Deontay Wilder continues to improve: Weekend Review
Deontay Wilder: The WBC titleholder’s eighth-round stoppage of Chris Arreola didn’t prove much given the wear and tear on the challenger but we continue to see Wilder’s progress, which might not bode well for his rivals. The late starter looks more and more comfortable from a boxing standpoint. On Saturday, he patiently used his long, strong jab to keep the still-powerful Arreola at a safe distance and set up the damaging power shots that eventually broke down a brave challenger, whose corner stopped the fight after eight rounds. Wilder (37-0, 36 knockouts) called out RING champion Tyson Fury and fellow titleholder Anthony Joshua immediately after the fight was stopped Saturday. I don’t think it was mere bluster or planting a seed for fights that might or might not take place sometime in the future. He truly believes he’s ready for the best in the business right now. And I’m starting to buy into that notion. No one should be surprised at Wilder’s evolution. He now has 37 bouts under his belt after seven-plus years as a pro, has always been a tireless worker and has in his corner onetime boxing wizard Mark Breland, who seems to be an excellent teacher. That formula, combined with Wilder’s size, athleticism and punching power, is formidable to say the least. I wish he had faced original opponent Alexander Povetkin, whose positive drug test scuttled their May 21 meeting. Povetkin is fresher and more skillful than Arreola, meaning he would’ve been a more significant test. We saw enough on Saturday, though. I, for one, can’t wait to see how this story plays out.
A number of good young fighters were in action this weekend, including Sergey Lipinets, Felix Diaz and Erickson Lubin. Lubin probably has the most upside and Diaz is a beast but Lipinets (10-0, 8 KOs) is the most fun to watch. The former kickboxing champion is a good boxer who throws the kind of punches that takes the heart of an opponent, as we saw with the rugged Walter Castillo (26-4-1, 19 KOs) on Friday in Tunica, Mississippi. Castillo was determined to prove he was no pushover but ultimately wilted under Lipinets’ attack. The L.A.-based Kazakhstani is definitely one to watch. ÔÇª Diaz (18-1, 8 KOs) defeated Sammy Vasquez (21-1, 15 KOs) by a tight but unanimous decision in a fight that was poorly handled by officials in Birmingham. The result was originally announced as a draw but it was determined the judges hadn’t deducted a point from Vasquez, as instructed by referee Keith Hughes. A second announcement was correct. I had Diaz winning seven of 10 rounds, meaning the result should never have been in doubt in the first place. ÔÇª I cringed every time the TV commentators referred to Vasquez as VAS-kwez. It’s VAS-kez. ÔÇª Lubin (16-0, 11 KOs) was among the United States’ best hopes to win a medal in the upcoming Olympics but decided to turn pro instead. So far, so good. He seems to be a complete, albeit evolving package, as he demonstrated again by shutting out Ivan Montero (20-2, 8 KOs) on the Wilder-Arreola card. ÔÇª
Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) was credited with a knockout when Jazza Dickens (22-2, 7 KOs) had to quit after two rounds with a broken jaw Saturday in Cardiff, Wales, the apparent result of a single punch in the second round. Rigondeaux turns 36 on Sept. 30. It has become obvious that the gifted, but drab 122-pounder will never be appreciated at a level commensurate to his ability. ÔÇª Another unbeaten young heavyweight was in action Saturday: Andy Ruiz (28-0, 19 KOs) stopped Josh Gormley (22-5, 21 KOs) in Detroit. Next up for Ruiz: Franklin Lawrence on Sept. 10. Ruiz is still developing, which is why he continues to fight journeymen. The talented Mexican is going to have to face a bigger threat soon if he’s going to be taken seriously. ÔÇª WBO lightweight titleholder Terry Flanagan (31-0, 12 KOs) retained his belt by shutting out 42-year-old former two-time titleholder Mzonke Fana (38-10, 16 KOs) on the Rigondeaux-Dickens card. Flanagan managed to look so-so even though he won every round. ÔÇª I don’t think Arthur Abraham (45-5, 30 KOs) will ever be taken seriously again after he was shut out by Gilberto Ramirez in April. He isn’t ready to walk away, though. The 36-year-old stopped a Norwegian named Tim Robin Lihaug (15-2, 8 KOs) in eight rounds Saturday in Berlin.