“IF Bermane Stiverne beats me, you all don’t have to hear about me no more,” declared WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (38-0, 37 KO’s). “I’m done. If he beats me, then Deontay Wilder retires from this sport.”
Should that occur, he might have to.
I’ve yet to encounter anyone picking Stiverne to win this rematch, set for Saturday, November 4th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
When they first met in January 2015, Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KO’s) held the WBC title and was a slight underdog to retain it. There were rumours that he’d spent camp shedding 50lbs gained by pulling a Riddick Bowe following his title-winning effort against Chris Arreola.
Stiverne will never mirror an Anthony Joshua. But he was well-conditioned when he stopped Arreola. He weighed only a half-pound more for Wilder, yet looked softer. “The Bronze Bomber” pitched a twelve-round shutout.
Stiverne looked even worse winning a 10-round unanimous decision over journeyman Derric Rossy in November of that year. Rossy dropped Stiverne in the first before fighting like Rossy for the next nine.
That was two years ago. Stiverne hasn’t fought since. He’s a 25-1 underdog for this rematch. Evander Holyfield was a 25-1 underdog to upset Mike Tyson on another nippy November night, in 1996. Stiverne is no Holyfield. Nevertheless, former two-time champion Paulie Malignaggi told reporters last week that he was “curious” about the rematch and that talk of a Wilder-Anthony Joshua unification should be held off.
It bears noting that Malignaggi is an analyst for Showtime, the network that will be airing this Premier Boxing Champions card. And just because anything is possible, doesn’t mean there’s a reason to predict it. This writer isn’t about to start doing that. Even so, here are several reasons why Stiverne might pull off the unthinkable:
WILDER IS OVERLOOKING HIM
That isn’t hard to do, given 6’7” Wilder’s five-inch height advantage. Wilder has other things on his mind, notably Anthony Joshua. Or the events that led to this rematch. Original opponent Luis Ortiz tested positive for a banned substance, killing one of the most significant fights in a stacked 2017 and leaving us with a rematch no one, except Team Stiverne, wanted to see.
Asked how he might avoid a letdown, Wilder responded, “This is just another obstacle that I have to deal with. Ortiz had been wanting it; he wanted this fight to happen. I never thought in a million years that he would do what he did.”
If thinking about what Ortiz did is how Wilder avoids a letdown—not the most compelling bulletin board material—perhaps an upset isn’t so unlikely.
STIVERNE ISN’T A BAD FIGHTER
Or at least he wasn’t a bad fighter. Who knows what the 39-year-old Haitian has left? At his peak, he was a solid counterpuncher, capable of fighting off the ropes or working his opponents over in close quarters. Stiverne carries decent pop, particularly in his right hand. He looked awful against Wilder, but apparently there are reasons for that…
Prior to facing Floyd Mayweather, Victor Ortiz explained away his loss to Josesito Lopez by remarking, “You know, that wasn’t me that night.” To which Mayweather retorted, “Nah muther***er, you were there.”
Losing fighters use excuses the way Holyfield used his big, shaved dome. Following the Wilder bout, Stiverne was taken to the University Medical Centre and treated for what was reported to be severe dehydration. “I could have died,” Stiverne exclaimed days later.
Hyperbole aside, the dehydration might’ve been a byproduct of the fat camp Stiverne had for the fight.
“Anybody that knows me, knows how I fight and that night, it wasn’t me,” Stiverne says. “[This time] I’ve had a perfect training camp — an exceptional training camp.”
That means no more excuses (we hope). But does it mean a different result?
HOW GOOD IS WILDER, REALLY?
We really don’t know. The Stiverne victory still ranks as his best. Some say he’s regressed since. Eric Molina stunned him and he showed alarming technical holes in subsequent matches versus Johann Duhaupas, Artur Szpilka and Gerald Washington. The Szpilka fight was still up for grabs when Wilder stopped him the ninth. Two judges had the Washington bout even before it ended in the fifth.
Snarky social media posters have dubbed him, “Windmill Wilder,” because he sometimes resembles an NBA player during a midcourt brawl.
Regardless, Wilder remains (perhaps) the most athletic and hardest-hitting heavyweight today. Fans yearn to see him and Anthony Joshua throw down. The Stiverne fight should be a formality. Larry Merchant once called boxing the “Theatre of the Unexpected,” but jaded fight fans aren’t phased by much these days. Watching a Wilder-Stiverne trilogy instead of Joshua-Wilder might do the trick.