In an explosive fight that no one predicted would go the distance, WBC Heavyweight World Champion Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs), of Las Vegas, will defend his title against unbeaten knockout specialist and No. 1 mandatory challenger Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Ala., this Saturday, Jan. 17 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
So which of the heavy-handed sluggers will be victorious in the most significant, must-see heavyweight fight in the United States in a decade?
Will it be the more experienced Stiverne, the first-ever Haiti-born boxer to own any portion of a heavyweight crown who owns two consecutive victories over Chris Arreola, prefers to let his fists do the talking and is a slight betting underdog in this one?
Or will it be the outspoken Wilder? The 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and the last American male boxer to medal in The Olympics has knocked out all 32 of his opponents and is attempting to become the first U.S.-born heavyweight champion since Shannon Briggs in November 2006.
The result of the 42 media who participated in a prediction poll favored Wilder by a razor-thin margin. The challenger was the selection of 22 experts, Stiverne the pick of 20.
How the media sees “RETURN TO GLORY: STIVERNE VERSUS WILDER”:
Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press, (Wilder): “Wilder has been fed opponents to be knocked out since he turned pro. But there’s no denying he can punch, and all he needs to do is land a few well-placed shots. I like Stiverne but believe Wilder will land those shots at some point. Wilder wins by a fourth-round TKO that could add a jolt of excitement to the heavyweight division.’’
Kevin Iole, Yahoo, (Stiverne): “I think Stiverne is a better boxer, faced better opposition and will be used to the pressure of fighting for the heavyweight title. He wins by TKO 10.”
Bill Dwyre, Los Angeles Times, (Stiverne): “Stiverne in an eighth-round TKO. Because he has been there more often in the tough ones.’’
Bob Velin, USA Today, (Wilder): “Wilder’s defense has improved, and he has more punching power than Stiverne. I think he’s going to catch Stiverne with a hard right hand that will put the champion down and out in the sixth round.’’
Gordon Marino, Wall Street Journal, (Wilder): “I am picking Wilder by a knockout before round six. The Bronze Bomber boasts extraordinary power. When he hits you, you go. And Stiverne is not difficult to tag.’’
Robert Morales, Los Angeles Daily News, (Wilder): “I’m going with Wilder by TKO in the second half of the fight. Wilder may not have a bunch of stars on his ring record, but the feeling here is that he is a legitimate knockout artist and Stiverne will be his next victim.’’
Lyle Fitzsimmons, CBS Sports, (Stiverne) – “It’s a great matchup and I’m as excited by the prospect of it as I’ve been about a fight in a long time. That said, I’m not sure it’ll be a particularly competitive one when jab comes to hook. I’d love to see Wilder become the next star of the heavyweights, but I simply haven’t seen enough so far to be convinced he’ll beat a guy as good as Stiverne has proven to be. Give me Bermane in the mid-rounds, by TKO 7.”
Ron Borges, Boston Herald, (Stiverne): “Wilder is 32-0 with 32 KOs. I don’t care who he’s been in with, that means he can punch. But can he fight if his opponent fights back? That is the unanswered question when it comes to untested heavyweights and so it is with Wilder.
Stiverne has not exactly been in with the heaviest iron either, but his path to the title has been far more difficult and he twice at least faced down (and beat up) Arreola to finally win the WBC strap. I believe Wilder will hurt Stiverne early but that is when the fight will begin not end and that will be Wilder’s undoing. Faced with a relentless opponent who can punch a bit himself, Wilder will eventually run into trouble like he’s never encountered before and, like Michael Grant a number of years ago, have no idea how to get out of it. Stiverne by TKO 10.”
DC Reeves, Tuscaloosa News, (Wilder): “This will be both Wilder and Stiverne’s toughest test by far, which may slow the action in the first couple rounds. But it’s only fitting that a fight between these two ends in a KO. Wilder will get a chance to connect that punishing right hand, and like many of the 32 opponents prior learned, it is often too much to overcome. Wilder wins by KO 6.’’
Mark Whicker, Los Angeles News Group, (Stiverne): “For Wilder, it’s difficult to go from Slippery Rock to the Southeastern Conference. Stiverne in seven.’’
