Wildness aside, is Deontay Wilder among the top 5 fighters in the world?


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It’s time to start asking the question: Is Deontay Wilder a Top 5 fighter in the world? That’s a serious question, and it’s not one that came up because of Wilder’s first-round destruction of Dominic Breazeale on Saturday night in Brooklyn. This fight was a mismatch, and it was all about as stupid as Wilder’s pre-fight “catch a body” talk. However, there are reasons to believe Wilder isn’t getting the credit he deserves.

His style is not only unorthodox; it’s flat ugly to look at sometimes. Unconventional methods are not always unattractive. Roy Jones Jr. did a lot of things that go against what you would find in an online boxing tutorial or physical manual. The difference between Jones and Wilder is that the former made everything so beautiful. The athleticism and skill were easy to see, and whether you were a seasoned connoisseur of soft science or a casual fan, Jones’ brilliance was evident.

Wilder is simply wild. When he gets hurt by an opponent, all technique goes out the window and he’s like a guy in an alley lamenting over someone who wronged one of his family members. It’s all about emotion and raw power. For some, this is an endearing quality. For others, it’s a reason to steer clear of any reputable pound-for-pound listings.

Most critics who still criticize Wilder’s in-ring abilities are right, but that’s where I make the case for him as one of the best fighters in the sport. While Wilder is still inclined to become a whirling dervish, he has improved a lot. He always seems to add facets to his game. Throughout his career he has been a headhunter, but on Saturday against Breazeale Wilder made an effort to attack his opponent’s body.

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The fight didn’t last long, so we didn’t get to see him put any money in the bank with this approach, but it was refreshing to see a new wrinkle. Prior to Wilder’s first meeting with Bermane Stiverne, back when he won his WBC title, critics said Wilder couldn’t box and had no jab. He then beat Stiverne by unanimous decision working mostly behind the jab. Since then, he has used the punch effectively.

While the application and techniques have been sloppy, Wilder has only won his entire career. His record is 41-0-1 with 40 knockouts. Some think he lost to Tyson Fury in December 2018 (I’m on that side), but Wilder scored a brave late knockdown that at least blurred the lines as he headed for what looked like a loss by lopsided unanimous decision.

Even with this controversial draw, let’s look at what Wilder has done in his career and ask yourself what other current champions in the sport have been so dominant and consistent?

Not only is he undefeated in 41 fights, but Wilder also has a 95% knockout rate and has held his world title for over four years. Meanwhile, Wilder has been active and he’s had nine consecutive title defenses. I know the names Eric Molina, Johan Duhaupas, Artur Szpilka, Chris Arreola, Gerald Washington, Stiverne, Luis Ortiz, Fury and Breazeale don’t read like a killer talent row, but there’s something to be said for consistency by Wilder.

Remember before we criticize his resume, let’s also remember that he lost several opponents due to their failed doping tests. That includes Alexander Povetkin, Andrzej Wawrzyk and Ortiz, who would advance later and be stopped by Wilder in round 10. Wilder has fought everyone to face in his division except for Anthony Joshua, and it looks like the reluctance is coming from AJ’s side when these negotiations happen.

Heavyweights often get a raw deal in the pound-for-pound discussion because they don’t usually get the opportunity to fight in other weight classes to show off their versatility. Also, the big ones usually won’t be as adept as a polished, athletic welterweight or middleweight.

However, if you assess efficiency and consistency, who was more powerful than Wilder? I’m not ready to put him at the top of my list, but Wilder deserves a Top 5 spot.

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