In a conference call that included wrong numbers, the early departure of one of it’s major players, and an abnormally long discourse on the unlikely links between World Peace, Imelda Marcos and heavyweight championship boxing, it would seem that from the outset, Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21KOs) vs. Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32KOs), independent of the considerable talent of it’s participants, is set to be high drama entertainment way before either combatants’ foot even hits the Nevada fight canvas. With the actual fight for the WBC World Heavyweight title set to take place on January 17, 2015 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and broadcast on Showtime, the proverbial circus wasn’t needed but it arrived with the consistency of the cavalry yesterday for anyone lucky enough to bum the correct Domestic US Toll Free press line off of a frantic boxing journalism twitter verse. Certainly with the impressive credentials of both Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder – with Wilder as the less proven fighter holding the distinction of never having left any of his 32 professional fights without a win via KO – the most cynical of fans knows little additional hoopla is necessary to sell Stiverne vs. Wilder. Indeed, the championship bout is about as close as you can get to a lock on exciting action seeing as it is virtually fated to end with a splashy KO. Nevertheless, Don King, Bermane Stiverne’s famously ubiquitous promoter, would seem to have a reputation he takes seriously in regard to attaching big amorphous causes in need of big verbal embellishment to world title fights. As such, accompanying the unexpected cherry of technical difficulties and confusion that reigned briefly early on in the call, there was a heaping amount of world peace/international zeitgeist razzle dazzle on what would have done just fine as a boilerplate verbal face off between two well matched big men set to battle. But one has to admit that yesterday was as memorable as it was entertaining.
From the beginning, Bermane Stiverne was his usual taciturn straight man to Don King’s all out I Love Lucy style fireworks, involving no less than King’s literal scream of a response that overlapped Wilders’ introduction. Nevertheless, Wilder was as unflappable as Stiverne was largely silent, hailing the unorthodox intro on the spot. “There’s no better introduction than that,” Wilder quipped and got down to the business of putting King and Stiverne behind him as he put his own foot forward as the self professed soon to be new WBC World Champion come January 17th: "This is my time. This is me!” Wilder professed emphatically. With regard to his status as the less proven fighter next to Stiverne, who has fought a considerably more accomplished and consistent level of opposition, culminating in winning the title in May versus the respected Chris Arreola (35- 4, 31KOs), Wilder refused to be mired in his own past or that of Stiverne. “I don't want to be compared to other fighters. I want to build my own legacy,” said Wilder. “ I’m not your average heavyweight. I go to work all day, every day as if it’s my 9 to 5 job,” said Wilder enthusiastically.
Despite all of the grandstanding and attempted stealing of the spotlight in service of his client, Don King did correctly draw attention to the following with regard to this fight in Nevada as opposed to Deutschland. It is no secret that Germany is currently the place to be to see top-flight heavyweight championship boxing. To no small effect, this has been due to the longstanding monopoly held by the two headed behemoth known as first the now retired Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41KOs) and currently his much celebrated younger brother Wladimir Klitschko (63-3, 53KOs), the crème de la crème of the world heavyweight scene. This is something that is no small barb to promoter Don King in furthering Stiverne’s interests in the sport as well as his own. As such King was not shy in proclaiming Stiverne vs. Wilder to be, “A fight to bring boxing…back to where it should be… It has been about 10 years since there was a heavyweight match here in America, so we are going to celebrate this at the MGM Grand,” King proclaimed, giving voice to the desire of many a US fight fan that a fathomable outcome of this fight might be the possibility of luring Klitschko to America to fight to unify all of the heavyweight belts. However, this idea might be just as elusive as the world peace Don King kept referencing for much of the press event. For the better part of a decade Klitschko has been sitting pretty selling out stadiums in his adopted home of Germany. If it ain’t broke, why fix it for Stiverne, Wilder or any other possible players that might arise.
As for Stiverne, one was left to surmise that his evaluation of the threat posed by Wilder was to be understood more through his actions versus any length of discourse on the matter. Indeed, what Stiverne did say before leaving the call in the midst of his own promoter Don King’s extended dissertation on peace and Stiverne’s prowess in the ring was what would seem to be Bermane’s quick and ready message for the whole promotion. “I can show you better than I can tell you,” murmured Stiverne. “As far as a game plan, all I can say is ‘don’t blink’,” Stiverne warned cagily, implying that Wilder isn’t the only guy looking to deliver a quick KO to start 2015 with a championship style bang. King was quick to support Stiverne. “Bermane will give Wilder a lesson after they meet in their heavyweight fight,” King effused as Bermane further explained, “ He’s (Wilder) fought nobody… this belt isn’t going anywhere. January 17th is going to be a short night and it’s going to be painful,” Stiverne concluded adding his own dash of color to the proceedings.
Not to be outdone when it came to questions of pain and difficulty, Wilder was circumspect but direct in his response back. “I’ve been working hard all my life…I earned everything I have….my 32 knockouts. So when I get 33, I don’t want to hear no excuses from nobody… It’s gonna be a great fight,” Wilder stated.
While there was a lot of this gorilla King Kong style chest thumping rhetoric, at the end of the day, it would seem that deep down both fighters harbor a focus connected to children with regard to their implacable hunger and motivation to capture and retain the coveted WBC belt. For Wilder, he shared that his daughter, who has spina bifida, inspires him to be as fearless in his quest to become World Champion as she is in taking on the tough challenges posed by her condition. " I don't want people to discredit me anymore,” said Wilder. “I can't let my ultimate number one fan, my daughter, down on January 17th. I'm going to fulfill my promise to her to be world champ,” Wilder said.
As for Stiverne, he made it clear minutes before exiting the call that his countrymen in Haiti – particularly the children, loom large in his thoughts and his attention to duty in the service of desire. "The belt is great, it's meant a lot but I'm still hungry. I still want more,” said Stiverne. “To be a role model to the kids and people in Haiti is all motivation to me.”
However, as a last word, perhaps due to the fact that he remained on the call, or simply because he has more of a gift in the realm of self expression as compared to Stiverne, Deontay Wilder said it best in service of beseeching Stiverne and Wilder fans alike to hold on to their affiliations and get ready for a show filled to the brim with high drama, passion and true grit with what he believes will have considerable overtones on the international World Heavyweight scene:
"I have a chance to shock the world and I just can't wait for it.”
Neither can we.
Written by Kylie Krabbe
Photo by Kylie Krabbe
December 19th 2014