The debate currently dominating the heavyweight boxing conversation is as follows: Who is better: Deontay Wilder or Anthony Joshua?
Easy. The answer is, emphatically, Anthony Joshua. As an American boxing fan, I should be chauvinistically compelled to endorse Tuscaloosa’s own Deontay Wilder over the Brit, Anthony Joshua.
However, simply possessing functional eyeballs should convince any onlooker of the contrary. Wilder’s compelling and sympathetic back story aside, the 40-0 record with 39 KOs which he boasts is as inflated and misleading to the casual viewer as they come. He is a tall, lanky monster whose ring footwork is as graceful as that of a newborn foal.
So many times we’ve seen him stumble over his own feet in sparring sessions and in professional bouts, launching disorderly haymakers from hip-level, the heft of his hands lurching his body into complete undisciplined imbalance, earning him the depreciatory epithet, “Windmill Wilder.”
His berserker-like aggressiveness and the dynamism behind his pendulum-like hands are the apparatuses which have propelled him this far in his career, leaving a trail of emptied tomato cans in his wake. Now, the man who claimed that he could best a prime Mike Tyson has trash-talked himself into a corner, from which he must emerge aimlessly swinging through the crop of heavyweight elites.
An impending prodigious payday for Wilder notwithstanding, he wants no part of the true top heavyweights with regards to an actual competition. Beneath his consistent criticisms of his rivals, Wilder is incontestably nervous. More exceptional forces than he – Anthony Joshua, Alexander Povetkin, Joseph Parker, Dillian Whyte, Jarrell Miller, and several others – make up the heavyweight aristocracy with which Wilder must now compete.
Joshua’s March 31st unanimous decision victory over Joseph Parker, his first by decision in his flawless career, further cements AJ as the division’s kingpin.
Further, Alexander Povetkin’s return to the ring against Liverpool’s David Price on the Joshua-Parker undercard ended in yet another brutal knockout triumph for the Russian, who has been chiefly avoided by the incumbent heavyweight nobility.
Wilder, having bluffed his way to the top ranks by opposing inferior talent, now shoulders the burden to substantiate his claims of grandeur and prove the boxing analysts wrong.
Wilder’s most recent opponent, Cuba’s Luis “The Real King Kong” Ortiz, was by far his most challenging to date. A TKO victory in round 10 was enough to convince the ever-vocal gaggle of Wilder defenders that he’d concretely proven himself superior to Anthony Joshua – a TKO, mind you, which came only as a result of the near-40-year-old Ortiz tiring himself after outclassing Wilder for much of the fight.
Nevertheless, the Wilder apologists claimed that Wilder’s win over Ortiz was more impressive than Anthony Joshua’s Fight of the Year victory over the legendary Wladimir Klitschko in April 2017 – a heavyweight clash more glorious than any other post-millennium. This assertion outright foolish.
The comparison of Deontay Wilder to Anthony Joshua is a moot debate to anyone with even a substratal boxing IQ; the more telling deliberation is where Wilder truly places within the ranks of the exclusively American heavyweight circle.
The Ring Magazine currently rates Wilder as the #2 heavyweight, behind Joshua, making him their highest-ranked American. Three other Americans occupy top 10 spots on their heavyweight list: #8 Dominic “Trouble” Breazeale (19-1, 17 KOs), #9 Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (20-0-1, 18 KOs), and #10 Adam “Babyface” Kownacki (17-0, 14 KOs).
Before we get ahead of ourselves – no, I am certainly not claiming that Adam Kownacki is better than Deontay Wilder – at least not yet. The doughy, Polish-born Brooklynite scored an impressive TKO 4 victory over fellow Pole, Artur Szpilka, in July 2017, earning him the hindmost spot to round off The Ring’s top 10.
Truthfully, this rating operates as an indictment on the abysmal state of heavyweight boxing to which we’ve become accustomed in these most recent decades.
While an early stoppage over a relatively noteworthy southpaw such as Szpilka certainly isn’t nothing, Kownacki has much to prove to justify a top 10 rating.
He carries the wrong kind of excess weight, and may be best suited to slim down to compete in the cruiserweight or light heavyweight divisions, particularly given recent speculation that cruiserweight bully Oleksandr Usyk may make his move to heavyweight upon the conclusion of the World Boxing Super Series tournament on May 11th.
Jumping down to #8, Eastvale, California’s own Dominic Breazeale boasts an 85% knockout rate spanning his five-year career. Breazeale, like Wilder and Joshua, stands at a monumental 6’7″.
The sole loss on his professional record is courtesy of Anthony Joshua.
Despite his knockout victories averaging 3.05 rounds, the big man has proven thrice to date that he’s capable of carrying fights into the difficult late rounds, hitherto winning both an 8th and a 10th round unanimous decision, as well as an 8th round TKO victory over Eric Molina this past November.
Though Wilder and Joshua have both knocked out Molina in their respective meetings, you may remember that Molina capitalized on Wilder’s amateurish defense by landing a massive left hook which stumbled Wilder, nearly leading to the demise of Wilder’s perfect record.
No such event occurred when Breazeale met Molina, however. Is Breazeale better than Wilder? Skill-wise: I’d argue, yes. Power-wise: no. This isn’t the type of match-up to make bets on – admittedly, it’s pretty close.
Here we go. The Ring’s #9, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller. That’s the man to watch. Another Brooklynite, 29-year-old Miller’s two most recent bouts have been against noteworthy names, Gerald Washington and Mariusz Wach.
The 6’4″ Miller stopped Wach in the 9th round and made Washington quit on his stool in the 8th. Presently, Miller is poised to face heavy-handed Frenchman, Johann Duhaupas, in late April. Duhaupas’ most recent losses came against Russian bogeyman, Alexander Povetkin, and – you guessed it – Deontay Wilder.
Miller is short and compact in contrast to Wilder’s tall, spindly form.
A natural body-snatcher, Miller’s advantages over Wilder are reminiscent of other shorter heavyweights whom frequently faced taller opposition (Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier come to mind).
Wilder, who’s been floored several times in his amateur days by less-than-impressive blows, still needs to prove that he has the chin to hang with big punchers.
Wilder’s lackadaisical defense renders him vulnerable to punishment, and he possesses not the finesse, the accuracy, nor the skillfulness which excused Wladimir Klitschko’s notoriously questionable chin.
Miller’s tank-like build and tight-elbowed protective style could give Wilder fits, and, should Wilder fail to maintain his distance by establishing a jab, barrages of heavy hooks to Wilder’s ribs would devastate his narrow midsection.
Deontay Wilder is on the cusp of unearthing his mortality. He is arguably the least skilled and least graceful heavyweight champion we’ve seen in the modern era – a boisterous, misplaced totem amongst a congeries of less-appreciated, more remarkable international talents as Joshua, Povetkin, and Parker.
Internationals aside, Wilder vies for the penultimate position domestically. Jarrell Miller is the best American heavyweight in today’s class. Period. Will “Big Baby” be able to prove that he can best Wilder? Would Wilder even dare accept the fight?
I suppose we’ll see.