Michael Rosenthal, Ring Online, (Wilder): “This is a tough one. Stiverne is the more-experienced, more-advanced fighter even though Wilder has had more pro fights. The Haitian-Canadian had a solid amateur career, worked his way up the heavyweight ranks and has had some big fights. Wilder, an Olympic medalist, also had amateur experience but is still evolving as a boxer and hasn’t faced a significant test. His principle weapon is ridiculous punching power, with which he has stopped all 32 of his opponents. I think it comes down to this: Who will land the first big punch? I have a feeling that it will be Wilder who will hurt Stiverne and finish the job. Wilder by fifth-round knockout.’’
Matthew Aguilar, El Paso Times, (Stiverne): “Wilder has some similarities to Gerry Cooney — big, powerful, exciting and undefeated. Unfortunately, he shares something else with Cooney — a lack of top-flight opposition. When your biggest win is a questionable blowout of Malik Scott, there are some questions to answer. Stiverne, while not Larry Holmes, has a profoundly better resume. That’ll help him overcome a significant size disadvantage. He’ll survive Wilder’s early-rounds assault to hand Alabama its second big loss of the year, flattening Deontay in the seventh.”
Damian Calhoun, Orange County Register, (Stiverne): “This should be an explosive fight for as long as it lasts. Wilder certainly has the KO power to end a fight early as his 32 knockouts can attest. However, he hasn’t faced a fighter as complete as Stiverne. Stiverne will have to get inside to offset the reach advantage of Wilder. Once that happens, he does a good job diversifying his attack, upstairs and to the body. In the end, look for him to defeat Wilder by late stoppage.’’
Martin Rogers, USA Today, (Wilder): “This is clearly Wilder’s biggest test to date but I think his power is the real deal and that more big things lay ahead. I’ll take him to win by KO 5.’’
Colin Hart, The Sun, London (Wilder): “Wilder will knock out Stiverne in round three. It would put America firmly back on the heavyweight map. It would also mean Wilder hasn’t got a china chin.”
Lem Satterfield, Ring Online, (Wilder): “I expect the 6-foot-7 Wilder to fight tall in this fight and to use his athleticism to remain at a distance, allowing him room to maneuver the 6-foot-3 Stiverne into long-range shots. If Wilder hasn’t learned how to clinch — and there is no sure way of knowing that based on his fights — that could spell trouble for him if Stiverne is able to land flush. But I think that Wilder will employ the experience gained from past sparring sessions with Wladimir Klitschko, as well as that from his 6-foot-2 co-trainer, Mark Breland, a former Olympic gold medalist and welterweight champion. Wilder wins by KO 6.”
Norm Frauenheim, The Ring/15rounds.com (Wilder): “Wilder wins by KO 4: A smaller Stiverne wins if his better skillset takes the fight beyond the sixth round, but he won’t get there because Wilder’s proven power will land very early and leave him open for a KO shot before the halfway point.’’
Kelsey McCarson, Bleacher Report, (Wilder): “I like Wilder by knockout in round 6. While it’s true Wilder hasn’t faced anyone the caliber of Stiverne yet in his career, it’s also true that Stiverne hasn’t ever faced someone as talented as Wilder. Wilder is big, strong and an incredible athlete. Moreover, he was brought along slowly by manager Jay Deas and trainer Mark Breland so that he could work on the finer points of the sweet science. He’s improved much over the last couple of years, and I think he’s primed to become a significant force in the heavyweight division.’’
Ken Miller, Los Angeles Sentinel, (Stiverne): “I know that Wilder has an unblemished record and is represented by the powerful Al Haymon, but he’s just an amateur masquerading as a professional heavyweight. All of a sudden his boisterous bold predictions of what he will do to Stiverne has dwindled to raspy whispers and on Jan. 17 at the MGM Grand they will go silent when he tumbles to the canvas within five rounds. Stiverne by resounding KO.’’
Jeff Powell, Daily Mail UK, (Wilder): “Stiverne will have to settle for the satisfaction of being the first heavyweight to take the Alabama banger beyond four rounds, but the weight of America’s expectations will be behind what is already the heaviest punch in boxing. Wilder by sixth-round knockout.’’
