LAS VEGAS — Ben Davison, the highly regarded young trainer of lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, was asked Saturday if Deontay Wilder’s punching power was up there among the best in heavyweight boxing history.
Davison took exception to two words in the question.
“Up there?” Davison said. “He’s the biggest puncher not just in heavyweight history, but in boxing history.”
That’s a massive statement, but Wilder is building a case for himself as perhaps the biggest puncher the game has known. He knocked out Luis Ortiz on Saturday with an unbelievably quick, powerful and accurate right hand, dropping the Cuban with a thud late in the seventh round. Ortiz eventually got up, but referee Kenny Bayless stopped the bout.
The victory raised Wilder’s record to 42-0-1 and was his 41st knockout. He did next-to-nothing offensively in the first six rounds, waiting, waiting and waiting some more. He never landed more than five punches in any of those rounds, and Ortiz was putting the rounds in the bank.
He won five of six on the cards of Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld and four of six on Eric Cheek’s card at the midpoint. Yahoo Sports gave all of the first six rounds to Ortiz.
Wilder was on his way to losing a decision, but he’s not a guy who ever thinks of a fight going to the scorecards.
“To be honest, I never worry about if I’m losing the fight or not,” Wilder said. “I’ve been blessed with something these other guys haven’t been blessed with, and that’s tremendous power. I know that when I hit guys, it hurts them. When you have power like I have, you’re not worried about whether you’re winning rounds or not.”
Mike Tyson is the standard by which all modern power punchers are judged, but Wilder may have already surpassed Tyson in that regard, at least with the straight right. He gets tremendous leverage on his right and with the speed with which he throws it, opponents have little opportunity to react.
Joe Louis is widely regarded as the biggest puncher in heavyweight history. Earnie Shavers, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, Tyson and Jack Dempsey are also in that mix.
There have been few, though, like Wilder, who is a wiry 6-foot-7 and who throws punches from angles fighters don’t see often. He’s got great hand speed and when he commits to a punch, it gets home in an instant.
Ortiz found that out in a fight he was controlling easily.
“I said this wasn’t going to go 12 rounds,” Ortiz said during the post-fight news conference, forcing a smile.
He fought a smart fight, and was giving Wilder trouble. But Wilder learned patience and didn’t want to throw just for the sake of trying to create an opening. He doesn’t need to break his opponents down over time.
He’s one of those rare guys who needs to land just one to end it.
“I’ve said it so often, these guys I’m fighting, they have to be perfect for 12 rounds, but I only have to be perfect for two seconds,” Wilder said.
Louis was a devastating puncher on the inside. He reportedly had a six-inch punch that would knock men cold.
Tyson would bob and weave his way past the jab and then use extremely fast hands and a quick body to create explosive power. Foreman and Liston were large, strong men and everything about them reeked power.
But there hasn’t really been anyone like Wilder in boxing history. He has an 84-inch reach at 6-foot-7, and has the speed of a man much smaller. While his technique as a boxer isn’t classic, his punches come from unusual angles and are hard to pick up.
As devastating as the right hand he starched Ortiz with on Saturday was, he wasn’t ready to rank it as his best.
“When people ask me my favorite knockout, I always look at my [Artur] Szpilka knockout,” Wilder said. “That was the most devastating knockout I’ve ever hit a fighter with. I’ve never seen anything like that. I really thought I killed Szpilka. When you hit a guy like that and he comes out of the hospital with his hospital gown still on, you know something’s going on.”
Old-timers are going to be outraged at the mere suggestion that Wilder is the biggest puncher ever, and they’ll point to a half-dozen guys or more who hit harder. They’ll also deride Wilder’s lack of competition.
But he’s dropped every man he’s ever faced, and he’s knocked out all but two. He beat Bermane Stiverne by decision to win the title, but knocked him out in a rematch in the first. He fought to a split draw with Fury after dropping Fury twice, and believes referee Jack Reiss made a mistake in the count. He feels Fury did not beat the count in the 12th and that it should be counted as a knockout.
It doesn’t matter that much, because they’ll get a chance to settle it in the ring in February.
Fury is the slickest boxer in the heavyweight division today, and if anyone can find a way to avoid the Wilder haymaker, it’s him.
But there is little question that Wilder is a destructive puncher and that if he lands, it’s big trouble. Whether he’s first, or second, or fifth or 10th is really immaterial.
He’s an amazing, fearsome puncher and no one in history could take a clean shot from him without at least hitting the canvas.
No matter the era, we’re watching one of the greatest punchers who ever lived at the height of his game.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
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