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Wilder Needs Better Wins Before Facing Klitschko

Deontay Wilder
AP Photo/Butch Dil

Deontay Wilder is already talking about fighting Wladimir Klitschko in 2016.

He’s got to get there first.

After stopping Johann Duhaupas in the 11th round Saturday in a mismatch of monumental proportions, Wilder announced he was ready to take on the heavyweight champion.

“Hopefully, sometime end of next year,” he said after the fight. “We got to get these mandatories out of the way.

“People got to understand. They got to stay patient. This is a process and a business. But as long as I keep winning, which I will, and he keep winning, that should come around real soon, and we can have an undisputed heavyweight champ of the world, which is me, baby.”

There are a couple problems with that statement. First, while corrupt organizations with three-letter names might argue otherwise, there is no dispute over the heavyweight championship. Klitschko holds it, as he has done for almost a decade now.

When Vitali Klitschko retired, the WBC decided the best fighters to contest the vacant title were Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola, which tells you everything you need to know about the WBC and the title Wilder now holds.

Second, while Wilder breezes past “these mandatories” that he has to brush aside, he’s whistling past the graveyard. Before he gets a shot at the champ, Wilder is scheduled to fight Alexander Povetkin early next year, and that’s a much tougher fight than anything he’s seen in his 35-fight career.

Povetkin has a tough fight in November with Poland’s Mariusz Wach, but if he gets past that, he’ll be ready for Wilder. The Russian is 29-1, and his only loss is a lopsided decision at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko. He’s not a superstar, but he’s generally considered the second-best active heavyweight and will be a massive test for Wilder.

Of course, that’s assuming the fight actually takes place. In the world of boxing, “mandatory” rarely means what it means in the dictionary. Wilder has a history of ducking tough opposition – his first two WBC defenses have been against a pair of totally unqualified contenders in Eric Molina and Duhaupas – and there are multiple ways to make a mandatory defense go away.

The easiest way is with a bag of money. If Wilder’s management team reaches a deal for a big-money fight with Klitschko, they can easily fill a suitcase with cash in order for Povetkin to forget he’s due a shot at the WBC belt. That might not work, though. The Russian probably doesn’t care about Wilder’s belt, but he knows that beating the American will get him another fight with the champ.

If all else fails, Wilder can use the old trick of throwing the WBC belt in the garbage and announcing that the only title he cares about is Klitschko’s. That has multiple advantages: it would be the truth, it would put an alphabet belt in a trash can, and it would eliminate the need to fight Povetkin.

Wilder’s plan going forward depends on what he and his handlers think he’s going to accomplish. If all they are after is a big-money fight with Klitschko, they will do anything they can to get out of the Povetkin fight. However, if they actually want to prepare him to beat Klitschko and have a meaningful run with the heavyweight title, they need to take the fight.

The best fighter Wilder has ever faced is Stiverne, and having seem him fight in person, he’s not much. He might be one of the 15 best heavyweights in the world, but that’s about it. Klitschko uses better fighters for sparring practice.

In an ideal situation, Wilder would have fought better fighters in his two title defenses, preparing him as well as possible for the step in class that he’ll be taking against Povetkin and Kiltschko. Instead, they went with two easy paydays in Molina and Duhaupas.

Now they’ve painted themselves into a corner. Wilder either has to go into the Klitschko fight without having ever faced another top-10 fighter, or he has to take the risk of fighting Povetkin. The latter course is dangerous – there’s no guarantee that Wilder can beat the Russian, but if he can’t, he doesn’t have a chance against Klitschko.

I hope Wilder and his handlers do the right thing. Take the mandatory defense with Povetkin, then go after the champion with some tough rounds under his belt. Don’t take the easy way out, and sacrifice his shot at the title for quick cash.

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