Tim Smith, Co-Host Going The Distance, Sirius XM Radio, (Wilder): “Wilder wins by fifth-round TKO. I think Wilder’s untested chin will hold up long enough for him to unleash his own bombs.’’
Steve Kim, Undisputed Network Live, (Stiverne): “I think Wilder is certainly a natural puncher but I like the seasoning and experience of Stiverne to steadily wear down Wilder and win by mid-to-late KO.’’
Karl Freitag, Fightnews.com, (Wilder): “On Jan. 17, we’ll find out whether Wilder is real or not when he steps up in class to challenge WBC champion Stiverne. How big of a step up is it? Setting aside his two fights with Chris Arreola, Stiverne’s resume isn’t that much different than Wilder’s and the champ has been kayoed by journeyman Demetrious King and fought to a draw with journeyman Charles Davis. It says here that Wilder is real enough to go to 33-0, 33 KOs and take home the WBC belt.’’
Anson Wainwright, Ring Online, (Stiverne): “Very interesting fight; we don’t really know what Wilder is made of, this is a huge step-up fight for him. He has the power to knock anyone out but rumors persist about his chin and we don’t know about his stamina. That said, I’m going with the tried and tested Stiverne, who may have to see his way through a couple of dicey moments early on but I see him clipping Wilder by the mid rounds and forcing the stoppage. Stiverne wins by TKO 5.’’
Mohammed Mubarak, Electronic Urban Report (eurweb.com), (Stiverne): “This is going to be the biggest test in Wilder’s career as he’s going against a real puncher who can also take a punch. Although he does have an impressive ring record with all knockouts and is undefeated, everyone knows this guy hasn’t been put in deep water yet as none of his fights have gone past four rounds. On the other hand, Stiverne is a real puncher who knows how to fight a tall guy as we saw in his two bouts with Arreola. Stiverne by knockout.’’
Armando Alvarez, Telemundo Sports, (Wilder): “This should be an entertaining heavyweight fight, and we all know the division is in need of one. Wilder is the Great American Hope for the maximum division in the sport, and he should claim a world title against Stiverne. It won’t be easy though. Stiverne has enough skills to give the taller Wilder trouble. He has solid movement for a big man, and can throw from several angles. Midway through the fight I think Wilder’s power, height and reach will become a major problem for Stiverne as he begins to slow. Eventually Wilder will catch Stiverne and drop him once, twice, or a few times en route to a TKO victory in the sixth.’’
Percy Crawford, FightHype.com, (Stiverne): “I have to go with the guy that has dealt with some adversity and resistance during his career. I think it has come way too easy for Wilder at this stage in the game and Stiverne will be able to capitalize on some mistakes made by Wilder and his lack of experience with high level competition. Stiverne by TKO 7.’’
Matt Richardson, Fightnews.com, (Stiverne): “I am super excited for this fight for one reason: it all but guarantees a good, old-fashioned heavyweight slugfest. Someone is definitely getting knocked out. And while I think it would be better for boxing if Wilder — a heavy-hitting, American Olympian who actually comes in shape — won the fight, I don’t think he will. There has to be a reason why he has fought so many Tijuana cab drivers and that’s probably because he has a Michael Grant-level chin. Against Stiverne that will be evident pretty quickly. Maybe I’m wrong and Wilder will be the next big American heavyweight star but I don’t think I will be. Stiverne will win an exciting fight, definitely by knockout, probably within four rounds.’’
Gunnar Meinhardt, Die Welt/Welt am Sonntag (Germany), (Stiverne): “Stiverne wins by eighth-round knockout. He has more experience and is the harder puncher.’’
Michael Woods, Sweet Science, (Stiverne): “One guy is green. The other isn’t. I will like the chances of the man who has proved he can handle solid pros, Stiverne, until if and when Wilder shows me his power works against solid pugilists, of which Stiverne is. I like Stiverne to take Wilder deep and show him his resume wasn’t a proper prep for this opportunity.’’
