiz and Fury]. I’ve took high risk with low rewards to make fights happen.”
Wilder is open to a rematch with Ortiz if there’s no Joshua fight or Fury rematch next.
“If you lose, OK. Rebuild yourself and get back up. … I don’t care about my record. That’s how you become a two-time champion, a three-time champion, a four-time champion,” Wilder said. “The heavyweight division is very small [in terms of top fighters], so we got to make the big fights happen. If you lose, you can come back.”
Hopefully, there will be no need for that. All it will take is for Joshua to win June 1 and for both fighters to demand the fight next. Don’t count on it, but we can dream, right?
Taylor, Inoue shine in WBSS semifinals
The World Boxing Super Series finals are set in two divisions after impressive performances by junior welterweight Josh Taylor and bantamweight Naoya Inoue in Saturday’s semifinals in Glasgow, Scotland.
Taylor (15-0, 12 KOs), 28, a southpaw from Scotland, won a world title from Ivan Baranchyk (19-1, 12 KOs), 26, of Belarus, by clear decision. He dropped Baranchyk twice in the sixth round and won by scores of 117-109, 115-111 and 115-111, which could even been wider.
Baranchyk, making his first defense and in his first bout with trainer Freddie Roach after firing Pedro Diaz, is very aggressive and had Taylor in some trouble in the fifth round but simply could not get to the slicker Taylor with enough clean punches. Taylor was dazzling at times, including dropping him with a right hand in the sixth and then with a left hand later in the round.
Inoue, in the co-feature, lived up to his “Monster” nickname and showed once again why he is a pound-for-pound talent on the rise as he shredded Emmanuel Rodriguez in two rounds to take his bantamweight world title. Inoue (18-0, 16 KOs), 26, of Japan, who has won world titles in three divisions, walked through Rodriguez (19-1, 12 KOs), 26, of Puerto Rico, who was making his second defense and had never previously been knocked down.
But in the second round, Inoue dropped him with a clean left hook, then immediately floored him again with a right to the body. Rodriguez, with blood coming from his nose, was in bad shape when Inoue pounded him with a few more shots to knock him down for the third time. He beat the count but he was done, and referee Michael Alexander stopped it at 1:19.
The next step: The dates and locations for the finals later this year are not yet set, but Taylor will meet Regis Prograis (24-0, 20 KOs) to unify their belts in a 50-50 fight. Inoue will be more heavily favored against future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs) in their final.
Fights you might have missed
Sunday at Kobe, Japan
Junior flyweight Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30 KOs) W12 Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7 KOs), retains a world title, scores: 118-110, 117-111, 116-112.
Alvarado, 30, of Nicaragua, won a vacant title in the Philippines by stopping Randy Petalcorin in the seventh round in October and was on the road again for his first defense in Konishi’s native Japan, where Konishi took all Alvarado could dish out and gave him a very tough battle in defeat. Konishi, 25, has suffered both of his losses in world title bouts, also dropping a decision in Kobe to Carlos Canizales for a vacant belt in March 2018.
Saturday at Stevenage, England
Super middleweight Billy Joe Saunders (28-0, 13 KOs) W12 Shefat Isufi (27-4-2, 20 KOs), wins a vacant world title, scores: 120-108, 118-110, 117-111.
Fighting at an outdoor stadium in his home region, Saunders, 29, a southpaw, easily outpointed Isufi, 29, an Albania native fighting out of Germany, who had no resume to speak of before getting this wildly unwarranted title opportunity. They were fighting for the belt recently vacated by Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez. Saunders, a former middleweight titlist, was moving up in weight following a positive drug test that KO’d a defense against Demetrius Andrade in October.
Saunders controlled Isufi with his right jab in a very boring fight, which is typical of Saunders bouts. Isufi’s one decent moment came in the sixth round when he nailed Saunders, who was in his first fight with trainer Ben Davison in his corner after parting ways with Dominic Ingle, with a right hand that knocked him into the ropes. There have been more entertaining sparring sessions.
Heavyweight Joe Joyce (9-0, 9 KOs) TKO3 Alexander Ustinov (34-4, 25 KOs).
The 6-foot-6, 261-pound Joyce, 33, the 2016 super heavyweight Olympic silver medalist from England, notched an impressive win over the 6-7, 283-pound Ustinov as he dominated the entire fight. Joyce was very aggressive and kept his hands moving against the slower Ustinov. In the third round, he dropped Ustinov to his knees with a nice left hook to the head, and referee Victor Loughlin counted him out at 1:55.
While Joyce, a latecomer to the pros, has a bright future, it could be the end of the road for Ustinov, 42, of Russia, in terms of meaningful bouts, as he lost his third in a row, including defeats to Manuel Charr by decision for a vacant secondary world title in 2017 and a ninth-round knockout loss to contender Michael Hunter in November.
Friday at Belfast, Northern Ireland
Junior featherweight Ryan Burnett (20-1, 10 KOs) TKO6 Jelbirt Gomera (14-6, 7 KOs).
Former unified bantamweight world titleholder Ryan Burnett moved up in weight to face the game but outclassed Gomera, 26, a southpaw from the Philippines, who fell to 2-5 in his last seven fights. Burnett, in his first fight since signing with Top Rank, was also fighting for the first time since losing his bantamweight title by fourth-round stoppage to Nonito Donaire in the quarterfinals of the World Boxing Super Series in November, when Burnett was unable to continue due to a torn oblique muscle on his right side.
Burnett was docked one point by referee John Latham for a low blow early in the sixth round. But he continued to attack Gomera’s body during the round, and when he badly hurt him with a pair of shots, Latham stopped the fight at 2:01.
Friday at Mashantucket, Connecticut
Heavyweight Marco Huck (41-5-1, 28 KOs) No Contest 1 Nick Guivas (14-10-3, 9 KOs).
Huck, 34, of Germany, one of the best cruiserweights ever, held a world title from 2009 to 2015, made a division record-tying 13 defenses and was in many exciting fights. But after back-to-back losses in world title fights to Mairis Breidis and Oleksandr Usyk in 2017, he moved up to heavyweight and stopped Yakup Saglam in the fourth round last June.
After 11 months off, Huck returned to face journeyman Guivas, 40, of Topeka, Kansas, and dropped him twice in the first round. However, the second knockdown, from a right hand to the temple, came just after referee Shada Murdaugh had called for the fighters to break. After some confusion, and with Guivas in no condition to continue, the fight was stopped at 57 seconds and ultimately ruled a no contest due to the accidental foul.