Boxing prides itself on its sweet science. With his feint feints, his blind-finishing jab scrums, his ring IQ, his southpaw-Orthodox alternation, his reliance on tempering ferocity with discipline.
The fascination and fandom surrounding Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury stems in part from their mastery of them, which Anthony Joshua struggled and struggled to reflect in the loss to the Ukrainian at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September .
Vasyl Lomachenko similarly obliges with his moves and mechanics, Andre Ward led the super middleweight division with distance and ring control clinics, Floyd Mayweather Jr built a peak career on counter punches from fist and arguably the greatest bob-and-weave defense in history.
Boxing technicians are applauded and admired for the way they call brutality cunning.
But sometimes there’s a thunderous, self-powered old punching power. Sometimes there’s Deontay Wilder, whose plan-destroying fists remain one of the sport’s hottest and most exclusive tickets in town, and will continue to do so until the day he hangs up his gloves.
It looks like that day will come soon after the 36-year-old underlined his intention to return to the ring in a bid to reclaim his world champion status.
“I can’t stop now. I have to continue my journey,” Wilder said at the unveiling of a life-size statue of him in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama this week. “I love you guys so much. I can’t end like this. This journey is not over. I have to continue my journey.”
What “The Bronze Bomber” might lack in finesse compared to those around him at the top of the heavyweight division, he has often made up for in the heavyweight division’s most devastating knockout threat.
Fury treated him with the respect he deserved by hiring trainer Sugarhill Steward to help him unlock his own knockout ride capable of thwarting the American, knowing that stopping him meant grounding him, knowing that trying to stop him meant fireworks.
Behind Fury himself, the Gypsy King’s sixth-round knockout victory over Dillian Whyte at Wembley reflected no one as positively as Wilder, who beat the WBC champion four times during their trilogy, while Whyte has endured a night of frustration.
Facing turbulence against a stern Luis Ortiz, he rode the notch to outplay the Cuban and smashed Dominic Breazeale’s best-laid escape plans in one round with a perfect right hand few could live with.
Boxing is better off when it can offer Wilder’s explosiveness to change any fight with a punch, and for the thorn he lays like other title-seeking heavyweights. He never strayed from his identity, and while that didn’t always pay off, it made him one of the box office performers in combat sports.
Wilder hasn’t fought since his 11th round knockout loss to Fury in the third meeting of their trilogy last October, after which he required surgery on his hand.
Despite successive losses, he remains the No. 1 contender in the WBC rankings, with World Boxing Council chairman Mauricio Sulaiman recently confirming to Sky Sports that Wilder could challenge for the vacant belt if Fury retires.
“He’s taking it slow, he’s thinking about his plans for the future, he’s had a very busy reign as champion, two knockout losses to Fury, tough but he’s matured and he’s doing really well,” he said. Suleiman added. “He’s having a good time with his wife, he’s enjoying life but I’m sure he’ll be back.
“He’s one of those fighters that you rarely see in the ring that has the ability to knock somebody out with one punch and he’s had many exciting fights. He’s a great fighter and a wonderful person.
“I’m sure he will fight this year.”
Wilder currently sits 42-2-1 in his career after successfully defending his WBC title 10 times during his five-year reign as heavyweight champion, surpassing that of the greats Muhammed Ali, Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko and Joe Frazier, all of whom claimed nine winning defenses.
The loss to Fury wasn’t everything and there are still coveted fights to be made, among those that could be a brutal upset with Whyte amid his own continued pursuit of a world title.
While the Brixton fighter is aiming to avenge the losses to Fury and Joshua, he is also apparently open to what promises to be a lucrative contest from Wilder.
“I always want to fight the best,” Whyte told Sky Sports last month. “Listen, win, lose or draw on Saturday, I would have a few more fights against the top guys and then I would retire. I still want to do the same thing. Nothing has changed.
“I don’t know what Wilder is doing. I just need to come back and I want to fight everyone I lost to again and try to avenge my losses.”
As far as the flying fists and grit of street fighters go, it teases traits of a thriller with similarities to that of Whyte’s Two Wars against Derek Chisora.
The winner of the eventual matchup between Joseph Parker and Joe Joyce looms as another option, though it may be for further afield given the late fight; Andy Ruiz Jr could step into the picture as a logical insider after his scheduled August fight against Ortiz; and promoter Otto Wallin, whose claim to fame leaves a gash for Fury in 2019, has expressed the Swede’s interest in taking on Wilder.
Elsewhere, unbeaten Jared Anderson awaits his first high-profile challenge, with promoter Bob Arum suggesting in January that the 22-year-old will be the “guy equipped to beat” Wilder by the end of this year.
Usyk, meanwhile, presents an intriguing Fury-like challenge with similar sleight of hand but less size, and Joshua might be one of the few able to challenge Wilder’s power, the availability of both, however, likely hinges on Fury looking for the winner of their rematch for an undisputed bargain.
An untitled Wilder remains one of boxing’s top attractions, and his post-Fury chapter might be the most exciting yet.
Few will want a piece of Wilder, most will need a piece of Wilder if they wish to reach the top.