In the wake of Deontay Wilder’s seventh round stoppage of Luis Ortiz this past Saturday, indulge me as I engage in some very public self-immolation. This is what I had to say about The Bronze Bomber just a little over 20 months ago:

“The truth is that Deontay Wilder is an awful boxer whose skills have actually eroded…Given his weight loss and the sloppiness of his recent form, one can safely assume that when he hits the gym these days, it’s all cardio and no boxing work. His style is less prime George Foreman and more drunken tranny in a White Castle parking lot brawl.

“Forget footwork and defense. To not have, at the very least, a sharp, consistent jab—especially with his long arms and Mark Breland as a trainer—speaks of someone who could very well be untrainable. Everything about the ‘Bronze Bomber’ screams of someone who has fully bought into his own hype—all he needs is the right hand and forget everything else. It doesn’t look like he’s even trying anything else anymore.”

Makes me look like a total shit head, right? Hey, what can I say…This ‘PBC shill’ is probably the worst at shilling, ever. And, yeah, I was wrong as fuck.

I mean, the part about his right hand was not far off. It IS his “go to” weapon and the ultimate eraser to any errors he makes in the ring. But there’s more to the guy than wild-swinging brutish blunt force trauma. Now there is, anyway.

Just after the Tyson Fury fight, I realized that what I saw in Wilder as indifference to development and/or inability to be trained, was something different. It was supreme self-confidence and ultimate belief in his primary weapon. Wilder is like a major league pitcher with a 108 mph fastball who knows that, no matter what he does with a batter, he can still fall back on blowing the guy away with the crazy heater. 

That, alone—unflappable self-belief and a killer offensive weapon, with height, reach, and an awkward ring style thrown in for good measure—is enough to make the defending WBC heavyweight champ the most dangerous man in the division. 

And damn it if we also didn’t see a bit of boxing this time around at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. 

The Tuscaloosa, Alabama native wasn’t exactly Pernell Whitaker in there against Ortiz, but he was setting traps, biding his time, and trying to lure the crafty Cuban into the right spot for the right shot. Down four rounds to two on my scorecard (down 59-55, 59-55, 58-56 on the three official scorecards), he landed that right shot in the seventh round and the challenger went down like a sack of Cuban Lechón Asado.

Ortiz was boxing well up until the big, fight-ending right hand. He was doing everything he wanted to do, keeping Wilder at bay with feints, smart footwork, and the hint of “do-not-enter” danger. Pre-fight talk of added mobility and better conditioning was immaterial because Ortiz, as a 40-year-old (and likely older) pro with a well-honed style and a sense of what he’s best at doing, was not going to be a different fighter coming into this bout. What he hoped for was to be better at doing what he does and to find a way to stay on his feet en route to a win. 

Wilder, however, was willing to lose rounds as he looked to set up opportunities for his right hand and the danger of that big punch kept Ortiz (like every other Wilder opponent) from being too brave with his own offense. 

Ortiz’s decision to move around the perimeter and not directly nullify Wilder’s big right hand by turning the fight into an inside battle cost him the fight. But Ortiz is not the kind of fighter who bull rushes, smothers, and turns boxing matches into sloppy wars. A boxer by nature, the skilled southpaw died by the sword with which he lived. 

So, now what?

Wilder can make a legitimate claim of being top dog in the heavyweight division, as can Tyson Fury and the winner of the upcoming Ruiz-Joshua 2. He’ll be headed into a rematch with Fury in February, with the winner of that bout having the best argument for no. 1. Realistically, though, there won’t be a true no. 1 until all the belts are unified and the big four is whittled down to a big one. 

As for right now, though? 

Wilder is clearly the baddest man on the planet, even if he has yet to be proven the best. And the critics—myself included—need to start reassessing who this man is and how good he’s become. 

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