November 20, 2017
Thomas Penney

While most of you were watching George St. Pierre make his return to the octagon, some, the present author included, were watching a different fight. Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne.

The fight wasn’t very good. Stiverne landed precisely 0 shots while putting on the ear muffs and taking his beating from the WBC champion of the world like he was supposed to. Were it anyone else in the ring other than a former champ looking for one last payday, perhaps the fight would have been different. However, with the potential money in 2018 on the line, there was never going to be anyone else in the ring. Sometimes, the fix really appears to be in.

Here’s what appears to have happened.

Deontay Wilder, despite his undefeated record, has largely been a failure. He has made little money for his promoters, and setting up a 2018 unification fight with Anthony Joshua was required for everyone to recoup their investment in the former Olympic bronze medalist. In times like this, a smart promoter will make sure whoever a fighter is up against does not win.

Deontay Wilder, despite his glowing 39-0 record, is not a good boxer. He has some power, but not very much. But Tom! You say he’s knocked out 38 of his 39 opponents! This has nothing to do with Wilder, for the most part. He’s been shepherded along against a series of uninvolved opponents that he has knocked out, sometimes because he actually hit them. Wilder has a nice stiff jab, but everything else he does is all wrong. He dives in without moving his head, his punches are loopy and long, and his footwork is a disaster. Boxing writers call him athletic, which is a nice way of saying he’s in good shape but can’t box. Most good boxers don’t rely on athleticism because that is stupid.

He was supposed to fight Cuban heavyweight Luis Ortiz. Ortiz tells people he is 38, but there is some suspicion surrounding that. He’s probably closer to 50. Ortiz is known as a high risk, low reward opponent. The tall, awkward southpaw can hurt you with either hand and since no one has ever wanted to fight him, he doesn’t come with a big payday attached. Ortiz also has a propensity to fail drug tests, which is where the genius of Haymon begins.

A few weeks before the fight Ortiz tested positive for a masking agent. A blood pressure medication commonly used to hide PED use, that was conveniently left off the VADA disclosure forms. After a day or two of protestation, Ortiz went quietly away, just like he should have. Then Bermane Stiverne was brought in on short notice to fight Wilder, despite his many shortcomings. Stiverne is 39 years old and had one fight since losing his WBC title to Wilder 4 years ago. When Stiverne came out refusing to so much as pretend to fight, it should have been very clear what had happened.

Stiverne was KO’d in the first round, which as Charles Farrell pointed out, was a little surprising.

Photo by Boxing AIBA