James Slater, Fightnews.com, (Wilder): “This is the acid test for Wilder. His power is frightening but we don’t know how well he takes a good shot himself. Also, how will Wilder’s stamina hold up if the more experienced Stiverne can take him into the later rounds? It looks like Wilder’s fight early, Stiverne’s late. I go for Wilder to score another sizzling KO inside five rounds.”
Marcus Villegas, The Boxing Channel/Fight Hub TV, (Stiverne): “I expect a very good and exciting fight. Power is always the X factor in any fight but I feel Stiverne is a very overlooked and underrated heavyweight. He is solid in a lot areas and I feel that can put him over in the fight. Wilder, as always, has power as his wild card but I do not expect this fight to go the full 12 rounds.’’
Tony Paige, WFAN Radio, (Wilder): “Wilder by early KO.”
John Raspanti, Maxboxing.com, (Stiverne): “I see this as a 50-50 fight. Is Stiverne’s chin strong enough to absorb Wilder’s shots? Will Wilder fade if he’s forced to go into the later rounds? I’m going with Stiverne to hang tough and stop Wilder late.’’
Miguel Maravilla, FightNews.com, (Wilder): “This will definitely be an explosive, exciting heavyweight fight reminiscent of the 70’s, 80,’s, and 90’s. Both fighters have a high KO percentage and promise to bring it. I see Wilder’s height and reach being a problem for Stiverne, who will be coming at the taller Wilder setting himself up for a stoppage. Wilder by stoppage 5th or 6th round.’’
Steve Haywood, ESPN Wisconsin, (Wilder): “The first left hook that connects will set the fighter up to win the fight and I think that will be Wilder with his size and reach.’’
Ariel Shnerer, Fight Network, (Wilder): “Wilder is the far more physically imposing specimen and he’ll enjoy a sizeable height and reach advantage over the reigning champion. Stiverne packs significant power, but Wilder’s technical expertise will carry him throughout the fight. The heavy-handed challenger has never been taken into deep water, having finished all 32 of his foes inside four rounds, but he should rise to the occasion, keeping Stiverne at bay by working behind a stiff, long jab. He’ll put on a boxing clinic before punctuating the most impressive win of his career with a showcase of raw power, as he stops Stiverne with a potent combination in the fourth round.”
David Finger, Fightnews.com (Wilder): “The thing about Stiverne is that he really raises his game to another level against top level opposition, and I feel Wilder is hands down the best fighter he has ever stepped into the ring against. So we will be seeing the Stiverne who fought Arreola as opposed to the one who struggled with Willie Herring and Charles Davis. There is no way Stiverne will come into this fight mentally unprepared. That said, I really think there is something special about Wilder. Although some have questioned the caliber of his opposition, nobody is questioning his punching power. I think we will see a new superstar explode onto the scene on Jan. 17. Wilder by fifth round TKO.’’
Damon Bingham, Undisputed Champion Network, (Stiverne): “I think Stiverne is battle tested whereas Wilder hasn’t had top competition. I think Stiverne is stronger.
Nick Chamberlain, SaddoBoxing.com, (Stiverne): “Stiverne looked good twice against Arreola, and although on the downward spiral, Arreola is still the best fighter on either Stiverne’s or Wilder’s resume. It would be pretty safe to assume that Wilder will look to use his height and reach advantage, stay on the outside and pick Stiverne off with the jab. Stiverne has gone into the second half of a 12-round fight on more than one occasion, and has stoppages there, while Wilder hasn’t gone past the fourth. Stiverne will go through the gears as the fight progresses and stop Wilder in the late rounds.’’
Corey Quincy, Boxing World Magazine/Ringnews24.com, (Stiverne): “Uncertainty leads me to pick Stiverne. Stiverne battled through all that Arreola could throw at him, while Wilder has yet to acquire such a win on his resume. I don’t know how he will cope when Stiverne lands his right hand. I also don’t know how he’ll cope with Stiverne’s counter-punching and veteran dexterity. He’s powerful, grizzled, but also very tricky in the ring — an awfully dangerous puzzle to solve without prior experience in doing so. Don’t blink! Stiverne TKO 5 over Wilder.’’
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