Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35KO’s) made the third successful defense of his WBC heavyweight title, the same title he won only a year ago against Bermane Stiverne in Las Vegas. A year later and Wilder has expanded his market by fighting for the first time in his career at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The crowd, which seemed highly agitated all night, was very vocal and into event’s happenings. However, it was unclear where the majority’s loyalties lied as boos were scattered for both Wilder and his opponent, Artur Szpilka, who many assumed would have a large Polish fan-base in attendance to aid him in his role as the fan-favorite on the evening.
It wasn’t clear who the fan favorite was as the crowd grew largely audible in both jeers and cheers for both Polish-born and non-Polish-born alike. And much like the crowd, the fight had its back-and-forth uncertainties as well.
Szpilka started out in pretty good shape as he picked great spots to move forward and be aggressive without being so reckless that he found himself in Wilder’s very dangerous range.
After a few rounds, Wilder began to assert his brand of fighting and flashed some pop to go along with his always brilliant jab. Wilder didn’t jab nearly as much as he could’ve, but it was enough to keep the momentum and dictate the pace in the fight.
In the 4th round, Wilder landed a straight right hand on his southpaw opponent. It was the hardest shot of the fight to that point. It was a brilliant moment for Wilder, but it had to be pointed out that Szpilka ate the show fairly well and didn’t seem too troubled by the punch. It sure seemed to be unpleasant, but it did little to the effect of drastically hurting Szpilka or dramatically changing his strategy.
Wilder had taken over the fight at the midway point, although he left something to be desired by way of entertainment. The fight was fun if you allowed yourself to believe that Szpilka could hurt Wilder with a single punch, but it wasn’t super exciting in terms of solid exchanges.
Then, in the 9th round and after Szpilka had managed to string together some offense, the fight went from 0 to 100 (actually like 37 to 150)… real quick. Wilder caught Szpilka with a devastating right hand- a right hand that looked similar to the other right hands that had previously landed throughout the fight but never with as much gusto as what would be the final blow of the fight.
I wouldn’t call it a counter punch from Wilder, but it kind of was. I wouldn’t say he looped it to avoid the southpaw power punch that was coming at him, but Wilder did have some natural bend in the punch as it was being delivered – the same kind of curvature you see in 100MPH fastballs delivered by a power pitcher in the major leagues. The similarity is a bit scary, actually. The straight four-seam fastball will naturally rise up or spin out or sometimes in based on the velocity (power) and authority to which it is being thrown. Power punchers like Wilder have the same unsettling phenomenon occur when they hurl straight right hands, the same kind of right hand that took Szpilka’s lights out.
It was a scary moment as the referee stopped counting and waved off the fight only to find that Szpilka was unconscious. It took a moment to see that Szpilka was indeed responding to the ringside doctor’s commands, but he was still carried out of the ring on a stretcher and taken to a nearby hospital for safety precautions.
However, the eventful evening was not over yet. During the post-fight interview, Szpilka’s trainer Ronnie Shields made a brief statement on the health of his fighter before the mic was turned over to the only fighter left standing in the ring, or so we thought.
Wilder made it clear that he was very concerned about the health of Szpilka and then stated his admiration for the Polish fighter’s valiant efforts, saying he had plenty of reasons to hold his head up proud for the effort he displayed in the ring.
That is when the subject of Tyson Fury, the heavyweight champion of the world, the same fighter that dethroned Wladimir Klitschko at the end of 2015, as in the lineal champion, stepped into the ring. At first, it was just overwhelming to see a fighter who was part of the HBO machine only two months ago standing in a ShowTime ring filled with the ambiance of the PBC brand.
Viewers familiar with the oddity of the moment were quickly forced to get over it as both Wilder and Fury stood eye-to-eye, screaming at one another on the mic. Fury argued that he was the real champion as Wilder’s debate hinged on his instance that Fury’s theatrics were nothing but an act.
They continued to jaw at one another, although, Wilder remained the more reserved and mature figure in the ring while Fury continued on as the entertaining one.
It was all likely for show, not that it wasn’t worth the price of admission – ShowTime was being offered for free this weekend as a trial throughout most providers in most regions – but if that is the closest these two get to sharing a ring for real then that will be a disappointment in the sense that it was so expected.