With emotions running high, Saturday's grudge match between WBC World Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder and top contender Dominic Breazeale will come down to who makes the least mistakes.
What could make a high-stakes heavyweight title fight burn even hotter with emotion? Just make things really, really personal.
This Saturday, May 18, live on Showtime from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) makes the ninth defense of his WBC heavyweight title in a grudge-driven battle against mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs). The Premier Boxing Champions telecast kicks off live on SHOWTIME at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Back in February 2017, after fighting on the same card at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, Wilder, Breazeale, and their respective entourages were involved in a melee in the lobby of a nearby hotel. The tussle, which both sides claim the other started, ignited a heated rivalry that has grown even more intense since the two big men were officially signed to face one another.
“You come to my hometown and cause this mess?” Wilder hurled. “You want to start this drama and act like you were the victim and your wife was the victim? He’s an opportunist and I don’t like that.”
Breazeale, of course, has his own take on events and is no less motivated to walk into the ring, vengeance in mind.
"I can't wait to get my hands on him. What he did in Alabama in front of my family, I can never forgive him for nor will I ever forget," said Breazeale. "I intend to make him pay come May 18 and shut him up once and for all."
Hostilities aside, Wilder-Breazeale would’ve always been a “kill or be killed” kind of battle.
Wilder is all about ending fights violently. That mindset is not new for the Alabama native. What’s new, however, is the respect he’s receiving as a “real” world champion from purists and former critics, who previously mocked his lack of traditional skills and ring nuance.
Currently eight defenses into his WBC title reign, “The Bronze Bomber” cemented his status as something more than a one-trick pony in defense number seven when he battled back from adversity to stop crafty Cuban Luis Ortiz.
Back in December, he fought to a stalemate against top-three heavyweight and undefeated former unified champion Tyson Fury, dropping the skilled Irishman twice en route to the draw.
Although some rough edges have been smoothed out over the years, the 6-foot-7 banger is what he is—a heavy-handed battler with “bomb blast” power in his right hand who is also fearless, unflappable, and supremely self-confident.
Wilder is all about poking and prodding with a long left jab, jockeying for position to land the big right hand. While the left is also bursting with pop, the right is the money shot and he’ll keep pushing forward until he lands it. Against Fury, for example, the defending champ never lost hope that he’d land the big one. When he eventually did, in a wild twelfth and final round, it took a Herculean effort from the challenger to rise and finish the fight.
This single-minded self-belief makes the 33-year-old especially dangerous. Even when being outboxed or legitimately buzzed from an opponent’s shot, Wilder just keeps going for the kill.
On the other side of the ring, Breazeale has a lot to prove and he knows it.
Stopped by Anthony Joshua in a one-sided romp back in 2016, the former quarterback at Northern Colorado University and member of the 2012 Olympic boxing team pored over Joshua fight video to locate flaws and missteps. The subsequent 3-0 run since his lone career loss showcased a fighter working through weaknesses, but gradually improving with each outing.
In his last bout, this past December, the Glendale, California native calmly and methodically dismantled Carlos Negron, stopping him in nine rounds.
Breazeale, like Wilder, is 33 years old and stands 6-foot-7. Also like Wilder, he likes to push forward, forcing opposition backwards and into range for long-armed power shots. While not as one punch-formidable as Wilder, he has respectable power in both hands and is not afraid to let fists fly.
His biggest asset as a fighter, though, may be something much more intangible than knockout power or size. He is tough, brave, and full of fight—someone who can be hit and hurt, but never stops coming forward, also like Wilder, trying to turn tides and get things back on track.
For this particular fight, the out-of-ring animosity has fueled Breazeale’s competitive spirit and, guided by new trainer Virgil Hunter, he’s excited about going into the biggest fight of his career.
“It’s been the biggest motivational tool in this last camp,” Breazeale declared, referring to his personal beef with the WBC champ. “It’s the one thing that gets me up early in the morning to run. It’s the thing that gets me through the 10th and 11th and 12th round of sparring.”
Style-wise, Wilder-Breazeale will come down to who can capitalize on the other’s mistakes.
Wilder can be outboxed. He’s also less effective when backing up.
Breazeale has defensive lapses that can be exploited, the biggest for this fight being a tendency to fall in after lunging with the jab, something which leaves himself open for a right hand counter.
One mistake is all it will take for lights to be put out. Either Wilder will crush Breazeale and move on to blockbusters with the other heavyweight elite or Breazeale will shock the world with a brutal upset. Someone, though, is getting knocked out.
Wilder, for his part, is eager to finally bring the bad blood off the street and into the ring
"I’m ready to just wipe Dominic Breazeale off the planet. I can’t wait.”
For a closer look at Wilder-Breazeale, check out our fight night page.