Boxing prides itself on its sweet science. With its feinted feints, its rattle-blind-finish jab melees, its ring IQ, its southpaw-orthodox alternating, its reliance on tempering ferocity with discipline.
Fascination and fandom surrounding Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury stems partly from their mastery of such, some of which Anthony Joshua strived and struggled to mirror in September’s title-surrendering defeat to the Ukrainian at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Vasyl Lomachenko similarly compels with his movement and mechanics, Andre Ward governed the super-middleweight division with clinics in distancing and ring control, Floyd Mayweather Jr built an era-leading career on blistering counter-punching and arguably the greatest bob-and-weave defense in history.
Boxing’s technicians are applauded and admired for the way they gloss brutality with guile.
But sometimes there is plain old thunderous, self-nurtured punch power. Sometimes there is Deontay Wilder, whose plan-wrecking fists remain one of the sport’s hottest and most exclusive tickets in town, and will continue to do so until the day he hangs up his gloves.
It seems that day will be coming no time soon after the 36-year-old underlined his intentions to return to the ring in a bid to retrieve his world champion status.
“I can’t stop right now. I must continue with my journey,” said Wilder at the unveiling of a life-size statue of him in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama this week. “I love you guys so much. I can’t end it like this. This journey’s not over with. I must continue my journey.”
What ‘The Bronze Bomber’ might lack in finesse compared to those around him at the top of the heavyweight division he has often compensated for with the most devastating knockout threat in the heavyweight division.
Fury treated him with the respect he warranted by hiring trainer Sugarhill Steward to help unlock his own knockout wrinkle capable of thwarting the American, knowing stopping him meant grounding him, knowing trying to stop him meant fireworks.
Behind Fury himself, the Gypsy King’s sixth-round knockout win over Dillian Whyte at Wembley reflected on nobody as positively as it did on Wilder, who downed the WBC champion four times across their trilogy, whereas Whyte endured a night of frustration.
In the face of turbulence against a stern Luis Ortiz he turned up the notch to out-muscle the Cuban, and shattered Dominic Breazeale’s best-laid evasive plans in one round with a perfect right hand that few could live with.
Boxing is better off when it can offer Wilder’s explosiveness to change any fight with one punch, and for the thorn he poses as to other title-chasing heavyweights. He has never strayed from his identity, and while it might not always have paid off, it makes for one of combat sport’s box-office entertainers.
Wilder has not fought since his 11th-round knockout defeat to Fury in the third meeting of their trilogy last October, after which he was required to undergo hand surgery.
Despite successive losses he remains the No 1-ranked contender in the WBC rankings, with World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman recently confirming to Sky Sports that Wilder could fight for the vacant belt were Fury to retire.
“He’s taking it easy, he’s weighing up his plans for the future, he had a very busy reign as a champion, two knockout losses to Fury, difficult but he’s matured and he’s doing very well,” Sulaiman added. “He’s having a good time with his wife, he’s enjoying life but I’m sure he’ll be back.
“He’s one of those fighters that you rarely see in the ring that has the ability to knock somebody out with one punch and he has had many exciting fights. He’s a great fighter and great person.
“I’m sure he will fight this year.”
Wilder currently sits 42-2-1 in his career having successfully defended his WBC title 10 times during his five-year reign as heavyweight champion, bettering that of the great Muhammed Ali, Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko and Joe Frazier, all of whom claimed nine winning defences.
Defeat to Fury was not everything and there are coveted fights still to be made, among those potentially being a heavy-handed throw-down with Whyte amid his own continued pursuit of a world title.
While the Brixton fighter has his sights set on avenging losses to both Fury and Joshua, he is also seemingly open to what beckons as a lucrative Wilder contest.
“I still want to fight the best,” Whyte told Sky Sports last month. “Listen, win, lose or draw on Saturday, I would have a few more fights against the best guys and then retire. I still want to do the same thing. Nothing has changed.
“I don’t know what Wilder is doing. I just need to come back and I want to fight everyone I lost to again and try to avenge my losses.”
As far as flying fists and street-fighter grit goes, it teases the traits of a thriller with similarities to that of Whyte’s two wars against Derek Chisora.
The winner of Joseph Parker and Joe Joyce’s eventual clash looms as another option, though one perhaps for further down the line given the fight’s delay; Andy Ruiz Jr could move into the picture as a logical in-house domestic after his scheduled August bout against Ortiz; and the promoter of Otto Wallin, whose claim to fame is leaving a cut to Fury’s eye in 2019, has expressed the Swede’s interest in going head-to-head with Wilder.
Elsewhere, unbeaten Jared Anderson is awaiting his first high-profile challenge, with promoter Bob Arum suggesting in January that the 22-year-old will be the “one guy equipped to beat” Wilder by the end of this year.
Usyk, meanwhile, presents an intriguing Fury-like challenge with similar sleight of hand but inferior size, and Joshua might be one of the few capable of challenging Wilder’s power, the availability of both, however, likely dependent on whether Fury seeks out the winner of their rematch for an undisputed bonanza.
A title-less Wilder remains one of boxing’s primary attractions, and his post-Fury chapter might be the most exciting yet.
Few will want a piece of Wilder, most will need a piece of Wilder if they wish to reach the top.