The former long-time world champion and boxing superstar returned with an explosive KO win on Saturday night, setting up some mega events in 2023.
Deontay Wilder is back. The “Bronze Bomber” looked spectacular in steamrolling over top-rated heavyweight Robert Helenius last Saturday on a FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View from Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, New York.
This wasn’t the Wilder of old. He enjoyed the moment and the time. Under new head trainer Malik Scott, the revitalized Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) looked a lot like the older version in stopping Helenius with a blistering right to the face that ended the fight at 2:57 of the first round.
This was, however, a more nuanced edition.
Wilder, reminiscent of earlier times in his career, backpedaled instead of coming forward. The former WBC world heavyweight champion invited his opponent to come into his trap, and it’s exactly what happened, when Helenius leaned in and Wilder caught him.
“People are going to see a different Deontay Wilder moving forward, mark my words,” Scott said. “Deontay had skills for years that were lying there in his toolbox that we had to search for and find. His high hand is his defense. Life can be very simple for Deontay, it’s just a matter of what he wants to do.
“He can fight going forward. He can fight going backwards. He can fight going sideways. Deontay is the most dynamic fighter in the history of the sport. There is not a fighter in the world that can do everything Deontay can do. What you saw tonight was a guy buy into a serious game plan. You know how hard it is to make a killer like this say, ‘no, no, no, we’re going to bring guys to you.’”
All Wilder had been doing was hunting opponents. What Scott instituted showed the former long-time champion how he used to set traps and previously knock out opponents.
Then Scott said something rather poignant in the Helenius post-fight press conference: “I’m not only Deontay’s head trainer, I am his great reminder. He used to use his backfoot a lot just for defense. If he puts his high hand up as a buffer, guys have to get through his (back foot), and then his high hand, by that time, their life is on the line.”
Based on what the boxing world saw from Wilder stopping Helenius, how difficult will it be to get the top heavyweights in the world to face the 36-year-old “Bronze Bomber” now?
“Very difficult,” Wilder said. “I’ll be very surprised if (WBA/IBF/WBO World Heavyweight Champion Oleksandr Usyk) sticks to his word. We’ll see what happens. I’m going to keep Usyk to his word. We’ll see what’s up.”
In the meantime, Wilder, who says he plans to fight for three more years, has options.
Here is a look at five possibilities that would fill that time nicely.
5 JOE JOYCE
Record: 15-0 (14 KOs)
Titles: Interim WBO title
Significance: This would be an amazing confrontation: Wilder’s one-punch power against Joyce’s durability and rock-solid chin. Last month, the “Juggernaut” stopped Joseph Parker in 11 rounds. Joyce has been living in Las Vegas since 2020 when he coupled with esteemed trainer Ismael Salas but he has not fought in the United States since 2018 and is eager to return. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist has stopped his last five opponents, including stopping Parker for the first time in his career. Joyce has openly said he would love to fight Wilder in a Las Vegas mega-fight.
4 TYSON FURY
Record: 32-0-1 (23 KOs)
Significance: Many thought the “Gypsy King” would repeat in the third fight what he did to Wilder in their second bout, which resulted in a seventh-round stoppage and spelled Wilder’s first career loss. Wilder got up from knockdowns in rounds three and five before the end.
What a miscalculation that was.
Their third fight in October 2021 will go down in heavyweight history as one of the greatest heavyweight championship fights in boxing history. There was a repeat: Fury won again, by 11th-round knockout. But after the explosive excitement produced five total knockdowns, fans were clamoring for more. Wilder rose from knockdowns in the third, 10th and 11th rounds, and Fury faced serious trouble when he was knocked down twice in the fourth. The third fight also produced the overwhelming 2021 Fight of the Year. Who wouldn’t want to see that again? This also is a different Wilder than the previous three times Fury faced him. Can Fury adjust to what Wilder would bring a fourth time? It’s intriguing.
3 ANTHONY JOSHUA
Record: 24-3 (22 KOs)
Significance: Wilder and Joshua have been circling each other for years when they both held titles. Before the Helenius fight, Wilder stated “Joshua is the number one fight in the world for me.” Wilder is 2-2-1 in his last five fights, but a chunk of that came by going 0-2-1 against the undefeated Fury. Joshua, on the other hand, needs a signature victory over a heavyweight contender after going 2-3 over his last five fights. In June 2019, he was stopped by Andy Ruiz in a monumental upset for the IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles, and then Joshua lost twice to undefeated Ukranian southpaw stylist Oleksandr Usyk in the span of one year. Joshua and Wilder would be explosive. Does Joshua have the chin and defense to stand up to what Wilder brings? Both fighters possess the ability to knock other each out. It’s a fight that the world has been waiting to see for years.
2 Andy Ruiz JR.
Record: 35-2 (22 KOs)
Significance: Many laughed at the notion of late-substitute Ruiz beating Anthony Joshua three years ago and we all saw what happened there. Wilder-Ruiz is a great fight between two fast-handed power punchers. This could be the heavyweight version of Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns. It could. Ruiz has the punching power to hurt Wilder. However, he fights in only one mode—coming forward and attacking. That might fall right into Wilder’s wheelhouse (see what happened to Helenius on Saturday night). Either way, it would be incredibly entertaining while it lasted. And who’s to say it would be Wilder standing last? It’s a mistake another heavyweight favorite made before that Wilder will make sure he doesn’t mirror.
1 Oleksandr Usyk
Record: 20-0 (13 KOs)
Titles: IBF, WBA, WBO Titles
Significance: Before the Helenius fight, Usyk made it known who he wanted to face next. “Deontay Wilder,” Usyk answered in English. Egis Klimas, Usyk’s manager, has also been adamant about not waiting around for Tyson Fury and redirecting their attention to a 2023 showdown in the United States with the “Bronze Bomber.”
“Usyk is the heavyweight world champion and look how many statements Fury has made these last few months, he’s retiring, he’s not retiring, he’s fighting Usyk, you really don’t know what Fury is going to do next,” Klimas explained. “If you look in his past at everything that happened, Fury always caused a problem when it came to getting an undisputed world champion. He’s unpredictable. He wanted to fight Joshua, after Usyk beat him. Usyk wants to fight Wilder next. Usyk is not like Fury. He’s looking for the winners not looking for the losers.”
An Usyk-Wilder clash would be a great conflict in styles, between Usyk’s hand speed and guile against Wilder’s length and raw power. Usyk has never been seriously hurt. Wilder has the athleticism, the power and the strength to do it. And here’s an interesting aside: Malik Scott, Wilder’s head trainer, has done considerable work in previous Usyk training camps. This would be a brilliant battle of two of this era’s finest. Here’s to hoping it’s next.
For a closer look at Deontay Wilder, check out his fighter page.
- Deontay Wilder