What Makes Deontay Wilder So Good?

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Three past opponents offer their perspective—and none of them say it’s the WBC World Heavyweight Champion’s power that Dominic Breazeale must worry about most Saturday night on SHOWTIME.

Three of Deontay Wilder’s past opponents were asked what has made the undefeated WBC World Heavyweight Champion so successful.

The obvious answer would’ve been Wilder’s calling card, his punching power. He has stopped all but two of his opponents for a reason. However, none of the three – Chris Arreola, Eric Molina and Gerald Washington – listed power first on their list of Wilder’s strengths.

Arreola: “His athleticism.”

Molina: His “one of a kind” style.

Washington: “He’s smart.”

Of course, they recognize Wilder’s ability to end any fight in an instant. All three of them failed to go the distance with him. They were simply saying that, contrary to the opinion of some people, Wilder (40-0-1, 39 knockouts) will bring more than just punching power into the ring when he defends his title against Dominic Breazeale in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions show Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The card will be televised on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

“At the end of the day every heavyweight has decent punching power,” said Arreola, who lasted eight rounds with Wilder in July 2016. “Wilder’s athleticism stands out to me. His ability to move around the ring and not waste his punches is what makes him dangerous.

“He knows how to use his height (6 feet, 7 inches) and it goes back to athleticism, the way he moves, the way he uses distance.”

Said Washington, who was stopped in five rounds by Wilder in February 2017: “He’s pretty smart in there. You definitely have to watch out for the power but he’s always careful about that. He’s defensive-minded, safety first. He checks out the temperature of the fight to see how things are going. Then, when he sees an opportunity, he goes for it. And when he hurts you, he gets you out of there.”

Of course, no one thinks of Wilder – a late starter in boxing at 20 years old – as a heavyweight version of boxing wizards such as Vasyl Lomachenko or Guillermo Rigondeaux. That includes the three heavyweights interviewed here. You’ll notice that none of them named “boxing” as Wilder’s primary strength.

At the same time, all three agreed that those who completely dismiss Wilder’s abilities are focused on the wrong thing.

“The people who say that are comparing him to a classic boxer,” Washington said. “You can’t argue with his resume, what he’s done in the sport. He’s beaten everybody. It doesn’t matter if you have Larry Holmes’ jab, the flash of Roy Jones Jr. or the footwork of Muhammad Ali.

“He’s not trying to be anybody other than himself. That’s what makes him…him. He’s Deontay Wilder. He does his own thing and he’s successful.”

Wilder’s athleticism stands out to me. Heavyweight Contender - Chris Arreola

Said Molina, who lasted eight-plus rounds in June 2015: “I’ve always believed that styles make fights and I feel Wilder’s style is one of a kind. He’s very awkward. It’s hard to replicate that style (in training) and prepare for. Combine that with the power he brings and you understand why he has been successful. He brings very unique tools to the table.

“I was in with him for nine rounds and we’ve done another 20, 30 in sparring. I think he’s gotten better with time. I think his jab has become more fluid, for example. Overall, I think his style is his style. He uses the ability that God gave him and he’s done well with it. Whether you like it or not, it’s worked for him.”

Yes, it has. Thirty-nine knockouts in 40 victories – including one against the much-feared Luis Ortiz – speaks volumes. And, in the end, everyone must acknowledge that it’s Wilder’s unusual punching power that gets the job done.

Arreola said Vitali Klitschko was the strongest puncher he ever faced but he also acknowledges the damage that Wilder can do.

“The hardest punch I was ever hit with by far was against Vitali Klitschko,” said Arreola, who was stopped in 10 rounds by the Ukrainian in 2009. “It felt like the guy was trying punch through my body. Wilder has a different kind of power. His punches are like a whip. And if he catches you at the end of a punch, you’re in trouble.”

Molina and Washington were more effusive than Arreola.

“Wilder is going to knock out Breazeale,” said Molina, who fought Breazeale on short notice and was stopped in eight rounds in 2017. “Wilder could knock out a bull if he hit the bull in the head. It’s just a matter of ‘when’ in that fight. … If he touches anybody with that right hand, on any part of the head, they’re going to dance or go down and go to sleep. It is what it is.”

Said Washington: “He’s hurt a lot of guys. He didn’t catch me like he caught (Bermane) Stiverne and some other guys where it was scary. I’m grateful I didn’t get caught like that. … I’m not going to say he’s the hardest puncher ever or anything like that but he has crack in his shots. And he does it with both hands. They say watch out for his right hand but he almost took Tyson Fury’s head off with a left hook. When he throws with all his might, when he lets them go, he’s special.”

For a closer look at Wilder-Breazeale, check out our fight night page.

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