Deontay Wilder: Is American boxing's biggest puncher?

Mike Costello says Deontay Wilder is the biggest puncher he has seen in his lifetime
Mike Costello says Deontay Wilder is the biggest puncher he has seen in his lifetime

Deontay Wilder's ruthless knockout of Luis Ortiz has seen him branded a "genius" by a BBC Radio 5 Live Boxing team who think he just might be the most fearsome puncher for a generation.

The American defended his WBC world heavyweight title for the 10th time by stopping Ortiz seven rounds into a bout the Cuban had dominated.

The nature of the winning punch sent social media into overdrive, while Wilder claimed he was the "hardest-hitting puncher in boxing history".

So is he? And are those who say his power compensates for a lack of ring craft off the mark?

'Goodnight written all over it'

A graphic
Only Tyson Fury in 2018 and Bermane Stiverne in 2015 have taken Wilder to points

Wilder had lost five of the first six rounds on two of the judges' scorecards, and was 4-2 down on the other, when he thrust a right hand through Ortiz's guard to end the Las Vegas contest. He remains undefeated in 43 bouts, with 42 wins - 41 via knockout.

BBC Sport boxing correspondent Mike Costello: "The most attractive and compelling aspect of this sport is the knockout punch. Wherever you may rank Wilder in the history of knockout artists, we are living in the era of one of the great all-time punchers in this sport.

"He had barely landed a clean punch and then that right hand. To quote what the referee, Mills Lane, once said about Mike Tyson: 'It had goodnight written all over it.'"

BBC Radio 5 Live boxing analyst Steve Bunce: "By midway in the seventh, hand on heart, I didn't think he was going to do it. He loses the first five rounds, kind of half wins the sixth, starts the seventh badly and I could not see that punch coming.

"Knocking out people is an art. You can cuff people, whatever. Part of the artistry is you punch way through the target. The intended target for that right hand was about 12 inches or more the other side of Ortiz. No man can stand that. No beast could stand that."

The biggest puncher ever?

Graphic showing Wilder's 95% knockout percentage compared with other heavyweights - Anthony Joshua 91%, Rocky Marciano 88%, Vitali Klitschko 87%, George Foreman 84%
Wilder's knockout rate betters a selection of heavyweights including George Foreman and Vitali Klitschko

Wilder, known as "The Bronze Bomber", was described as the biggest puncher in boxing history by Tyson Fury's trainer Ben Davison in the aftermath of his win over Ortiz. Fury's rematch against Wilder is set for 22 February, so is Davison right to say "The Gypsy King" will again share the ring with a man packing power the sport has not seen before?

Costello: "Edwin Valero, a Venezuelan lightweight, may argue otherwise given he had 27 knockouts from 27 bouts - but if we just look at heavyweights, Wilder's knockout rate is 95%. Mike Tyson was 75%, George Foreman 84%, Vitali Klitshcko 87% - Wilder is out on his own. Yes, you can argue about opposition, but he continues to find the chin.

"He is the biggest puncher I have seen in my lifetime. The way I weigh it up is the reaction of his beaten opponents. When Ortiz hit the canvas he looked up with an expression on his face as if to say: 'Where did that come from?'

"To be mentioned alongside Tyson and Foreman illustrates how we are in the company of a very special puncher."

Bunce: "The man is a single-punch genius. He's more than a freak. It's not luck, he means everything he does.

"If you analyse his 11 world title fights and put them against other people's runs, the big lad is walking with giants and more than holding his own."

More than just a puncher...

Wilder has been criticised for a lack of ring craft and pure boxing skill, despite holding a world title for almost five years. Former world champion Tony Bellew posted on social media to say any lack of skill "doesn't matter", while Wilder's former promoter Lou DiBella called for an end to the talking down of the Alabama fighter's abilities.

Costello: "He moved Ortiz around, put his feet into place and drove through with the right hand. Having had so little success, he was still ready for when the opportunity came.

"Our background in the sport is in the amateur code. He went to the Olympics in 2008 three years after taking up boxing. That is a feat in itself. He gets beaten by the Italian Clemente Russo at the Games, a man who beats Oleksandr Usyk. So there is amateur form there that suggests there is some pedigree.

"As a pro he has taken on Tyson Fury and Luis Ortiz, two of the most skilled operators in the heavyweight division right now - supposedly the two most unsuitable opponents for a man who can't fight.

"Not everybody fought stellar opposition in every single fight. If we get to the end of Wilder's career and he hasn't met an Anthony Joshua or an Andy Ruiz Jr, then we could say there are holes in that credibility."

Bunce: "It is a misleading narrative that he has no skills. Sometimes he gets his feet tangled up but there are dozens of instances where he is moving his feet well. He is a lot more than a knockout artist."


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