By Dan M: In a packed-out arena on the Amir Khan undercard last night, the latest outing for Deontay Wilder [26-0 – 26 KOs] was a feature, in which the Bronze Bomber once again beat what was put in front of him with an emphatic stoppage. The credibility of his opponent, Kelvin price, [13-1 – 6 KOs] is very much open to interpretation and depends largely on which side of the Wilder fence you’re on. The pro-Wilder observer would insist that their man had disposed of a world ranked opponent who was brave enough step up to the task, unlike a plethora of names in the division.
The avid critic would see things very differently, perhaps drawing attention to how the unbeaten Price had a padded record, the fact that he was a 37 year old “prospect”, and possibly even savoring the amusement of watching a 6’7″ 17 stoner / 240lber trying to box like Roy Jones JR.
In truth, the reality of the situation is probably somewhere in-between. After all, Price is not and never will be recognized by any of the world sanctioning bodies, but he did have a computerized ranking of #68 on Boxrec.com, a fair indication of his status in the heavyweight division, as well as confirmation of the fact that he is a professional who knows how to fight and that he has already enjoyed a career better than the majority of those who have the courage to step through the ropes. As for the chronic lack of solid fundamentals and such an awkward style on display, it can perhaps be forgiven with due consideration of the fact that Price has no amateur boxing background, and that he is actually trained by none other than Roy Jones Sr!
Aside from the brutal KO in the 3rd round, yet another demonstration of Wilder’s devastating one-punch KO power, it really wasn’t a bout for the purists. It was never going to be an immaculate display of pugilism with two super-heavyweights locking horns, especially taking into account that it was the first time either of them had been in with an opponent with similar physical dimensions. Price looked intimidated from the onset, immediately reaching with his jab after stepping gingerly out of his corner. Despite falling short repeatedly, Price looked to gain confidence as the round wore on and managed to outwork Wilder, just as he managed to take this semblance of momentum into round 2.
Wilder, in blatant contrast, looked relaxed and composed, perhaps even overly so since he allowed himself to be 2 rounds down going into the 3rd. It was obvious enough that Wilder could have shown more activity if he wanted to, while reasons as to why he didn’t would incite speculation. Is it a case of being mindful of how he direly needs rounds rounds to the point of carrying his opponent for a couple of rounds? Are his team trying to develop a more patient style for when he faces better competition? The least likely scenario, of course, is that he genuinely struggled to match the work-rate of his older opponent. Whatever the reason(s), this wasn’t much of a test for Wilder and an argument could be made that it looked like one of the first ten fights of a prospect’s career, not his 26th. It’s fair to say that this type of opponent, the first that could be argued as being in the top 100, should have come much sooner.
Despite his limitations, awkward posturing and a largely ineffective offense, Price had more to offer than the 25 other victims of Wilder’s, all of which are KO fodder that typically litters the early stages of a prospect’s record. How much of a detriment is it Wilder’s career that he has, until now, been fed a conveyor belt of tomato cans and has been deprived of learning fights? Most of his boxing education has been courtesy of quality sparring, but that can only take you so far. After all, sparring is supposed to be preparation for tests, not a substitution for them. Despite Wilder being 26-0, he may as well be 6-0 for all intents and purposes.
As a consequence of his matchmaking, he simply doesn’t look as seasoned as he ought to by this point. We still don’t know if he can box on the back foot, whether he can take a shot (if given the benefit of the doubt after what happened against Harold Sconiers), how he would fare against a pressure fighter, or even if he has the stamina to go the distance. He still hasn’t even been matched with stern journeymen that are virtually guaranteed to give a prospect rounds. The likes of Kevin Johnson, James Toney, and Sherman Williams, would have a good chance of dragging Wilder into the untested waters of round 5 and beyond, even if by virtue of their durability above all else.
It would be naive to presume that Wilder’s power will ensure that fights at a higher level don’t go the distance, just as it’s as baseless and premature to believe that Wilder is ready for a top 20/30 opponent. Wilder needs to be tested if he is to fulfill his potential. Fact is, there are about a dozen prospects around the world who have been in with durable opponents, reputable names, and have been tested. To add insult to injury, most of them have achieved this within half of the amount of fights that Wilder has had. Is this an indication of anything? Only time will tell. For the sake of the heavyweight division’s future Post-Klitschkos, let’s hope that Wilder is the real deal. He would be a breathe of fresh air in more ways than one, especially if he were to become a PPV draw. After his win, Wilder acknowledged criticism of his opposition and seemingly hinted at the possibility of stepping up in competition soon. Hopefully that does happen in the near future and we will finally have clarity. Until then, we simply do not know how good he currently is, let alone how good he can be.