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Part 2 Of: Will Deontay Wilder Be A Hall Of Famer?

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BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 15: Deontay Wilder knocks out Robert Helenius in the first round during their WBC world heavyweight title eliminator bout at Barclays Center on October 15, 2022 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Deontay Wilder has been one of the most eye-catching characters in boxing over at least the past half decade, but his loss to Zhilei Zhang on June 1st may change the way he is being viewed. With retirement for Wilder now likely, based on pre-match comments he made, let us further dive into how he stacks up against the all-time greats.

Deontay Wilder’s (43-4-1, 42 KO’s) win over Luis Ortiz in March of 2018 seemingly placed him at the pinnacle of the sport as an undisputed heavyweight fight with Anthony Joshua (28-3, 25 KO’s) seemed more plausible and likely than ever before.

However, the match never emerged. Various factors and parties have been blamed, and at the time, the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) headed by Turki Alalshikh had not yet started investing in the sport, therefore making it unlikely for Wilder and Joshua to step into the ring with presumably no exorbitant sums available to make a fight between them more feasible.

While it is still very much up to debate as to what led to the Joshua-Wilder fight never surfacing, Wilder’s next match would pit him against Tyson Fury who had spent the last couple of matches shaking off ring rust after an absence from the ring of approximately three years.

It was a surprise when the match announced, with Deontay Wilder having not been expected to make a significant step-up in opponents after Luis Ortiz―even though Fury was arguably not at his best yet and was stepping up himself in a sense.

The two faced each other on December 1st in 2018 and fought to a split-decision that had two different controversies: one relating to Wilder knocking down Fury in the last 12th round and giving plenty of reasons for the referee to stop the fight then and there before the British heavyweight miraculously got up.

Then there was the split-decision (SD) draw between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury (34-1-1, 24 KO’s), with many still split on this day as to whether it should been a SD win for one or the other. In any case, the match defined the standard for the type of level that Wilder was expected to fight at henceforth.

As spoken about in Part 1 of this article, Wilder’s resume had been filled with fighters that were not considered genuine contenders by other sanctioning bodies; with most having not even been ranked by the other organizations, except for the World Boxing Council (WBC).

It is here where it is important to make the distinction between the level Deontay Wilder was expected to operate at, and the arguably overachievement of his career in even becoming a world champion.

As was illustrated in our previous article, the relationship between the WBC and Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) has played a prominent role in Wilder’s career; one that may result in Wilder never being a considered a Hall of Fame boxer or a great heavyweight.

This is due to the careful arrangement of the opponents Deontay Wilder fought, with WBC spending several years putting fighters in their top 10 heavyweight rankings for Wilder to fight; fighters that were not considered contenders elsewhere. Luis Ortiz might be the best example in this case, having been the strongest opponent Deontay Wilder faced in 2018 yet not considered a genuine contender according to other sanctioning bodies.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Wilder’s trilogy bouts against Tyson Fury would become the defining feature of his career with his resume having still been left to desire until he finally faced actual top opposition in Fury.

Deontay Wilder’s second match against Tyson Fury, after spending the year of 2019 fighting and defeating Dominic Breazeale and Luis Ortiz for the second time, occurred in February of 2020 and saw the Bronze Bomber facing a visibly better and in-shape Fury.

In a sharp contrast to their first match, the second proved to be more one-sided as Fury largely dominated to eventually stop Wilder in the 7th round. It was a pivotal moment for the sport; one which resulted in Fury taking his place as one of the best heavyweights at that time, and on where Wilder had arguably been exposed for what he had recently accused Anthony Joshua (28-3, 25 KO’s) of being; a manufactured fighter.

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Boxing: WBC Heavyweight Title Fight: Rear view of Deontay Wilder in action, doing down on canvas vs Tyson Fury at MGM Grand Garden. (Photo by John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

It was following the second match that the collaboration of the WBC and PBC truly bore its fruits; culminating in a Deontay Wilder that was not actually a top heavyweight merely for having a world title and finishing each opponent he faced―save for Bermane Stiverne.

Wilder’s first career defeat―and loss of his WBC title―was a glaring reality check for the boxing community and Wilder himself, though this would take several years as his loss to Fury was more so attributed to Fury being the best heavyweight in the division. Then there were the excuses that Wilder had been alleged to have made―allegedly blaming his loss on his 40 lbs costume, and the firing of longtime trainer Mark Breland for throwing in the towel during Wilder’s second match against Fury; all controversies that eclipsed actual conversations on whether Wilder was actually a top heavyweight.

A third match between Deontay Wilder and the new WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury held in 2021 seemed more of a formality, and with Fury having already handed Wilder a devastating loss in the match prior, even a better showing from Wilder did not amount to much when he was eventually knocked out in the 11th round against Fury.

Deontay Wilder returned to the ring roughly a year later in October against Robert Helenius where most doubts about his ability to compete at the top level were again stalled when he knocked the Finnish fighter out in just the first round. At the time, Helenius who was ranked with at #2 and #4 with Deontay Wilder returned to the ring roughly a year later against Robert Helenius where most doubts about his ability to compete at the top level were again stalled when he knocked the Finnish fighter out in just the first round. At the time, Helenius who was ranked with at #2 and #4 with the World Boxing Association (WBA) and WBC respectively.

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US boxer Deontay Wilder (L) fights Swedish-Finnish boxer Robert Helenius during their 12-round WBC World Heavyweight Title Eliminator fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on October 15, 2022. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Wilder’s knockout highlight reel captured the attention of the masses and he was once again considered a top fighter, ranked all across the board in the top 10. However, it was this very positioning of Deontay Wilder that would spell his downfall, as while he was still considered one of the most highly-rated contenders, he remained a top 10 contender a year after defeating Helenius in 2022, ranking in the top 10 across almost every sanctioning body’s ranking board bar that of the International Boxing Federation (IBF); .

