In just over two minutes of action, Deontay Wilder knocked out challenger Dominic Breazeale with a vicious right cross to defend his WBC heavyweight title in Brooklyn on Saturday night.
And in doing so, the flamboyant Alabaman sent a message to the division’s other two undefeated titans, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, that the road to heavyweight supremacy still goes through the United States.
“I didn’t even feel the punch,” Wilder said of his finishing blow. “My hands are lethal.”
Coming off a brutal, 12-round split decision against Fury in December, Wilder (41-0-1) fought with urgency on Saturday, using his jab from the opening bell to set up his opponent and force the action.
Breazeale survived an early flurry from Wilder after being trapped in the corner. He somehow managed to escape and briefly seemed destined to end the first frame down 10-9.
It was then that Wilder’s right hand connected with the left side of Breazeale’s face. Referee Harvey Dock promptly counted out Breazeale, and a week of violent rhetoric was brought to a violent end.
Fortunately, Breazeale did appear to be healthy as he exited the ring, which was a relief considering Wilder’s controversial comments days earlier when he told reporters that he is ‘still trying to get a body’ on his record.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman denounced the comments on Thursday, but while Wilder refused to offer a retraction before the fight, he did express concern for Breazeale on Saturday night.
“I just told Breazeale I love him and of course I want to see him go home to his family,” Wilder said after the brutal knockout.
“I know we say some things, but when you can fight a man and then you can hug him and kiss him, I wish the world was like that. We shake hands and we live to see another day and that’s what it’s all about.”
Saturday’s script was a familiar one for Wilder, who is often criticized for his technique and uneven performances — 40 of which have now ended in a knockout.
Regardless of whether his critics are right, it’s that prodigious power that keeps Wilder in the heavyweight title triad.
Even while fighting Fury to a split decision draw in December, two vicious knockdowns were enough for Wilder to balance the scorecards and maintain his title.
But as dominant as Wilder was Saturday, the result was hardly unexpected. Breazeale was a +705 underdog heading into the bout, which was his first loss since he was stopped by Joshua, now the unified champion, in 2016.
The problem for Wilder is that the win did nothing to clarify the heavyweight title picture.
Both Fury, the self-proclaimed lineal champion, and Joshua, the unified champion, have seen previous negotiations break down with Wilder amid finger pointing, posturing, and conflicting media contracts.
Most recently, Wilder’s once imminent rematch with Fury was undone when the 6ft 9in Englishman signed on with ESPN, which brought negotiations to an end at the time.
“I understand what Tyson Fury did,” Wilder said Saturday. “When you get dropped on the canvas like that, I understand you have to get yourself back together. But the rematch will happen, like all these other fights will happen. The great thing is all these fights are in discussion. The big fights will happen. I just want you to have patience.”
Wilder describes himself as free agent, and although he is currently signed to Al Haymon’s PBC, he is free to fight on other platforms.
That should be good news for both Joshua, who makes his American debut against Andy Ruiz at Madison Square Garden on June 1, and for Fury, who will make his ESPN debut against Germany’s Tom Schwarz on June 15.
Both Fury and Joshua are expected to win, but beyond that, the heavyweight picture remains unclear.
Wilder’s manager, Shelly Finkel, teased a potential rematch with Luis Ortiz and a long-awaited fight with either Joshua or Fury.
“This coming week we hope to lock in one of them,” said Finkel, who added that another agreement could follow shortly thereafter.
Whether or not those fights come to fruition is anyone’s guess.
“For me, I don’t know what’s next to be honest,” Wilder concluded, adding, “We got to make the big fights happen.”