E.A. Sports Today

Wilder wins wild slugfest

Tuscaloosa heavyweight wows home crowd, retains his WBC title belt with 11th round TKO

Deontay Wilder respectfully walks Johann Duhaupas (L) around the ring after Wilder won their hard-fought WBC heavyweight title fight Saturday night.

Deontay Wilder respectfully walks Johann Duhaupas (L) around the ring after Wilder won their hard-fought WBC heavyweight title fight Saturday night.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM — Deontay Wilder stayed on the road toward a much-anticipated heavyweight unification bout with Wladimir Klitschko, but his view of it might be a little blurry the next few days.

The matchup seems all a certainty, it’s Wilder’s vision that’s a little unclear today.

The 29-year-old Tuscaloosa native retained his WBC heavyweight title Saturday night with a power-packed 11th-round TKO of Frenchman Johann Duhaupas in front of 8,471 at the BJCC. Referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight 55 seconds into the round.

His second-longest fight as a pro left him 35-0 with 34 knockouts.

“It was an amazing night for me,” Wilder said. “There’s no limit to what I can do. I’m an inside fighter, I can bang with you, I can have fun. I’m the champion and I’m here to stay.

“For anybody to try and come and take it they better be in better shape than I am and that’s going to be hard to do.”

One thing Duhaupas proved is he could take a punch — and he took countless from Wilder.

Until it was stopped, the fight appeared to be a battle to see which would yield first — Duhaupas’ iron chin or Wilder’s left eye.

Wilder suffered the first recognizable injury of his career early in the fight when Duhaupas tagged his left eye. The eye continued to close and the 34-year-old Frenchman continued to assault it when he noticed it particularly in Round 3.

Wilder insisted the eye didn’t give him any problems during the bout, adding he trains for the possibility of such limitations. He said he fought through worse when it happened the night he won the championship from Bermane Stiverne in 2015.

“My first wall eye; I’m gonna represent it,” he said. “It was a great fight. We both got banged up. He got it worse. Even though we both took punches, his face is more disfigured than mine.”

While Wilder showed up for his post-fight press conference wearing a white-and-pink tuxedo and sunglasses, Dahaupas showed up pressing an ice bag pressed under his left eye and a big gash across his nose.

That’s because Wilder was in assault mode, too. He continually battered his opponent’s head and chin but Duhaupas never yielded. Even in the late rounds as Duhaupas circled to get better shots at Wilder’s eye, Wilder kept dropping howitzers to his head.

Wilder threw 587 punches in the bout, landing 326. He landed nearly 70 percent of his power punches. Duhaupas threw 332 punches, 180 of them jabs.

“He’s got a hell of a chin; he’s got cement in his chin,” Wilder said. “He was way strong. I can see how he’s never been stopped.

“I had him dazed many times, I had him put away many times, and this guy just kept waking up. I’d hit him and he seemed like he was going to go and then I’d hit him again and he’d wake back up.”

When the head shots didn’t work, Wilder showed another side of his game and started going to the body. When that happened, trainer Jay Deas said, it was the beginning of the end.

“I went to the body one time and it devastated him,” Wilder said. “I heard the grunts and every time I hit him I knew then it was the soft spot.”

Duhaupas said he hadn’t faced a harder puncher in a bout before, but had faced harder ones in training.

Finally after a flurry across from Duhaupas’ corner, Reiss stepped in and stopped it. Duhaupas said through an interpreter he “sincerely yes” could have continued when the fight was stopped.

As expected of his status as the champ, Wilder was ahead on all three scorecards when the fight ended.

As he strives to be the “busiest heavyweight champion around,” Wilder would like to fight again before the end of the year. He has a mandatory defense next, but former WBA titleholder Alexander Povetkin has a fight scheduled for Nov. 4 and the Russian likely won’t be available to fit Wilder’s schedule.

No matter who Wilder gets in the meantime, it’s the fight with Klitschko, who holds an alphabet soup of titles, that the boxing world wants to see to unify the crown.

“I’m not sure when; hopefully in the next year sometime,” Wilder said. “The key is to stay patient. It’s a process and it’s a business, too. That fight will surely come around as long as I keep winning, which I will, and as long as he keeps winning.

“That should come around soon and then we can have our undisputed heavyweight champion of the world — which is me, baby.”

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