Wilder Batters Brave Duhaupas, Ends Him in Eleven
Deontay Wilder didn’t leave the ring unmarked, but he did leave the ring still undefeated after an 11th-round technical knockout of unheralded challenger Johann Duhaupas.
Wilder had to fight through a swollen left eye from the second round on. Wilder also had to fend off Duhaupas, who was determined to come forward all night, brave to try to walk through the incoming fire, and tough enough to take as many shots as he did without ever going down.
Some might choose to describe that as foolish. After all, Wilder had knocked out 33 of his 34 previous opponents. Until this year, not a single one of his foes had lasted past four rounds. That changed in January, when Wilder went the full 12 rounds to win a heavyweight title from Bermane Stiverne. Then in June, Wilder needed nine rounds and the heart to last through a couple of difficult moments before taking out Eric Molina.
Duhaupas knew that Wilder had more power, faster hands and quicker feet. Wilder, at 6-foot-7, was a couple of inches taller as well. But Duhaupas also recognized that the best way to deal with those disadvantages was to put pressure on Wilder, force him to make mistakes and seek to capitalize on his flaws.
Wilder handled all of that rather well. He landed jabs, right hands and short combinations in the first round, bringing blood from the bridge of Duhaupas’ nose. He continued to pile on the punishment and made Duhaupas cover up during extended barrages in the third round and then again the fifth round, bringing cheers from the crowd in Birmingham, Alabama, about an hour from where Wilder lives.
Duhaupas soaked it all up. Even when the action slowed in rounds seven and eight, it was Wilder who was landing far more and Duhaupas who still had to take it. Duhaupas was able to land on occasion, yet nothing ever put Wilder in any danger or was anywhere near enough to help Duhaupas catch up on the scorecards.
The loss seemed certain. So when Wilder once again overwhelmed Duhaupas at the end of the 10th, the referee called on a ringside physician between rounds to make sure Duhaupas could go on. And when Wilder hurt Duhaupas at the start of the 11th and followed with one more powerful flurry, the referee stepped in.
Wilder is a likeable, charismatic and crowd-pleasing American heavyweight who was the last male amateur to capture an Olympic medal, taking bronze in 2008. He is seeking to become a star in a country that hasn’t had one in this division in some time. Wilder still has plenty to improve on, yet he’s fun to watch in spite of his flaws and also because of them. He eventually wants to be the true heavyweight champion of the world, which means he would need to face and beat longtime king Wladimir Klitschko — unless someone else beats Klitschko first.
Yet first Wilder owes a fight to his mandatory challenger, Alexander Povetkin, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist who lost to Klitschko convincingly in 2013 but has rebounded with three straight knockout wins. Povetkin is much, much better than anyone Wilder has beaten. If they fight, the result will either be the Wilder win that finally proves his doubters wrong or the loss that proves true what they’ve said all along.
Breazeale Escapes With Controversial Decision Over Kassi
If Dominic Breazeale is going to have a future in the heavyweight division, then he will need to look much better than he did against Fred Kassi.
Breazeale, like Deontay Wilder, is a 6-foot-7 former Olympian. Breazeale competed in the 2012 Games and remains undefeated as a pro, taking a unanimous decision over Kassi on scorecards that raised eyebrows and dropped jaws.
Kassi, who was about seven inches shorter, was not at all intimidated. Rather, he showed the experience of a fighter who has been around, on and off, for more than a decade. He used movement and different looks to frustrate Breazeale, making him miss wildly at times, moving away and then coming forward to catch him with good counter shots and short combinations.
Breazeale kept at it, wisely digging when he could with hard shots to Kassi’s body, the one part of a mobile target that can be easier to hit. The fight went the 10-round distance, and at best it seemed a close fight, but otherwise it appeared that Kassi deserved the edge.
That’s not what the judges saw. They had it 97-93, 98-92 and 100-90 for Breazeale. All three scores were wide, with the closest margin giving Kassi just three rounds. Somehow one judge had Breazeale winning every single round.
Some prospects go through difficult fights like these and come out with the perspective needed to get back into the gym and improve by leaps and bounds. For others, however, these difficult fights reveal limitations that never can be overcome. It remains to be seen which Breazeale will be, though he definitely looked at times to be lumbering and vulnerable. Even though heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko is 6-foot-6 and Deontay Wilder is 6-foot-7, being tall alone does not guarantee success.
This was the second straight hard-luck ending for Kassi. He fought Chris Arreola in July and again seemed as if he’d done enough for the win. One judge had Kassi ahead that night, but the other two overruled by scoring it a draw. Kassi is now winless in his last three fights, including a seventh-round knockout to Amir Mansour back in 2014. He deserves another chance. If only the judges would give him one.