By Michael Rosenthal
Some people I respect talk about Deontai Wilder, as if he violated the holiness of the traditional division of sport.
"The worst boxer in history among heavyweight champions," said one of Wilder, who defends his WBC title against Dominique Braisale on Saturday in Brooklyn. "The raw boxer at best," other, more generous observers said. "Everything he has is the power of drilling," is another common refrain.
Like most opinions, these are at least slight exaggerations. It is true that Wilder has limited skills, which is no surprise given that he starts boxing at 20 years. And yes, his power is his less secret weapon.
This is a sign that he is also a good athlete (especially for his 6-foot-7 shot) who uses any boxing skills to adjust the knocks he has given 39 knockouts in 40 wins. Surely he does something right. As Wilder's former adversary, Gerald Washington, told me, "You can not argue with his resume."
And it is not as if he has faced challenges such as those in the heavyweight these days. Last year, Wilder took over two of the most respected active big men, Louis Ortiz and Tyson Fury. He stopped the first in an exciting brawl that tested his stamina, his best victory, and he was lucky enough to get a draw in the final battle.
Wilder has also tried to fight with his most natural rival, Anthony Joshua. If there is a benevolent boxing god that struggle will happen one day soon.
Critics will quote his performance against Fury as an example of Wilder's inability. The WBC captain succeeded in killing Fury in the ninth and twelfth rounds – the second time in a brutal way – but otherwise it was removed by the more skilled fighter.
It would be hard to protect Wilder. He was fighting Fury. I remember telling someone with aversion immediately after what I thought was a boring battle to Nockdown: "Man, Wilder has only stepped up everything critics say about him. That was a really bad look for him. "
One thing, however, was: Fury dominated the great (but outdated) Vladimir Klitschko more deeply than Wilder. The point is, Fury, a remarkable athlete and a superb boxer of his size, has the ability to make everyone look bad, as long as he stays on his feet. This could include Joshua one day.
And Wilder has an explanation, if you will, for his performance: He was trying too hard to kill the Fury. After stopping, the Noddauns arrived-and almost knocked.
That's exactly what Eric Molina saw, another victim of Wilder.
"One thing about Wilder when he's trying hard to throw his right hand, you see it coming," Molina said. "He was desperate to kill Fury. Fury is too slippery for the big blows (Wilder). He saw that they were coming. In order to land on the Fury, you have to throw clean, precise photos that are tuned to a different rhythm. Those were the blows that landed at last.
"I think Wilder knows this now. In the offshoot he kills Fury in six to eight rounds. "
Wilder's ultimate line is that he can hurt any heavy heavy, even when he's fighting. It takes only one stroke for his power. This is the main reason for his success. That's why it's fun to watch, at least for most of us.
If you want your biggest curtains to be special boxers, then Wilder is not for you. I understand. I preferred the memorable series between Marco Antonio Barrera and Eric Morales with Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward, because the Mexicans combined action with a higher level of skill.
But I, like a million others, enjoyed the Gati-Ward battles. I accepted the fact that none of them had smoothed their skills and focused on the convincing chaos they had produced, which was something to be seen.
That's more or less how I treat Wilder. I accept the fact that he is not a very good boxer and focuses on what he brings in the ring – crazy knockouts.
I will always admire the sublime technicians like Floyd Mayweather, but a knockout artist like Wilder takes on the initial desire for a complete war. In other words, fans want knockouts and Wilder delivers them. Just like this.
Wilder probably will never be considered one of the best in history because of his flaws, but he does two things: he wins and entertains. This is something.
Michael Rosenthal is the winner of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism by the Boxers Association of 2018. He has been boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for nearly three decades. Follow it at @mrosenthal_box.