Leading Off

Heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder will save American boxing

AP

The Fight of the Century between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao earlier this month failed to live up to the hype about as miserably as old daredevil Evel Knievel’s jump over Snake River Canyon in a homemade rocket in 1974.

What boxing needed May 2 was a great fight between great champions, a memorable night that would rejuvenate a sport that has seemingly been locked in a submission hold by Ultimate Fighting Championship and its president, Dana White.

Like many boxing fans, I’m done wasting my time and money watching Mayweather run circles inside a square ring, jabbing and sticking his way to lopsided wins. I’m done with Pacquiao talking tough but putting more effort into his wannabe singing career than the heavy bag.

But I’m not done with boxing.

That’s because of Deontay Wilder.

Who?

Most boxing fans don’t know Wilder or what he’s accomplished.

But Wilder, 29, is the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion. He dethroned Haitian-born Bermane Stiverne of Canada in January to become the first American WBC heavyweight champ since Hasim Rahman in 2006.

Wilder is 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds of thunder from Tuscaloosa, Ala. He won a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and is 33-0 with 32 knockouts as a pro. To see Wilder work in a ring is like watching a wrecking ball take on drywall. The results are devastating.

After American heavyweight champs Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield faded, boxing had a good run with the lightweight, welterweight and middleweight divisions. But those divisions seem to be washed up. Wilder’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time.

Most boxing observers recognize only Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko as the true heavyweight champion. But at 39, the champion’s reign is ending.

It’s been a long time since a heavyweight championship fight was on pay-per-view. But when Wilder eventually takes on Klitschko for the unified heavyweight title, it will be worth my time and money.

Playbook

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ON THIS DATE

May 12, 1970: The Chicago Cubs’ Ernie Banks hits his 500th career home run against Atlanta’s Pat Jarvis in the Cubs’ 4-3 victory at Wrigley Field.

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