This was meant to be the year.
Tyson Fury’s superb display in a split-decision draw against WBC Heavyweight World Champion Deontay Wilder was in many ways the perfect result.
Fury remains the lineal champion, which is ultimately owed to his 2015 victory over Wladimir Klitchsko. His subsequent 30 month hiatus followed by two tune-up wins and a that draw against Wilder seals that claim.
Anthony Joshua has been the pre-eminent heavyweight since Fury’s disappearance, he holds three of the four belts and has skittled all before him.
Wilder still has his belt meanwhile making a potentially phenomenal round robin of heavyweight match-ups.
Unfortunately, this is boxing.
All three are fighting for different promotions, all three have now booked themselves fights against what has to be considered the second tier in the heavyweight division.
First up of the three is Wilder.
The Trouble with Breazeale
Dominic Breazeale would likely have been much better received had Wilder not had a fight for the ages with Fury.
A fighter with plenty of pedigree, he has physical gifts and a teak-tough mentality. Unfortunately, this is a fight nearly nobody (aside from Breazeale) wanted to see.
On paper the Californian fighter is near enough the best available outside the ‘big three’. A former Olympian, Breazeale came to boxing late at the age of 23. It’s fairly remarkable he is where he is on that basis alone.
His pro record, as with many American fighters, is full of wins, knockouts, and unimpressive opponents.
That being said, since dispatching Fred Kassi in Birmingham in 2015, he’s not ducked tough contests.
Breazeale had an undefeated run that led him to a Word Title contest against Anthony Joshua in 2016. It was then, that his limitations were brutally exposed. The American was entirely outclassed by a Joshua, who many believed at the time, was technically deficient.
That perception was unkind to Joshua, and in going seven rounds with the division’s best, Breazeale proved his mettle at the very least.
From a boxing perspective, that was Breazeale near his worst. I actually think he looked just as bad, if not worse in beating an atrocious Eric Molina six months later.
He’s a come-forward fighter, one that does not take a backward step, and he has concussive power.
This clip of his most recent win against Carlos Negron shows him at his best, and that he carries power in to the later rounds.
Dominic ‘Trouble’ Breazeale has a chin, stamina, power, and goes in to the ring against Deontay Wilder as a live underdog.
There’s very little that Deontay Wilder can do when the bell rings on Saturday night to enhance his reputation.
Unless he unpacks a technical boxing masterclass followed by an explosive knockout, most will dismiss a prospective win over Breazeale as a tune-up.
Wilder can however, lose it all. And when I say lose it all, I mean losing a title-rematch with Fury and a unification bout with Joshua would add up to a stratospheric loss in earnings. He needs to keep that WBC strap at all costs.
And to be fair, he’s quite likely to do so.
Another who was late to boxing, Wilder won an Olympic bronze just three years after taking up the sport. That is phenomenal.
The Alabama native has always been considered an incomplete fighter. His team have been aware of this more than anyone, he was sent down a professional path of fighting gimme-fights, more so than Breazeale.
Wilder had 32 fights before reaching world level. He then fought Bermane Stiverne for the WBC belt. Stiverne took him the distance for the first time in his career. Wilder had five defences and set about righting what he perceived to be a wrong. Stiverne never saw the second round in their rematch.
Deontay Wilder's knockout of Bermane Stiverne in Round 1. Ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/q1PAhAUlTo
— The New FERRARI SHEPPARD (@stopbeingfamous) November 5, 2017
His footwork and cooridination has long been criticised. However, to go 12 rounds with Tyson Fury, admittedly 12 frustrated rounds, will stand to him. It shows too that he can get his power shots off against the very best boxers in the division. As witnessed by his 95 per cent knockout rate, he only needs one shot to win a fight.
His savage combination in the twelfth in that fight also dispelled the myth that Deontay Wilder might lose his power in later rounds. He carries fight-ending muscle from start to finish.
There are a number of factors in Breazeale’s favour for this bout.
Wilder is a much poorer fighter when on his back foot. The defending champion typically stalks his opponent with low-volume jabs, all to set up the venomous right.
That lack of volume will allow his opponent to walk Wilder down. Breazeale never took a backward step against an Anthony Joshua that was teeing off on Breazeale’s head for seven rounds. He still applied constant pressure.
Wilder was caught and hurt by Luiz Ortiz when trying to box on the back foot, and this could be the key to a Breazeale win.
Ultimately there’s too much that needs to go right for the challenger who more often than not looks an ineffective fighter at this level.
I see the defending champion struggling with the Breazeale puzzle until the later rounds, and then, as has happened in 39 of his 41 bouts, a knockout.
The WBC champ is an avoidable 1/8 in the match betting, Breazeale can be backed at 5/1 to win the bout.
I have given consideration to a shock Breazeale win, but ultimately, I can’t see him maintaining his defences for the duration of their 12 round encounter. Better fighters have tried and failed against Wilder in that respect.
I’m looking towards a Deontay Wilder knockout in rounds 10, 11, or 12 at a big price of 6/1.
Following on from that, I would also take some the 6/5 available for the fight to go over 8.5 rounds.
A more conservative lean on my angle would be to back a Wilder KO in rounds 7, 8, or 9 at 7/2.