With Floyd Mayweather announcing his retirement, boxing is looking for its next American star. Deontay Wilder might have the best chance to become that fighter, and he’ll be in the national spotlight on Saturday night when he puts his heavyweight title on the line against Frenchman Johann Duhaupas (32-2) as part of Premier Boxing Champions.
Wilder, 29, turned pro soon after winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, and has been dominating his opponents from the outset. The Alabama native has won all 34 of his fights, 33 of which have been decided by knockout. Wilder's first title fight came against Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17 in Las Vegas. It was the only bout that went the distance, and he won the belt in a unanimous decision.
Duhaupas, ranked No. 12 by the WBC, isn’t considered to be much of a threat to the champ. The 6'7 Wilder is a -2500 favorite at Bovada.lv, and Duhaupas has been given +1000 betting odds. With Wilder expected to successfully defend his belt for the second time in three months, many are looking ahead to a potential title unification fight.
Wladimir Klitschko holds multiple heavyweight titles, and he’s dominated the division for the last decade. As Wilder continues to make quick work of every boxer who he steps in the ring with, challenging Klitschko seems to be the next logical step.
While Wilder should not take Duhaupas lightly, the fight in Birmingham, Alabama, is not expected to be competitive. Wilder will have the crowd on his side, and Duhaupas, who is ranked No. 11 by the WBC, is not an elite power puncher. The big prize for Wilder is a date with Klitschko, and the fight could happen as early as next year. In April, Klitschko referenced a possible bout with the up-and-coming knockout artist.
“I think it’s a logical way to think,” Klitschko told ESPN. “The belt I never had would be nice to have. I need to say I’m in the driver’s seat. He just won the title [in January]. He needs to defend it, but I hope this fight happens sooner than later. I know he has decision makers behind him. We’ll see what happens, but it’s a logical step to have a unification fight, absolutely yes.
“I’d rather fight with Wilder in a pay-per-view fight, and it would be nice to have another belt. But there’s one heavyweight champion for a long time. If anyone wants to get it, they need to get to me. Do I look forward to it? Yes. Am I desperate for it? No. Is it interesting for the public? Yes.”
It’s possible that Wilder could look to have one more fight before stepping in the ring with tactical Klitschko. Wilder is considered a raw power puncher, who seems prone to be out-boxed by more experienced boxers. Against Duhaupas, Wilder may need to provide a more well-rounded performance.
In his last fight, Wilder scored a ninth-round knockout against heavy underdog Eric Molina. The fight was more competitive than many anticipated, and Wilder looked a bit fatigued during stretches. Though he won on each of the judges’ scorecards, Wilder may need to prove he has the stamina to still be effective in late-round fights and against strong competition.
Meanwhile, Klitschko has routinely dominated opponents over 12 rounds in the past 11 years. In Klitschko's last fight, he used his jab to dominate then-undefeated Bryant Jennings to a unanimous decision victory. Since his surprise loss to Lamon Brewster in April 2004, Klitschko has won 22 consecutive fights, and six have come by unanimous decision.
Klitschko is set to put his titles on the line against highly regarded Tyson Fury on Oct. 24.