By Michael Rosenthal
Some people I respect talk about Deontay Wilder as if he violated the sanctity of the traditional glamorous division of the sport.
"The worst boxer in history is among heavyweight holders," said one of Wilder, who defended the WBC title against Dominic Breazeale on Saturday in Brooklyn. "A rough boxer," said another observer who was more generous. "All he has is the power of punching," is another common repetition.
Like most opinions, this is at least a little excessive. It is true that Wilder has limited skills, which is not surprising given that he started boxing at the age of 20. And, yes, his strength is his weapon that is not too secretive.
He admitted, he was also a good athlete (especially for the 6-foot-7 frame) who used whatever boxing sharpness he had to set a shot that had given him 39 knockouts in 40 wins. He must have done something right. As former Wilder opponent Gerald Washington said, "You can't argue with the resume."
And it wasn't as if he had ducked a challenge, like they were in a heavyweight division lately. Wilder last year took two of the most respected active big men, Luis Ortiz and Tyson Fury. He stopped the former in a thrilling fight that tested his endurance, his best win, and he was lucky to come up with a draw in the final fight.
Wilder has also tried to fight with his most natural rival, Anthony Joshua. If there is a good boxing god, that fight will happen someday.
Critics will cite his appearance against Fury as an example of Wilder's inability. The holder of the WBC title was able to bring down Fury in the ninth and 12th round – the second time in a brutal manner – but instead he was defeated by a more skilled fighter.
It will be difficult to defend Wilder. He struggled against Fury. I remember telling someone in disgust soon after what I thought was a boring fight to a knockdown, "Friend, Wilder only reinforces everything his critics say about him. That was a very bad appearance for him. "
But one thing: Fury dominated Wladimir Klitschko who was great (but old) more comprehensive than Wilder. The point is that Fury, an extraordinary athlete and a great boxer for his size, has the ability to make anyone look bad as long as he remains standing. That can include Joshua one day.
And Wilder has an explanation, if you want, for his appearance: He tried too hard to get rid of Fury. As soon as he stopped pressing, knockdown – and near-knockout – came.
That's how Eric Molina, another Wilder victim, saw it.
"One thing about Wilder, when he tried too hard to throw his right hand, you could see him coming," said Molina. "He really wanted to bring down Fury. Fury is too slippery because wide shots (Wilder) are throwing. He saw them coming. To land against Fury, you have to throw clean and accurate shots arranged in different rhythms. That was the blow that finally landed.
"I think Wilder knows that now. In the rematch, he defeated Fury in six to eight rounds. "
The point for Wilder is that he can hurt any heavyweight, even when he struggles. It only takes one hit because of its strength. That was the main reason he was successful. That's also why he likes watching, at least for most of us.
If you ask for your biggest bat you are also a special boxer, then Wilder is not for you. I see. I prefer the unforgettable series between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales rather than Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward because the Mexicans combine action with a higher level of skill.
But I, like millions, enjoyed the Gatti-Ward battle. I accept the fact that no one has polished skills and focuses on the mess they produce, which is something to see.
That's how I approached Wilder. I accept the fact that he is not a very good boxer and focus on what he brings to the ring – crazy KO.
I will always admire noble technicians like Floyd Mayweather but a KO artist like Wilder makes use of a more basic desire for all-out war. In other words, fans want KO and Wilder gives it. Simple like that.
Wilder might never be considered one of the best heavyweights in history because of his shortcomings but he did two things: He won and he entertained. That's something.
Michael Rosenthal is a 2018 winner from the American Nat Fleischer Boxing Writers Association Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and surrounding areas for almost three decades. Follow him at @mrosenthal_box.