By Ari Gilberg
Dust off your flag and put on your red, white and blue, because after nearly a decade of insignificance, the U.S. is relevant once more in boxing’s heavyweight division.
For years, Americans dominated boxing as a whole, but more specifically the heavyweight division. Names such as Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Mike Tyson have been etched in boxing lore.
However, as American fighters in lower weight divisions rose to prominence, American heavyweights quickly deteriorated. Not since Shannon Briggs’ brief tenure as the WBO titleholder back in 2006 had there been an American heavyweight titleholder.
Until recently, that is.
As Floyd Mayweather Jr. continues to dominate the junior middleweight and welterweight divisions, Deontay Wilder, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has taken the heavyweight division by storm, most recently defeating Bermane Stiverne for the WBC heavyweight title.Embed from Getty Images
Wilder is being hailed as the next great heavyweight fighter, and rightfully so. The Bronze Bomber, a reference to his penchant for knockouts and the bronze medal he received in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, is 33-0 with 32 wins by knockout. A knockout percentage of over 96%, according to Box Rec.
His lone victory that didn’t come by knockout was the recent title fight against Stiverne. However, Wilder couldn’t have been any more impressive than he was. He dominated Stiverne from the start, outpunching and out boxing the Haitian to win every round and securing a unanimous decision. The judges scored it 118-109, 119-108, and 120-107 for Wilder.
Wilder, who proved to critics he has the endurance to go all 12 rounds, knew how much this fight meant for American boxing fans.
“I’m just excited and happy to bring this belt back to America,” Wilder told ESPN. “It’s going to mean a lot.”
While Wilder has brought one heavyweight title belt back home to the States, fellow American heavyweight Bryant Jennings aims to return the other three major alphabet titles to the U.S.
After choosing to bypass a fight with Wilder, Jennings (19-0, 10 knockouts, according to ESPN) is set to fight against WBA, IBF, and WBO titleholder Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko (63-0, 53 knockouts, according to ESPN) at Madison Square Garden April 25.
In what almost seems like the plot for a movie, Jennings has only been boxing for six years, and stands all of 6’2” and 227 lbs; relatively small for heavyweight standards.Embed from Getty Images
Klitschko, on the other hand, has been fighting professionally before the turn of the millennium. He’s the second longest reigning heavyweight champion of all time, and is regarded as one of the greatest fighters in history. Klitschko, who stands at a towering 6’6 and weighs 246 pounds, is a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Jennings, from Philadelphia, knows he’s almost as big of an underdog as fictional Philly icon Rocky Balboa, listed as 8-1 odds on Odds Checker, but believes he’ll continue the recent American surge and bring home three more heavyweight titles.
“I have the heart and will to be a champion. I understand Klitschko is a beast in himself, but I know for sure I will be ready,” Jennings told ESPN. “We are not planning on losing. We are talking about bringing that belt home. Nothing against Deontay, but I figure a heavyweight champion from Philly is bigger than a heavyweight champion from Alabama.”Embed from Getty Images
If, and that is a big if, Jennings upsets Klitschko and goes on to fight Wilder, the boxing world would be in store for it’s first four-way universal champion since Mike Tyson in 1987, according to Box Rec. Not only would that mean the return to stardom for the heavyweight division, but it would cement the rebirth of American heavyweight fighters as well.