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WBA’s heavyweight rankings as of November 2023.
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WBC’s heavyweight rankings as of November 2023.

The actual basis of Wilder’s top 10 contender status was never debated or considered, but again boils down towards both the WBA and WBC being suspectedly in league with the PBC. Notably, Wilder was also ranked with the WBO at the time at #9, suggesting the two aforementioned sanctioning bodies were clearly looking out for Wilder by ranking him so high despite the American heavyweight not having fought since October of 2022.

It is this very positioning of Wilder as the #1 contender that forespelled the imminent collapse of Wilder’s career, inadvertently putting the Bronze Bomber in a position he had not actually merited. This became evident once he faced Joseph Parker (35-3, 23 KO’s) on December 23rd in 2023; Parker who was a former world champion himself and had actually been active throughout the past year unlike Wilder.

Betting odds would proceed to put Parker at a sharp disadvantage, attributed to Wilder’s high ranking and the perceived top fighter that he was.

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Average betting odds prior or during the December 23rd fight between Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker. (Courtesy of

Deontay Wilder suffered a disappointing unanimous decision (UD) loss that led to the shattering of his perceived abilities as one of the best heavyweights of his era, having been beaten handily by a fighter that Anthony Joshua had seamlessly outpointed more than half a decade before.

Months later on June 1st, Wilder faced his destiny against Zhilei Zhang (27-2-1, 22 KO’s) who stopped the American heavyweight in the 5th round to potentially end Wilder’s career. The loss will be remembered for a long time to come, not merely due to Zhang’s crushing blow that led to Wilder losing devastatingly, but due to the defeat confirming that Wilder had never been as great of a heavyweight as he had been perceived to.

Wilder’s rankings and opponents had been altered and bent to seemingly suit to the wishes of PBC who sought to create a perceived Hall of Fame heavyweight in Deontay Wilder. The opponents that Wilder faced that led to him having ten successful title defenses had never been too closely scrutinized, and the WBC’s culpability in facilitating for Wilder to face title challengers that were simply not good enough to be in that position has led to Wilder being overprotected.

For years, the protection and manufacturing of Wilder’s career had gone widely unmentioned by the majority of media outlets, and even the other sanctioning bodies proved incapable of being objective but the only way for a top fighter to actually be regarded as one is by facing the best available.

When that happened with Deontay Wilder, who lost to all three of the top 10 heavyweights he faced in Tyson Fury, Joseph Parker and Zhilei Zhang, it now appears abdunantly clear where Wilder stands as a heavyweight in the modern era.

When comparing Wilder to the heavyweight greats of old, it gets even more telling; fighters such as Muhammad Ali, Jack Dempsey, and Lennox Lewis―to name only a few―had all fought top competition at some point or another either as contenders or champions, Wilder in comparison had lost to all the top fighters that he could have faced.

Wilder is not a heavyweight great or a future Hall of Famer, and it would be an insult would he be even considered as such given all who came before him, but he has done much better than the average boxer in the sport.

In that regard, Wilder may yet be an all-time great, having defied expectations by rising to the top of the sport―even if that came through a result of favoritism or bias. In the sense that he has done better than most heavyweights in the sport, that goes without question, and the Olympic bronze medalist deserves full credit for that.

But in a competitive sense, Wilder may never reach the International Boxing Hall of Fame, having simply not challenged himself enough and having been clearly swallowed by the enduring corruption within the sport. A seemingly concerted effort to make Wilder champion started when Vitali Klitschko vacated his WBC heavyweight title in 2013. Klitschko’s mandatory challenger, Bermane Stiverne, thereafter picked up the vacant title with there having been plenty of questions as to whether Stiverne was a fitting challenger himself.

As would become glaring of Wilder’s opponents when he became the WBC champion, Stiverne shared many of the same characteristics; having been ranked only with the WBC as no other sanctioning body even placed him in their heavyweight ratings―suggesting Stiverne had never been a genuine title contender to begin with.

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WBA’s heavyweight rankings as of April 2014, the month prior to Bermane Stiverne becoming the WBC heavyweight world champion.
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WBO’s heavyweight rankings as of April 2014, the month prior to Bermane Stiverne becoming the WBC heavyweight world champion.
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IBF’s heavyweight rankings as of April 2014, the month prior to Bermane Stiverne becoming the WBC heavyweight world champion.

When Deontay Wilder finally became a champion in 2015 by defeating Stiverne, it had sealed the sort of champion that the WBC seemingly wanted; a hard-hitting fighter with an extremely high KO ratio. Wilder was subsequently never challenged to an extent through the opponents he faced but barely had his resume questioned due to his knockouts.

However, June 1st has finally broken down the myth of where Deontay Wilder stood in the annals of heavyweight boxing; confirming that he may never become the Hall of Famer he was pegged to be, and he may never reach the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

In the sense that Wilder has done better than most heavyweights in the sport―who may never even be included in any of the major rankings Wilder will definitely be seen as a great heavyweight. However, Deontay Wilder had always been at a relative disadvantage due to being a latecomer in the sport and fighting opponents that heavily outweighed him.

Wilder will be remembered in the time to come for all his controversies, knockouts and outspoken statements, and may never be forgotten in the history of the sport. That, more than anything, is something only few heavyweights in every era can accomplish, and in that sense, Wilder has proven to be great in his own way―even if there will be no plaque or statue to identify him as such.