Deontay Wilder had his hands full briefly Saturday night on Showtime before those hands eventually found their target on Artur Szpilka’s noggin, ending in a spectacular one-shot knockout.
The physically gifted heavyweight finally faced someone with a pulse after a series of no-hopers following his breakthrough early-2015 win over Bermane Stiverne, a win that hinted at a legitimate heavyweight contender, rather than a pure athlete masquerading as someone who could fight. Those no-hopers were initially a victory lap that turned instead into an extended get-well present for a fighter who was rocked to his core by Eric Molina right after the Stiverne win.
Wilder was ineffective through four whole rounds, perhaps losing two to Szpilka, who has the superior boxing technique. But in the 5th, Wilder began to find the range on his big right hand. And the damage began to accumulate as a result — a mouse under his right eye, a bloody nose. Let’s be clear: Whatever Wilder’s flaws, and there are many, his speed is authentic for a heavyweight, and his power is, if not as absurd as it once looked against an array of journeymen, considerable.
The remaining rounds were competitive, thanks to Szpilka’s savvy, such as it was (that is, profoundly competent by modern heavyweight standards, nothing more). The big right hand that ended things, a counter that caught Szpilka between a left hand of his own, came in a round Szpilka might have been winning.
Despite the win, it’s hard to imagine Wilder as the future of this division. He’s still wild as all get out, his defense is sketchy as hell and while he wasn’t rocked tonight, his chin has been dented in the past. Real heavyweight champion Tyson Fury went into the ring after the fight to confront Wilder, and it was a wild, passionate showdown. Fury and Wilder both said they were eager to scrap, but each also have dangerous obligations to the belt-sanctioning outfits that gave them straps, with Fury due to face Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch and Wilder due against top contender Alexander Povetkin. Both could very well lose those interim bouts. Either could plausibly lose to the other if the fight eventually happens, given that both are flawed, if not without their talents.
That said, Showtime had to be happy to start its year with a charismatic heavyweight scoring a photogenic KO. Showtime did almost nothing in 2015, and now has this fight to kick things off. It officially announced that it will air an extremely appealing junior featherweight bout between Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton, and a nice featherweight bout between Leo Santa Cruz and Kiko Martinez.
On the undercard Saturday, one robotic heavyweight (Charles Martin) stopped another robotic heavyweight (Vyacheslav Glazkov) in a fight that was the result of one of the belt sanctioning outfits Tyson Fury stripping of the heavyweight “championship,” which is not something they can do in reality.
As if to convey the fraudulent nature of this designation, Martin only won thanks to Glazkov quitting with a knee injury. Martin was in charge throughout, and appeared in the 2nd to hurt Glazkov with a left hand — or perhaps it just began his knee troubles? The event that precipitated Glazkov’s demise was Glazkov throwing a punch that resulted in him twisting his knee. He went down, got up and refused to continue. Considering that Glazkov was the recipient of multiple dubious decision victories, his first loss, semi-tragic, won’t produce much sympathy. Martin, meanwhile, despite some size and power and his southpaw stance, will lose to the first non-robotic heavyweight he faces, which might mean he could actually “reign” for some time.
(Photo: Deontay Wilder punches Artur Szpilka; Stephanie Trapp, Showtime)