Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) successfully defended his WBC heavyweight world title with a ninth round stoppage victory against a spirited Arthur Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs) at the Barclays Centre, New York in the early hours of Sunday morning.
It was a poor performance from the champion, who struggled with Szpilka’s movement and pressure. It appeared to many at ringside that Szpilka was ahead on points before Wilder salvaged a victory by unleashing a stunning overhand right that knocked the challenger out cold for nearly seven minutes.
Despite the shortcomings of his performance Wilder demonstrated his class as an individual by refraining from celebrations until Szpilka was conscious and receiving the appropriate medical attention. As the challenger was being stretchered off to an awaiting ambulance, Wilder’s post-fight interview was interrupted by the ring invasion of WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
The two behemoths of the heavyweight division locked horns and with a sprinkling of pantomime villainy Fury pushed his face into Wilder’s and exclaimed, “I’ll fight you in your back yard. Like I done Klitschko, I’ll beat you, you bum!”
The pair were quickly separated and Wilder retorted, “This is just an act, you’re not a real fighter, I don’t play this…you can run around like a preacher, but I promise you when you do step in this ring I will baptise you!”
It seemed like a scene more fitting in the WWE but it also stirred memories of heavyweight trash talking from boxing’s days of yore. The division seems to have found a much-needed shot of adrenaline since the shift in power with Fury’s upset victory over Klitschko. Yet where once the division was ruled by a dominant champion now it is populated by flawed champions and pretenders to the crown.
The Wilder-Szpilka undercard featured a contest between undefeated heavyweights Charles Martin (23-0-1, 21 KOs) and Vyacheslev Glazkov (21-1-1, 13 KOS) for the IBF title, which had been unceremoniously stripped from Tyson Fury for electing to pursue a re-match with Klitschko. In a bizarre ending to the fight, Martin was crowned the new IBF champ when Glazkov suffered a freak knee injury and was unable to continue. In his post-fight remarks Martin tried to claim the injury was as a result of his punching power but he does not seem to have the qualities to become a dominant force in the division.
However what Martin does have is Al Haymon as his manager, something that he also has in common with Deontay Wilder meaning a heavyweight unification fight could be on the cards in the near future. Wilder still has to face his mandatory challenger the dangerous Alexander Povetkin, but for the time being Haymon will content himself with the knowledge that he now has exactly one half of the heavyweight championship in his possession.
Meanwhile in London, former WBA heavyweight champion David Haye (27-2, 25 KOs) made his triumphant return to the ring with a one round demolition of Mark de Mori (30-2-2, 26 KOs), at the O2 arena.
The fight was broadcast on the free to air channel Dave and was marketed as ‘Haye Day.’ It was indeed the Londoner’s day as it only took 125 seconds for him to announce his return to the heavyweight division. De Mori threw a lazy jab at Haye and he was punished with a crushing overhand right and a left uppercut for good measure. It was a devastating knockout and De Mori had to receive oxygen afterwards but he was eventually able to leave the ring under his own steam.
It was a confident and assured performance by the former champion, in front of a near full to capacity crowd in the O2 arena. In his post-fight comments Haye stated he would like to get back in the ring within the next three months. The win over De Mori confirms what we already knew about Haye; that he is a devastating puncher, but he will require a further acid test to qualify whether he will be a force at heavyweight once again. That said he weighed in seventeen pounds heavier than his last professional outing, which was evident in his muscular upper torso and arms. He certainly has developed the size required to mix it with the current heavyweight crop.
The win over De Mori should also propel him back into the WBA rankings, the WBA super champion Tyson Fury has stated that he will not face Haye, because he pulled out of their two previously scheduled fights. Fury’s threat to vacate the title if Haye becomes a mandatory to the WBA title would suit the Londoner as he certainly has the ability to beat the majority of those ahead of him in the pecking order.
The Cuban Luis Ortiz who in his last outing stopped former world title challenger Bryant Jennings in seven rounds to claim the interim WBA heavyweight title may prove a formidable challenge for Haye as might WBA World Heavyweight titleholder Ruslan Chagaev who faces the undefeated Lucas Browne in March. It would seem some creative match-making may be required in the future to get Haye back in line for a world title shot.
Whatever the future holds for the heavyweight division at least boxing fans have something worth talking about once again.