Heavyweight entertainer Deontay Wilder will be dangerous until the end

The American has dynamite in his right hand but his vulnerability offers hope to Joseph Parker when they meet in Saudi Arabia on December 23

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They say you learn more in defeat than you do in victory. Not in the case of Deontay Wilder.

That’s not to denigrate the former WBC heavyweight champion, more a straightforward appraisal of an individual whose almost evangelical self-belief means that even being humbled twice by Tyson Fury could not put a dent in his formidable psyche. If anything, it made it stronger.

Whereas Anthony Joshua’s reaction to defeats by Andy Ruiz and Oleksandr Usyk was introspection and a sincere desire to investigate the root cause of the setbacks, Wilder’s response to adversity was to double down on everything he is as a fighter, and everything he stands for as a person.

And that's the Wilder who will face the New Zealander Joseph Parker in Riyadh on Saturday night. Same as the old one.

Athletes are capable of all sorts of mental gymnastics to square away defeat. Anything and everyone could be to blame, just not them. The ego must survive intact if the relentless pursuit of victory is to resume.

In Wilder's case, in the aftermath of defeat by Fury in February 2020, the first of his career, he really did blame anything and everyone.

The elaborate costume he wore to ring left him limp, his cornerman Mark Breland betrayed him, Fury had removed the padding from his gloves, Fury had egg weights inside his gloves … As time went by, the conspiracy theories became ever more egregious, and Wilder indulged pretty much all of them.

There simply had to be some nefarious reason for the "Bronze Bomber", at that point 42-0-1 with 40 knockouts, to lose in such a fashion.

Of course, there wasn’t. He just ran into Fury, one of very few heavyweights with the rare combination of the size required to push him back and the skill to avoid, for the most part, his dynamite right hand. The "Gypsy King" then repeated the feat in their trilogy fight 18 months later.

Not that those defeats did anything to harm Wilder's confidence. When you have a 98 per cent knockout ratio, the highest in heavyweight history, a certain degree of self-regard is probably to be expected. Wilder has fought once since. Laying out cold Robert Helenius in less than a round.

His mantra is that he only needs a second. Given his technical shortcomings he may lose every round – he sometimes does – but once that right hand connects, it’s game over. Usually, it is.

There will come a day when he can no longer pull the trigger on a punch reckoned by some to be the most destructive in the history of heavyweight boxing, but we are yet to see it.

At 38 years old and almost 50 fights deep, it would not be controversial to suggest Wilder is in the final stretch of his colourful career, but while he is here, heavyweight boxing is much the better for it.

And with Saudi Arabia now effectively bankrolling the division and seeking bang for its buck, who better to send for than the sport's foremost knockout artist?

Against Luis Ortiz and Fury, Wilder was shown to be as vulnerable as he is dangerous, and when this era of heavyweight boxing is concluded and its most entertaining fights considered, he will feature heavily on any list.

He may not have long left, he's fought just one round in 26 months, lost two of his last three, and is fighting outside America for the first time in 10 years – but absolutely none of that will faze the flamboyant giant from Alabama with the impenetrable psyche and the ability to end a fight in the blink of an eye.

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Updated: December 22, 2023, 6:12 PM