Deontay Wilder: Falling stock says a lot about boxing fans in the U.S.Written by Lee Cleveland
Let's rewind back to January 2015.
The then-twenty-nine year old 6'7" heavyweight Deontay Wilder was 32-0 with 32 knockouts and the hottest fighter in the division.
Not only had Wilder knocked out all of his opponents, he'd done so within four rounds. None of his 32 foes had seen Round 5. Wilder vs Stiverne was a ratings success and Deontay would claim the WBC title but be taken the distance for the first time in his career. Tyson vs Berbick, it wasn't. Wilder looked very good, but not great.
Since that bout, the charismatic, extremely gifted Wilder has witnessed a drop in stock despite keeping his undefeated record intact.
Staying relatively active, he's made successful title defenses against Chris Arreola, Artur Szpilka, Johann Duhaupas and Eric Molina, and has stopped them all inside the distance despite looking human uncharacteristically human at times.
So, what's the problem?
Why hasn't Deontay Wilder's stock risen? In fact, why is it falling despite his exemplary record of 37-0, 36 KOs?
Answer: Boxing was extra special back then, in the days of Louis, Ali and Tyson. They could have fought Buggs Bunny and it would have been a major event.
As for Wilder, he doesn't have that luxury. The American boxing fans wanted to see him face another monster right away.
Wladimir Klitschko, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua or David Haye. Even popular former champion Shannon Briggs would have sufficed. Who cares if he was in his 40s?
But casual American boxing fans, and even some Yankee hardcore junkies, don't realize you can't just throw two fellas in the ring and say, "Fight."
The American fan is quite uppity these days. Watching top fighters ply their trade is no longer good enough. They want to see a top fighter in highly risky situations right away and all of the time.
And now, HBO is modifying its platform to accommodate American uppities.
“Our strategy as a team is to work with our partners to make the best fights the fans want to see,” Peter Nelson, the executive vice president of HBO Sports, Nelson said recently via LA Times.
“[Low numbers] might speak to the quality of fights being offered these days, but that doesn’t mean the fans have evaporated.”
“They’re there, waiting for the quality fights to be made, waiting for the fighter’s representatives to step up and take the risks necessary to get the fans to show up and watch.
But "quality" fights isn't enough for the American fan. They want big name vs big name... Every time.
Maybe boxing will be like UFC and have a revolving door of so-called champions thanks to fighter burnout? The difference between boxing and UFC is the latter needs big fights everytime. MMA fans aren't content with seeing a fighter ply his trade.
But boxing is like fine wine...
Back in the day, fighters like Julio Cesar Chavez participated in numerous "tune-ups" yet got high ratings because real fans wanted to see a top craftsman ply his trade.
Real fans understood the privilege of watching a master at work.
Americans don't understand that today.
Yes, the best should fight the best but fans shouldn't expect the best to fight the best 10 of 10 times. Americans still love boxing but want to see Ali vs Frazier, Gatti vs Ward and Hagler vs Hearns every single time.
That's not going to happen.
Do football teams face Tom Brady every week? Do basketball teams duel with LeBron James night after night?
Boxing needs to do something to get the respect of the casual fan back. They've been led astray and need a home.
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.