The undefeated Deontay Wilder continues his quest to prove that he’s the best heavyweight fighter in the world. He’ll defend his WBC heavyweight championship on May 21 in Moscow against Alexander Povetkin, but with a bigger fight looming.
Wilder, 30, is 36-0 as a pro, knocking out nearly every one of his opponents. He took Artur Szpilka out with one right hand in the ninth-round of their Jan. 16 fight to pick up the 35th knockout of his career. Only Bermane Stiverne has been able to go the distance against Wilder, losing a unanimous decision and his heavyweight championship in January of last year.
Povetkin offers a serious challenge to Wilder, one that the Alabama native has never faced before. Wilder will head to Povetkin’s native Russia in a fight that oddsmakers are almost listing as a tossup. The champ is a -150 favorite at Bovada.lv, Povetkin has +120 betting odds.
"My expectation is, of course, to win, to come back with that victory for America," Wilder said via ESPN.com. "This is a big fight, not just for myself, for America. It's like Russia versus America. I've been getting nothing but positive feedback from fans all over. Even if they weren't a fan of Deontay Wilder, they are now for this very fight. Hopefully, I can win them over to stay a fan of Deontay Wilder after this fight.
"I think it's a great fight. I think it's a great thing that we're going over to Russia defending my title in somebody else's backyard. It's easier for me to fight here in America, but that's not what it's all about to me. When I have a title that says 'the heavyweight champion of the world,' I want to travel all over the world to defend my title. I'm living my dream. I'm getting an opportunity to do that with this fight. I'm looking forward to Russia and I want to tell Russia, 'Here I come.'"
Most recently defeating Mariusz Wach, Povetkin has won four fights in a row by early stoppage. With a 30-1 career record, his only loss came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko when he went 12 rounds with the long-time champion on Oct. 5, 2013.
No matter who wins the fight, it isn’t likely to go the distance. Twenty-two of Povetkin’s 30 wins have come via knockout, including his last six victories. The championship fight should be an exciting battle, a far cry from the heavyweight bout last year that saw Klitschko relinquish his title to Tyson Fury when a total of just 138 punches were landed in 12 rounds.
But the presence of Fury and Klitschko looms large for Wilder, a growing star in boxing. He could face the winner of Fury-Klitschko in a huge heavyweight fight that boxing fans have been clamoring for after years of uninspiring competition.
A win and a strong effort against Povetkin would bolster Wilder's chances to fight in a global PPV event against Fury or Klitschko, who fight on July 9 with the WBA (Super), WBO, IBO, The Ring and lineal heavyweight titles on the line. It's unclear if Fury's win over Klitsckho was a fluke, but when they meet, Wilder will likely be taking notes.
With 10 days to go until his fight against Povetkin, it still isn’t scheduled to be shown on television in the United States. Showtime, which aired Wilder’s title defense over Szpilka, is hoping to change that and get a deal done before next weekend.
"We are working to finalize a deal with World of Boxing to televise this important fight," Showtime Sports vice president of communications Chris DeBlasio said on a recent teleconference. "Sufficient to say, Showtime is committed to delivering the most important fights of the heavyweight division.”