Undefeated WBC heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) takes on once-beaten contender Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday, May 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Oddsmakers like Wilder, -800, over Breazeale, +500, in a battle between two huge heavyweight punchers that also just really seem to hate each other.
While professional boxers often resort to trash talk and the like to help promote their upcoming fights, the prefight buildup for Wilder-Breazeale took a nasty turn when Wilder essentially made death threats to Breazeale at one of the press conferences.
Wilder told Breazeale to go ahead make “funeral arrangements” for after the fight and even impersonated the villain from Rocky 4, Ivan Drago, by screaming “if he dies, he dies” to Breazeale as he left the stage.
The hatred seems to stem from an altercation the two had after they fought on the same card in Alamaba in 2017. The late-night scuffle involved the fighters, their teams and Wilder’s younger brother, Marcellus, who is also a boxer.
Wilder, 33, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is one of the most powerful punchers in the history of the heavyweight division. While some lament his unorthodox approach, there’s no doubt his tremendous athletic ability has helped him achieve amazing heights as a professional prizefighter.
But what makes Wilder so dangerous is also what seems to be the biggest danger to the length of his title reign. Wilder is a great athlete with amazing power. But he’s over-reliant on landing one big punch, and it will probably be his undoing someday.
That almost happened last time out when Wilder faced former unified heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on Dec. 1 in Los Angeles. Fury, who some still consider the lineal heavyweight champion, boxed brilliantly for most of the fight. But twice during the 12 rounds, including the last one, Wilder connected with a big punch that sent Fury to the canvas.
Fury rose from each spill, the second time perhaps miraculously, to see the final bell. Usually, once a fighter goes down to the floor against Wilder, he either stays there or gets finished soon after. But Fury hadn't come back from the depths of depression and addiction to see his amazing comeback story remain incomplete.
Still, judges scored the bout a split-draw and Wilder escaped with his title belt despite being pretty soundly outboxed for probably 34 of the 36 total minutes.
Now Breazeale has a chance to end WIlder’s championship reign.
Breazeale, 33, from Glendale, California, is a good athlete who has worked hard since his first day a professional to become a competent heavyweight contender. He played quarterback in college, is one of the few heavyweights who can look the 6-foot 7-inch Wilder in the eye and has shown serious toughness in his bouts against mostly decent competition.
What Breazeale hasn’t shown yet in a boxing ring is elite class, but that might just be because he’s only had one real opportunity to do so.
Breazeale challenged Anthony Joshua in 2016 in his lone world title try. While Breazeale showed the heart of a warrior, he didn’t seem to possess the speed or reflexes necessary to keep a world class fighter like Joshua from landing at will.
But grit and determination can take a hardworking fighter like Breazeale a long way in the sport. Against Joshua, he showed those two things along with some decent craft at times to go rounds with the fighter most consider the best heavyweight in the world. Ultimately, though, Joshua scored the seventh-round knockout in a fight that really wasn’t all that competitive.
But Breazeale has worked his way back into title contention with stoppage wins over secondary contenders Izuagbe Ugonoh, Eric Molina and Carlos Negron. So while the three fighters who lay claim to the heavyweight championship puzzle (Wilder, Fury, and Joshua) seem on track to fight everyone but each other, it’s at least something to have guys like Breazeale around to help keep things interesting.
And Wilder-Breazeale is most certainly going to be interesting.