Saturday night, WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (34-0, 33 KO) looks to do more than extend his unbeaten streak and defend his world title belt in his bout against Johann Duhaupas (32-2, 20 KO).
In January of this year Wilder captured the belt with a unanimous decision victory over Bermane Stiverne, and in doing so became the first American world heavyweight champion in nine years, since Shannon Briggs last held the title before surrendering it to Vitali Klitschko.
Over the past decade the Klitschko’s — Wladimir and Vitali — have dominated the heavyweight division and have dismantled the dominance that past American champions carried for so long. For quite some time the heavyweight division was ruled by American pugilists, and the world title belts remained within the hands of America’s champions, including the Hall of Fame surnames Ali, Foreman, Spinks, Tyson and Holyfield, to name but a few.
But since the Klitschko brothers emerged onto the boxing scene in the 2000s and took the heavyweight world by storm, American heavyweights seemed to fade into the backdrop, and the eight American contenders who had fought for the title against Vitali and Wladimir met their demise one by one.
But now, with Wilder’s impressive knockout capability coupled with his championship belt, boxing fans can once again get pumped up to see one of their own vie for what used to be the most prestigious belt in the sport. The glory of holding the title of “heavyweight champion of the world” has been one of the most distinguished titles in all of sports, yet American boxing fans haven’t had much to get excited about in recent years.
A national Golden Gloves champion, Wilder, for the most part, flew under the radar until he won the vacant WBC Continental Americas title belt with an impressive third-round KO victory over Kelvin Price in 2012. Fans worldwide began to see him appearing in televised fights, and despite fighting his share of journeymen, he did what he was supposed to do and put on a show in route to knocking them out. His ability to get out the gate quickly and stop his opponents within the first round was quite Tyson-esque, and the buzz about Wilder continued to grow.
While many thought he was simply a power puncher who lacked the technical skills to compete for a world title, he proved against Stiverne that he could go the distance and box when necessary, and that he was much more than a one-hit wonder.
Ultimately Wilder has his eyes on the biggest fish in the division and the most recognized heavyweight name to step into the ring over the past decade: Wladimir Klitschko. Saturday’s fight against Duhaupas will be another step along the way to achieving the ultimate pinnacle of being the undisputed world heavyweight champion.
Although Duhaupas hasn’t fought any standout names in his resume of 32 career victories, he will serve as an obstacle that Wilder can’t merely overlook. In recent fights Wilder has shown that he is touchable, and prone to getting hit. Although Duhaupas hasn’t yet faced a fighter on his level, Wilder will have to fight smart to preserve both the WBC title and the hopes of millions of Americans who are anxious to see him work his way to the superfight with Klitschko.
So this fight against Duhaupas is certainly more than simply a second title defense; it’s a step to bringing the unified heavyweight title back to America where it remained for so long.
The WBC world heavyweight showdown between the unbeaten Deontay Wilder and Johann Duhaupas airs through Premier Boxing Champions on NBC at 8 p.m. ET Saturday night.