The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday June 15th

Whatever Trevor: Boxing just got Wilder

I don’t even like boxing, to tell the truth.

The sport itself has been in a steady decline over the past several decades, with many fans jumping ship from the seemingly dying sport. There are many reasons for the fall of boxing: many have come to recognize the hazards that bashing in skulls presents, thus criticizing the harmful violence of the sport. Despite the likes of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson dominating the sport and captivating headlines from the 1960s through the 1990s, they were but two bright spots in a sport that had few dominant athletes. Other sports have surpassed boxing in popularity, with professional baseball, football and basketball currently jockeying for American sport supremacy.

The biggest aspect of boxing’s downfall, at least in my eyes, is that the sport is honestly pretty boring.

Today, when people think of boxing, they likely picture Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who’s known for dancing throughout different weight classes (and also in the ring) en route to an untouchable 50-0 record. He’s a great boxer, for sure (person, not so much), but his aging style presented a parallel to the declining sport: at first a dominant explosive fighter, Mayweather turned into a defensive tactician, often taking a set of 12 uneventful rounds to finish victorious.

Is this style effective? At a micro, individual level, of course. With less and less power as he aged, he decided to become possibly the greatest defensive fighter the sport had ever seen, using precision and timing to rack up points in order to often win overwhelmingly by decision.

But, at a macro level, not so great: people typically want to see power-punching and all-out brawls, not a man running around the ring, dodging punches constantly; and when this is the face of a sport with few stars left, that presents a huge problem.

Yet, on Saturday, Nov. 4, the sport may have received a much-needed jolt of excitement — at least for one night, anyway.

In a heavyweight bout between Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne, viewers tuned in to what should have been two massive human beings — Wilder stands at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds; Stiverne at 6-foot-2, 254 pounds — battering one another with vicious jabs, hooks and power punches.

Viewers didn’t get that.

Fights are supposed to be competitive. I don’t think Stiverne got the memo.

Instead, Wilder sent a flurry of power punches toward Stiverne’s way during the final 52 seconds of the first round (yes, the damn opening round), knocking his opponent down twice before ultimately putting him to sleep.

It was utter dominance, in every sense of the word. Stiverne stood no chance, literally, getting absolutely pummeled by the most ferocious barrage of punches that I’ve ever seen. (Caveat: I don’t watch much boxing, so it’s not like I’ve seen many punches anyway.)

And it was exhilarating.

Dominance in sports has proven to be an attention-grabber, despite the long-held belief that competitive games should be better. Dominance is a recurring theme in sports, and it’s always led to increased viewership and popularity: the New York Yankees ruling over baseball throughout the 20th century, the Boston Celtics winning nonstop during the 1960s, Michael Jordan terrorizing the NBA during the 1990s, the New England Patriots winning multiple championships through the 2000s, Tiger Woods reinvigorating the game of golf and the current Golden State Warriors squad featuring multiple MVPs and All-NBA players.

So, competition is fine, dominance is just better. And, damn, did Wilder dominate Stiverne in the ring.

As the opening round reaching a minute remaining, Wilder increased his intensity tenfold, or infinity-fold, if that’s even a word. At the 52 second mark, Wilder landed a quick two-hit combo to Stiverne’s chin, completely knocking him off his feet.

After taking his sweet time to get back up, Stiverne puckered his lips and shook his head, trying to play off the fact that he was probably about to cry act as if he wasn’t impressed.

I don’t think Wilder liked that. Like, at all. Not one bit.

After the referee checked to make sure Stiverne was able and ready to continue the fight, Stiverne slowly walked back to the center of the ring to face Wilder, and proceeded to ready himself by raising his fists and getting into a defensive stance. He was, for some insane reason, ready to continue the fight.

But Wilder just stood there, staring through Stiverne’s soul in such a menacing fashion that I’m pretty sure meant that he was going to murder Stiverne. 

As the clock hit 30 seconds, Wilder began his next onslaught, landing a four-piece of power punches, quickly sending Stiverne right back down to the ground. Again slow to regain his footing, Stiverne turned away from the referee once he was upright, placed his hands on his hips and shook his head. (Stiverne lost to Wilder back in 2015. He sure as hell should’ve known what he was getting himself into, but alas.)

The referee promptly asked him if he was ready to continue and if his brain wasn’t leaking through his skull, to which he replied (according to my expert lip-reading skills), “I’m good.”

He was not good, nor any synonym of whatever word means “not bad.”

The instant the referee waved over to Wilder for the fight to continue with eight seconds remaining in the opening round, Wilder left his corner, rushed Stiverne and landed God-knows-how-many punches on Stiverne, completely knocking him out, with the referee getting dragged momentarily by the enraged Wilder in an attempt to stop the murder fight.

Stiverne was slumped over, barely conscious, and Wilder was victorious yet again, leaving social media ecstatic over such a display of unstoppable dominance and fury.

It was a damn good fight, especially so for those who admire pure athletic dominance. I certainly enjoyed the short highlights on Twitter, thinking to myself, “Damn, that probably hurt a lot.”

Another thought puzzled me, though.

If you fight for a living — hell, even if you don’t — and you’re set to fight a man whose last name is literally the word wilder:

Just turn around and run. It’s not going to be pretty. 

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