Combat Sports

Wilder’s silly death threats fail to sell lame title defence

Don’t worry If you blinked and missed the weekend’s WBC heavyweight world title fight over the weekend. You weren’t alone.

The list of those who also whiffed on the non-event is fairly extensive, extending, as it does, to most of the planet.

It even includes, in fact, one of the men who was (briefly) in the ring, Dominic ‘So Close’ Breazeale.

Having been KO’d by one punch 137 seconds into a contest in which the build-up was far more interesting than anything that happened after the opening bell, Breazeale offered a post-fight assessment that suggested even he hadn’t taken in much of the contest.

He was, he said, unfortunate to have been beaten to the decisive punch in a contest between two huge bangers.

“It's the heavyweight division so there's going to big shots from guys with power,” Breazeale said after almost recovering his senses.

"This was a situation where [Wilder] landed the big right hand before I did.”

Hmmm.

The above footage of the fight suggests this is a curious summary indeed.

Breazeale’s version of events seems to be a classic case of his body disobeying orders from his mind and then lying about it to get out of trouble.

“Sure did mate – was a split-second from landing, too,” seems to have been the answer provided by Breazeale’s internal monologue during an investigation as to whether he’d thrown a meaningful punch in the exchange that led to his unconsciousness.

So close.

Breazeale, who in fact threw just two punches in the entire fight, isn’t the only one fooling himself.

Wilder’s claims to be the true heavyweight world champion, ahead of four-belt Brit Anthony Joshua, weren’t exactly enhanced by dispatching a non-contending mandatory contender in front of just 13,181 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn – a venue with a capacity of 19,000.

The painful truth for Wilder – a brilliant boxer who produced thrilling performances against Tyson Fury and Luis Ortiz in his previous two contests and is undefeated in 41 fights – is that not even his home country has warmed to him.

It is doubtful the dangerous puncher’s penchant for musing about killing people is helping him in that regard.

Boxing might be a brutal sport, but the vast majority of enthusiasts are drawn by the raw, thrilling nature of the sporting competition rather than any great love of violence.

This column has never encountered a boxing fan who expressed a desire to see a fatality occur in the ring. If such creatures exist, it isn’t in large numbers.

So if Wilder believes his rantings about wanting a “body on his record” and taking advantage of his legal right to kill someone in the ring while getting “paid for it at the same time” generate a promotional benefit, he’s badly mistaken.

And, if he isn’t saying these things for promotional purposes, he’s a raving loon.

Neither is a great alternative.

The shame of it is that Wilder should be a global superstar. Undoubtedly one of the hardest punchers of all-time, he is a physical freak who generates incredible power despite typically weighing in at under 100kg.

He’s a good enough boxer, without being great. But he has a huge heart to match his massive punch, and a truly inspiring back story, which includes dropping out of college and taking up boxing at the age of 20 with the goal of earning money to care for a daughter born with spina bifida.

He beat all sorts of odds to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, where he won a bronze medal for the United States.

And yet, so far, America’s response to him has been ‘meh’.

A failure to book a showdown with Joshua, or even a rematch with Fury, is likely a big part of the reason for that. Those fights will eventuate and, if he triumphs, Wilder might yet receive the admiration he deserves.

It certainly won’t come from threatening to kill bums and then knocking them out in one round.

With Joshua’s next assignment a mildly interesting US debut against Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden on June 1, the heavyweight division appears to be in a holding pattern.

With Joshua, Wilder and Fury all dancing around each other, Dillian Whyte holding out for a decent payday and Jarrell Miller facing a PED (performance-enhancing substances) suspension, the scene would appear to be set for a meaningful return to the fray by Joseph Parker.

The Kiwi former WBO champ’s independent ranking has held steady at nine, despite a period of inactivity that is closing on half a year.

In fact, if Parker doesn’t return to the ring by July, he will have had just the one lightly-contested bout against Alexander Flores in a year.

The clock is most definitely ticking.

As for Wilder, he at least had the sense to backtrack on his silly talk following his victory over Breazeale.

“I just told Breazeale I love him and of course I want to see him go home to his family," Wilder said after the bout. "I know we say some things, but when you can fight a man and then you can hug him and kiss him, I wish the world was like that. We shake hands and we live to see another day and that's what it's all about."

Fine words. Let’s hope he remembers them.

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