Deontay Wilder was the only guy keeping the heavyweight fire going for a while. When He defeated Bermane Stiverne to win the 2015 WBC titlethe division was in a down mode.
Anthony Joshua had yet to emerge and was still more than a year away from winning a slice of the title. Tyson Fury would beat the legendary Wladimir Klitschko 11 months later but as quickly as Fury emerged, he blazed out after being ballooned to 400 pounds and sidelined by mental health issues.
Oleksandr Usyk was a cruiserweight training for his seventh pro fight the night Wilder defeated Stiverne.
Wilder was always exciting in the ring and not only was he accessible to the media, he was an engaging and entertaining personality.
Now, of course, the heavyweight division is brimming with quality fights and interesting storylines, and has become one of the most interesting in boxing.
Former Heavyweight Champion Andy Ruiz Jr. takes on veteran Luis Ortiz Sunday at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles in what could turn into a wild slugfest.
Usyk is the unified champion and craves a fight with Fury, who is suddenly the most compelling personality in the division and arguably the best. But they are not alone. Joe Joyce, Joe Parker, Daniel Dubois, Filip Hrgovic and Zhang Zhilei are all talents of different levels and 22-year-old Jared Anderson looks like a future champion.
But still at the top, still as captivating and entertaining as ever, is Wilder. On October 15, he will headline a pay-per-view card against Robert Helenius at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York in what could be another wild night.
Wilder took a lot of heat early in his career for the cautious way he was moved. But once he had proven himself a legitimate contender, no one looked for the best opponent more than Wilder.
He came out of one of the big heavyweight fights on the wrong side lately when he was stopped by Fury in the 11th. However, there was no loser in this fight. It was a breathtaking affair from start to finish.
Both have – and more importantly for this point – taken a huge penalty. No one could have blamed them if they decided to walk away after that fight. They had made their money, they had improved their reputation and they sacrificed their bodies. It was time to live the good life, if they chose to.
However, Wilder is a fighter through and through. So he traveled to Las Vegas to train at the UFC Performance Institute while working with highly respected trainer Don House. He said he had already completed 400 laps in preparation for Helenius.
Wilder doesn’t need that, because Helenius is a dangerous opponent who would like nothing better than to have Wilder’s name on his CV, but as writers write, fighters fight. Wilder isn’t just looking for a few more paydays, he wants to do something memorable once again.
“I’ve had a great career and I’m back for my second reign,” he said. “It’s amazing to remember all those years and how I got to where I am now. It was an honor for me. We had a game plan and we executed that game plan.”
Fury went 2-0-1 with Wilder in the series but there is no doubt that Wilder brought out the best in Fury. They fought to a draw in their first fight on December 1, 2018 in Los Angeles and Wilder almost won by KO. He dropped Fury hard in the 12th round, only for Fury to inexplicably get up and fight back to the end.
Fury won the last two fights between them, with the last being among the biggest heavyweight fights of the last quarter century, if not half century.
And now Wilder is plotting his return to the top. Helenius is the man ahead of him now, but a win could put him up against Ruiz if Ruiz beats Ortiz. And the long-discussed fight with Joshua could yet become a reality.
“I’m trying to do something different by adding Don House to the team that works in Las Vegas,” Wilder said. “We wanted to change some things, do more laps and see what happens. This workout sounds like it could do a lot for your body, but when you are in good physical and mental shape, nothing is impossible.”
Another reign as champion is far from impossible. He’s knocked Fury down four times in their three fights and on the off chance they ever get back in the ring, that power would still give him a chance to win. If he fights Usyk he’d have to deal with a slick boxer like he’s never seen before, but imagine him hitting Usyk with some of those shots he hit Fury with.
Wilder always has a chance.
And while other heavyweights have emerged to make the division the strongest it has been since the 1990s, when Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Michael Moorer, George Foreman and Ray Mercer, among others, filled the roster, Wilder is still there, shoulder to shoulder with them.
He’s a man not to be missed, and despite being in the last nine of his career, he remains one of the most compelling fighters and figures, not just in the division but in the entire sport.