Order was restored two minutes into the first round; a vehicle of chaos was responsible. There isn’t a fighter alive who can take Deontay Wilder’s Sunday punch, and his Saturday evening shot is hardly less evil. So when Wilder shattered Dominic Breazeale’s already fissured chin on Saturday, “The Bronze Bomber” spun away nonchalantly to begin his ritual celebrations confident that his night was over. Breazeale lay deboned on the canvas like he was always going to be, a lesson for gridiron failures with fighting aspirations.
So what order was restored?
The last time Wilder, 41-0-1 (40), was in the ring, he went twelve rounds for only the second time in his career. He was nearly as destructive that night, too, and as his opponent sprawled in a sudden darkness, Wilder again celebrated, though fatigue and relief characterized his movements. Somehow, Tyson Fury survived that twelfth-round knockdown to begrime Wilder’s glossy ledger via a disputed draw. The PBC heavyweight champion of the world is a concussionista, however, and the image of Wilder being clowned by a man with a muffin top hardly fit the narrative. So Breazeale, 20-2 (18), that fatted calf, was sacrificed to help Wilder make his case for being the BADDEST MAN ON THE PLANET, a distinction he demands based on how he wins as opposed to whom he beats.
Wilder certainly knocks people cold, though, and his voice is as big as his punch, so rest assured some will see highlights of his belittling Breazeale and endorse Wilder as the earth’s premier ass-kicker. None of those people will read this column. Just as few bothered to watch a 118-pound Japanese monster—the real baddest man, the baddest in years—make a fellow champion sick with pain a few hours before Wilder’s return to Barclays Center.
Fury, not Breazeale, would have been in the ring Saturday had the Wilder brain trust truly wanted to establish his BADDEST MAN bona fides. Alas, a rematch is unlikely since Fury signed with Top Rank, who is celebrating the signee by gifting him a win against Tom Schwarz. If you’ve never heard of Schwarz, you know why he’s getting a crack at the “Gypsy King.” Fury holds the fetishists’ heavyweight title for being the man who beat the man—despite nosediving his career into a nearly three-year ring recess in the aftermath. And in the eyes of many, he beat Wilder in December, meaning he has a feeble claim to some real hardware too. But why use your improbable performance against Wilder as leverage to secure your satisfaction when you can make a pretend war with Schwarz? And where is Anthony Joshua in all this? Printing money defending his myriad titles, no closer to a fight with Wilder or Fury than he’s ever been, which seems to be precisely where promoter Eddie Hearn would like to keep him. The three best heavyweights in the world fighting anyone but each other while blaming everyone but themselves for preserving the distance between them—that is boxing order restored. One can only hope a certain daring ex-cruiserweight is inoculated against such reticence.
Where Wilder is concerned there is at least this change: harping on his technique now feels tired. Even at the highest level, his power compensates for his technical shortcomings, and he lands that power despite them. A remarkably slick fighter for all his size and a committed spoiler, Fury made Wilder look a fool for most of the twelve rounds they shared, but he still had to reanimate to hear the final bell. And talk of Wilder’s suspect chin sounds more and more like wishful thinking. Besides, you’re supposed to go when the best heavyweights find your chin.
Little of that was confirmed against Breazeale, Eastvale, California, but even in that foregone conclusion, Wilder looked the part (half the battle in a division rife with posturing). When he hurt Breazeale, instead of flailing spastically, Wilder jabbed Breazeale’s lead hand away from his chin to make room for the cross that ended the fight. Wilder no longer fights like a man trying to prove how hard he hits—he’s convinced of it, and he should be. He spoke about wanting to kill Breazeale mostly because saying he wanted to beat, even haywire, Breazeale would be aspiring to the bare minimum. Less and less are the eruptions of savagery in his talk reflected in his fights: trust in his power and in its conduits steadies his hand. He’s at his frenzied worst after he has an opponent hurt but brings them to the lip of the abyss with more mindful tactics. Still, Wilder remains disorderly enough to be unpredictable, which gives opponents a reason to hesitate, to mistrust their instincts—and he can finish you while you recalibrate.
If Wilder is smoke-and-mirrors, there are but two or three (assuming, rather confidently, that Oleksandr Usyk’s excellence isn’t too diminished by his move to heavyweight) fighters in the world who can prove it. And none of them, with perhaps the exception of Usyk, seem in a hurry to do so. Their reticence doesn’t ratify Wilder, though; nor does his ratify them. Good riddance to the days when avoidance christened champions.