Deontay Wilder will defend his WBC heavyweight title against Frenchman Johann Duhaupas (32-2) in the main event of a PBC card being televised on NBC September 26th. Wilder is headlining in front of his hometown fans yet again, this time at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the second fight in a row that Wilder will enjoy the hometown support – he scored a 9th round knockout over Eric Molina in June, also in Birmingham – but it is his first appearance on the PBC series.
What makes this appearance so special is that it will be the first time a heavyweight title is being defended on primetime network television (#FreeTV) since Larry Holmes fought Carl Williams in 1985, making it 30 years.
As an opponent, Duhaupas is relatively soft competition, although he is coming off of the biggest win of his career this past April when he defeated Manuel Charr. This will be Duhaupas’ U.S. debut although he has fought in 10 different countries and is no stranger to traveling.
Duhaupas has never been knocked out. In fact, he’s never even been put down in his professional career.
Wilder will likely close out his 2015 campaign with this fight, although there is speculation of a quick turnaround that could see him fighting for a fourth time this year, but a December date will likely get push to January. Regardless, Wilder is unwilling to talk about any other fighter other than the one currently in front of him.
Obviously, Wilder is trying to build up the fight a bit and he is talking about Duhaupas as though he presents a legitimate challenge. However, Wilder is a significant favorite.
“I couldn’t have a better opponent to be defending my title against. I think he’s the best type of opponent for me. He’s tough, he comes to fight, he’s got a great record, he’s never been stopped, he got the height and the weight,” Wilder said.
Wilder prides himself on being an active champion, and two defenses since winning the WBC heavyweight belt from Bermane Stiverne this past January is an impressive feat. But he has yet to defend his belt against legitimate competition. In the lead up to Wilder’s fight with Eric Molina, he told Thaboxingvoice.com that he would have a big fight at the end of the year and Alexander Povetkin was a leading candidate at the time.
However, that is no longer the case. But that doesn’t mean that Wilder can’t benefit from this outing in a major way. While hardcore fans will gripe about the choice of opponent, casual fans will watch the contest without complaints of the opponent.
The Eric Molina fight took plenty of criticism from fans, and back then it seemed as though Wilder would’ve been better off making his PBC debut at that time, especially in front of a primetime audience on network TV.
This fight is Wilder’s chance to be seen by as many casual fans as possible. I do not see an issue with Wilder fighting lesser opponents if he is going to defend the title multiple times per year, and more than any other champion. That said, I would prefer to see him against better competition.
It is important for Wilder to showcase the skills we have come to know him for, and even though we’ve seen Wilder starch no name opponents over the years, that doesn’t mean that casual fans are familiar with his propensity for highlight-reel stoppages. This is his opportunity to gain notoriety from unfamiliar fans by producing a meaningful knockout over a meaningless opponent.
Wilder has shown he is more than just a strong fighter with a powerful punch, but he needs to reestablish those skills in front of a first-time audience, and at least he is aware of the task at hand.
“Well, with Duhaupas, he doesn’t know what it is to be knocked-out and I feel that I definitely have to win this fight by knockout. I want to get him his first knockout. That’s for sure. I’m a proven fighter all the way around. He’s never faced a guy of my caliber, with my speed, with my talent, with my IQ in the ring, with my power and we’re going to see how the fight plays out but I definitely feel that I need a knockout in this fight.”
We are all aware of the state of the heavyweight division and its notoriety in America. Wilder is attempting to rebuild the interest in the division by capturing (and recapturing) a larger demographic of sports fans. That is a heavy task and these outings are important because he needs to resonate.
Sports fans are familiar with LeBron James’ dunking ability, they are familiar with Adrien Peterson’s ability to skillfully avoid an open field tackle or two, and Mike Trout’s propensity for the long ball. This is Wilder’s opportunity to show he has the ability to produce boxing’s long ball.
With the PBC format and the changes that Al Haymon is making in boxing, the popularity of a fighter may no longer be correlated with their ability to sell PPV’s. Wilder is certainly no concerned with PPV right now, and nor should he be. There are no heavyweights on PPV in America.
But he desperately needs to gain a mainstream audience, and that can come from a network that produces mainstream sporting events such as NBC’s Sunday Night Football. When Wilder takes the field (ring) at 8:30 p.m. ET he will begin the process of becoming a true star outside the confines of boxing.
“I’ve never had the goal of being a PPV star. If PPV comes, PPV comes. I’m all for the people. I know everybody can’t afford PPV and I love fighting on SHOWTIME and I love that I have the opportunity to fight on NBC, which hasn’t had a heavyweight title fight in over 30 years and now I get this opportunity.
“I don’t have a goal to be a PPV star. I want to be where it’s affordable and people can watch and appreciate the sport of boxing as I defend my title. My main goal is to defend my title as much as possible and my ultimate goal is to be the undisputed heavyweight champ of the world.”