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Part 1 Of: Will Deontay Wilder Be A Hall Of Famer?

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BROOKLYN, NY - NOVEMBER 04: Deontay Wilder (Gold/Black) defeated Bermane Stiverne by first round knockout for Showtime's Championship Boxing on November 04, 2017 at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Edward Diller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

June 1st saw a pivotal promotional battle between Queensberry Promotions and Matchroom potentially display the last match Deontay Wilder will participate in, based on the American fighter’s own assertions of retiring if he lost last Saturday. With Zhilei Zhang coming out on top in stunning fashion by stopping Wilder, the “Bronze Bomber” has likely reached the end of the road and may no longer return to the ring henceforth. Has Wilder’s career been a myth this entire time, or will his legacy make him regarded as a Hall of Famer over time? Let us explore the career and achievements of one of the most enigmatic heavyweights in modern history.

From the onset of his career, Deontay Wilder (43-4-1, 42 KO’s) has been one of the most polarizing heavyweights in recent history, developing a reputation of a powerful puncher whose destructive right hand compensated for any lack of technical abilities, fundamentals or ring IQ, and gradually becoming known as one of the most outspoken boxers of his era.

However, last Saturday’s events may perhaps count as the defining feature of Wilder’s career; one where he has been exposed to have never been an elite fighter in the first place.

Plenty of arguments can be made for the 38-year old Deontay Wilder to say otherwise. His 2008 Olympics run, which saw the former WBC world champion―earn bronze after losing to two-time Olympic silver medalist Clemente Russo in the semi-final―spoke of Wilder’s potential despite him having entered the sport rather late at the age of nineteen.

His professional career was significant in a manner of speaking, given the majority of boxers never get to reach the heights that Wilder had. Since making his debut in the same year of 2008 when he lost in the Olympic semi-final, Wilder ended up being a KO machine, stopping or knocking out every opponent he’s faced.

Despite proving to be a heavyweight threat and rising up the ladder to become a viable contender, eventually leading to a 2015 fight with Haitian-American champion Bermane Stiverne which resulted in Wilder becoming the WBC heavyweight champion, Wilder’s resume continues to remain as schismatizing as his reputation within the sport as he went on to retain his title for over five years amidst a record number of WBC heavyweight world title defenses.

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LAS VEGAS, NV – JANUARY 17: Deontay Wilder (L) connects on WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne during their title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on January 17, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Wilder took the title with a unanimous decision. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

In what may be considered irony in a sense, Deontay Wilder’s career bears clear traces of being manufactured once his entire resume is closer scrutinized. While he has made strides as a professional boxer and has certainly exceeded expectations compared to the average fighter―with most boxers reportedly earning less than minimum wage, Wilder’s own past stated ambition to become “the best heavyweight” when he retires should be taken into account.

Which leads to the topic of how continued favoritism from the World Boxing Council (WBC) and Wilder’s former promoter in Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) has prevented the Bronze Bomber from truly reaching the pinnacle of greatness within the sport.

To substantiate, the WBC’s insistence on manipulating their own heavyweight rankings to favor Wilder has directly impacted his progress, preventing the American former world champion from progressing as needed.

Fighters including Bermane Stiverne, Éric Molina, Johann Duhaupas and Artur Szpilka. Stiverne in particular embodies all that had been and was wrong with the WBC, becoming a world champion in 2014 after defeating a 33-year old Chris Arreola during their second match. At the time, while Arreola was considered a good heavyweight, he was not considered a genuine top contender by 2013 when he faced Stiverne for the first time.

Stiverne’s rise to become a WBC world champion safely proved to one of the most controversial moments in boxing history as a fighter, not comparably on the same level as other genuine heavyweight contenders or champions, rose to become a world champion after defeating a former world title challenger in Arreola―having come in as a clear underdog despite defeating Arreola in their first match. The availability of the WBC title came off the back of future Hall of Famer and Ukrainian legend Vitali Klitschko vacating his WBC title in October of 2013.

Based on what followed, the very positioning of Bermane Stiverne as the contender could have been a strategy that the WBC conducted with PBC as Deontay Wilder would get a hold of the title in 2015―which was Stiverne’s very next fight after rematching Arreola in 2014. Notably, Wilder’s title bout against Stiverne would also become destined to be the only bout he’d win by decision―with all the rest of his victories coming by way of knockout or stoppages.

The bias from the WBC towards Wilder would grow more prominent in the following years, with Wilder―in his late twenties by the time he became a champion―continuing to fight opponents who would not be considered genuine contenders according to other sanctioning bodies. Wilder retained his impressive KO ratio throughout, developing a reputation as one of the most hardest-hitting punchers in the history of heavyweight boxing, but the level of opponents he fought always remained a point of discussion in media circles.

On March 3rd in 2018, any notion of Wilder never truly having faced adequate top-flight opposition―as expected of a world champion―would temporarily be stifled when a 34-year old Deontay Wilder faced and defeated Cuban contender Luis Ortiz [40 years old at the time]. Despite being arguably the best fighter that Wilder faced at that time, past records indicate Ortiz was not ranked in the top 10 of any sanctioning body except for the WBC―again going back to the suspected collaboration between PBC and the WBC to pit Wilder against undeserving or weak contenders.

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WBC’s heavyweight rankings as of February 2018.
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WBO’s heavyweight rankings as of February 2018.
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IBF’s heavyweight rankings as of February 2018.
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WBA’s heavyweight rankings as of February 2018.

Wilder’s signature and now-famous knockout of Ortiz helped him to become one of the most prominent fighters of the late 2010s and early 2020s, but a historic fight against Tyson Fury (34-1-1, 24 KO’s) would follow not long after, and perhaps prove to be the most defining feature of his career―for better or worse.

Part 2 of this article will continue to decode Wilder’s career and determine where he stands in the annals of heavyweight boxing.