It’s very tough to place blame at the door of Deontay Wilder for his string of sub-standard opponents – at least recently – but the fact remains that the fighters he has been facing since becoming WBC heavyweight champion have been extremely underwhelming.
Wilder has been champion of the world for over two years now, since he outpointed Bermane Stiverne in January 2015. But despite the longevity of his reign, his list of defences read like a who’s who of journeyman heavyweights. Eric Molina, Johann Duhaupas, Artur Szpilka and Chris Arreola should never have challenged for a world title – although Molina has since served as a punching bag for IBF titleholder Anthony Joshua also.
Which brings us to this weekend where Wilder (37-0-KO36) will make the fifth defence of his title against 34-year-old Gerald Washington (18-0-1-KO12). It must be said that Washington is a replacement opponent, stepping up after Andrzej Wawrzyk – himself a barely credible challenger – popped for steroids. Washington’s record does not inspire confidence, though. His best wins are over shop-worn former title challengers Eddie Chambers and Ray Austin. He was also taken the distance by Jason Gavern, who was stopped early by both Joshua and Wilder.
In defence of the champion, he was denied a match-up with elite heavyweight Alexander Povetkin last year when the Russian tested positive for meldonium. Povetkin would have been far and away the toughest test of Wilder’s career and would have provided a clear answer to the question of how good the Alabama native really is.
The match-making here is tough to take, however. Washington is number eight in the WBC’s rankings at heavyweight, above him in the rankings sit legitimate potential title challengers in Stiverne (1), Luis Ortiz (2), Kubrat Pulev (3) and Dillian Whyte (4). All of those men boast superior CV’s to Washington and would all theoretically have been available to fight around this time.
So what will the boxing public glean from a Wilder vs. Washington contest? Truthfully, very little. Will this fight be any different than those against Molina, Arreola et al.? Probably not. Washington has talked up his chances of course, but there is little danger of an upset here. An early stoppage would not be out of the question and that result would do little for the stock of the champion.
It really is a lose-lose situation for Wilder, but one that he has engineered himself. Yes, your original opponent tested positive, but that doesn’t give you license to cherry-pick the easiest ‘contender’ you can. With tougher opponents surely awaiting him, would it not benefit Wilder to sharpen his skills against a top 10 heavyweight like Pulev?
Alas, fans must sit through another routine title defence that will do little for the fighters involved or the home fans in Birmingham, Alabama who have now had to pay money for matches with Molina, Duhaupas, Arreola and Washington. All the rest of us can do is wish those in attendance luck and hope that Wilder makes a swift step up in competition in the near future.by