Olympic Bronze medalist Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder kept his string of consecutive wins and knockouts neck and neck Friday night with an efficient assassination of Siarhei “the White Wolf” Liakhovich at 1:43 in the first of a scheduled ten rounder. The triple header card was promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and televised by Showtime as part of their Shobox: The New Generation series.
Wilder is being brought along at an easier pace than some might want from an athletic 6’7” power puncher with 84” reach. But the proud Tuscaloosa, Alabama resident is a latecomer to boxing. With just a mere handful of amateur fights, he won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. With proper seasoning, Wilder could be the next great thing. The problem, as illustrated on Friday night, is getting rounds.
Liakhovich was coming off back to back stoppage losses to Robert Helenius in 2011 and Bryant Jennings in March of 2012. At 37 with his last win against Evans Quinn in 2010, Liakhovich’s time at the top is over. The stoppage losses to Helenius and Bryant show an inevitable and clear decline. What Wilder was able to do should be the final nail in a career Liakhovich, who won the WBO heavyweight title against Lamon Brewster April 1, 2006 at Wolstein Arena in Cleveland, Ohio in a memorable Showtime war.
Wilder-Liakhovich was not that fight.
From the outset Liakhovich was aggressive, flashing his jab and asserting his presence. An early experienced vet tactic to get the younger Wilder, who has gone 49 rounds in 29 fights, in a thinking and thus not fighting posture. It seemed to work for about a minute and then Wilder advanced behind a jab that missed off a parry by Liakhovich. The two looked at each other briefly as Liakhovich felt a shot brush his chin after another jab. With Liakhovich crowded near the ropes, I thought of Wilder’s previous outing versus Audley Harrison. In that fight, Wilder finished off Harrison with a right hand but got overanxious in the finish and fell over on top of the fallen fighter.
This time, Wilder was deadly efficient. In closing in on Liakhovich, he kept his balance and advanced perfectly while letting loose a crushing, short right bomb that short-circuited Liakhovich’s brain on impact. The aged heavyweight with the boyish face and quiet demeanor fell backward hard onto the canvas, his head slamming him unconscious as an electric pulse surged through his body. Liakhovich’s gloves waved in the air, fighting their way back to consciousness. His legs kicked forward and back uncontrollably as if still moving his arsenal around the ring. Referee Tom Taylor recognized immediately the fight was over and waved his arm for the official end as he urged Liakhovich to stay down so the ringside physician could look him over.
Before television replays began, as is customary, the doctor made sure Liakhovich was awake and as well as he could be following such an experience before standing him up and allowing the victory ceremony to commence. As the camera panned across the ring, the face of a Golden Boy matchmaker said it all about the knockout. He made a kind of “eesh” face but then smiled; echoing what everyone in the audience was feeling. That knockout and the scary unconscious shadowbox that followed is why we come to the heavyweight dance in bigger droves than to any other division. In person, the power of a heavyweight is a sight so awe-inspiring you don’t know whether to be afraid or overjoyed.
We didn’t find out much about Wilder but some things were visible. I think back to his first appearance at Fantasy Springs back on October 15, 2010 when Harold Sconiers rocked him with an uppercut. Wilder hit the deck hard and for a moment, a raw gem seemed like it had fallen out of Golden Boy’s hands and into the gutter. But Wilder got up and put away Sconiers for the fourth round win. Along the way there, Wilder displayed character in adversity. That iron will and desire to win along with the potent punching power are intangibles that cannot be ignored even if we don’t see all of them in unison every fight.
This victory showed that Wilder’s power is for real. No one does that to Siarhei Liakhovich. He was in the Helenius fight and he gave Jennings a nice test. He ate everything Lamon Brewster served up. 1:43 of the first over an experienced (if past it) opponent is either “This is getting ridiculous and he needs to seriously step up” time or it’s time to start taking Wilder seriously. Personally, I think Wilder can be the goods but next time they make him a main event and he gets a first round knockout, they need to keep bringing in opponents until Wilder either goes ten rounds or fights ten guys.
In a fight that surely felt like it was going to steal all the thunder, 130 lber Francisco “El Bandito” Vargas 17-0-1, (13) pounded out a ten round decision on the body and head of Brandon “The Untouchable” Bennett 16-1, (7). Nicknames are tricky things. They can turn on you. On this night, Bennett was anything but his moniker when it came to body punching, at least. Vargas hammered away at his ribs from underneath and both sides, keeping the fast southpaw out of Cincinatti, Ohio’s talented Mike Stafford stable, doubling over and back off despite early success.
A southpaw, Bennett certainly has skill to go with quick reflexes and a relaxed, intelligent demeanor. But Vargas was simply too strong and active offensively to be denied. Bennett’s speed troubled Vargas early but a stiff jab and that relentless body work took the fight over by the middle of the fight. By the eighth, Bennett, not a knockout puncher, was not in the fight. His offense became hold, grab, wrestle, throw maybe jab or left and then move. He was warned numerous times for holding by ref Jerry Cantu but never deducted a point.
Vargas suffered a bad cut over his left eyelid but it never deterred him. Judge Ray Corona had it 99-90, judge Max DeLuca 99-91 and judge James Jen-Kin agreed at 98-92 for a Francisco Vargas unanimous decision. With the win, Vargas picks up the vacant NABF super featherweight title and vacant WBO Inter-Continental super featherweight title which will hopefully for him mean a better ranking. A crowd pleaser, Vargas has future world champion potential without a doubt. I love the way he never abandoned his jab and shot it straight to the chest of Bennett to neutralize his speed advantage. Vargas is going to be a fun fighter to watch grow from here.
In junior middleweight action, Jermall “The Hitman” Charlo, 15-0, (11) kept his nickname and undefeated record intact with a second round technical knockout of Antwone Smith, 23-5-1, (12). Smith seemed listless in the fight as Charlo stalked him and picked him apart. He’d come in over the limit by 5 pounds and was clearly not at his best in terms of condition. Under the tutelage of veteran trainer Ronnie Shields, Charlo is blossoming into a very dangerous fighter who picks his spots and then shoots through them like a sniper.
The finishing shot was a second round right hand that caught Smith’s attention. Charlo followed up with another right that landed over the shoulder of Smith as he attempted to retreat. The punch thudded into his ear and sent him crashing to the canvas in his face and knees. Smith grabbed at the rope as if at sea, wobbling to and fro. He rose but ref Tom Taylor waved it at 2:23 of the second. Smith was fined for the weight infraction 20% of his purse on the top of the brutal loss. There is no tougher hustle in the sport’s game than being a boxer.
Notes on Bradley-Marquez and Arum-Nevada testing
Well, not so much notes as Tim Bradley appears still unhappy about his current testing situation with the Marquez fight. Courtesy of Chris “Hustleboss.com” Robinson: