By: Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)
Deontay Wilder forced Chris Arreola to retire last night, the WBC heavyweight champion securing the victory – despite an injury to his right hand – when the Californian retired on his stool before the ninth round.
Wilder (37-0-KO36), knocked his man down in the fourth round with a powerful right but failed to throw the shot thereafter due to an apparent broken hand and pulled muscle.
Even with another stoppage victory, Wilder continued to stutter in his championship reign. Despite knockouts in all four defences of his crown, the American has arguably struggled in putting away journeyman opposition.
Wilder’s first defence of his belt came against Eric Molina (25-3-KO19), a man who was stopped in the first round by Arreola in 2012. However it took Wilder nine rounds to stop Molina, who gave the champion plenty to think about up until that point.
Frenchman Johann Duhaupas (34-3-KO21) was next, a tough but limited challenger who was expected to be more cannon fodder for the American. He took Wilder to the 11th in September 2015 and once again was an unexpected inconvenience.
By this point the grumblings over the quality of Wilder’s opposition were being heard loudly in boxing circles. Yes he was stopping all comers, but the men he was stopping were nowhere near elite level.
He was perceived as having gone backwards. A unanimous decision win over Bermane Stiverne to win the title in January 2015 showed fresh nuances to his game, nuances that appeared to be missing since he collected the green belt. His boxing that night was patient and calculated, but his most recent fights have seen him struggle with tough, gatekeeper-type fighters who he was expected to blow away.
To his credit Wilder took on a more credible foe in January of this year, the Pole Artur Szpilka (20-2-KO15). Szpilka was dispatched in the ninth, but was outboxing the champion until that point. Wilder’s God-given power proved the difference once again, a heavy right hand to the temple leaving Szpilka flat on the canvas.
Wilder was confronted by lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in the ring following that bout, and the appearance of the brash Brit served as a reminder that if Szpilka could bamboozle Wilder then Fury would have a field day with him provided he stayed away from that right hand.
The cracks were beginning to show and when Wilder was ordered to face mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin, many were tipping the Russian to prevail. That fight was not to be, unfortunately, Povetkin failing a drug test that derailed the contest and forced Wilder to face the aforementioned Arreola on short notice.
It should be noted that despite the critical nature of this article, I consider Wilder to be an incredibly gifted heavyweight. He possesses that most cherished of qualities in boxing, knockout power. Added to that is his phenomenal athleticism and a ramrod jab – which was on full display last night – which make him a serious threat to every fighter in the division.
That being said, the lowly quality of his opponents – and his difficulty dealing with them – is inexcusable. Wilder speaks regularly, as he did last night, about his desire to unify the heavyweight titles. But actions speak louder than words and the American has yet to increase the calibre of his opposition since becoming champion.
Wilder needs to be fighting a top heavyweight next, someone like Luis Ortiz, Kubrat Pulev or a rematch with Stiverne – who claims he only lost to Wilder because he was suffering with severe dehydration prior to the fight. Then we will know more about America’s great heavyweight hope, for now I remain unconvinced.by