Former super middleweight champion Caleb Plant and Anthony Dirrell, the two-time super middleweight title holder staged their theater at a PBC-FOX Sports PPV press conference Tuesday afternoon in Brooklyn. Yes, that’s a good undercard fight on Saturday October 15 at the Barclays Center.
But there was anticipation for heavyweight Deontay Wilder and his return to the ring, a 12-round title eliminator versus Robert Helenius which headlines the event, but this is boxing, and of course more suspense is always the storyline.
Both Wilder and Helenius skipped the trip to Brooklyn, hence we returned to a virtual press conference as the media listened to both as their faces were seen on big screens. No fault of the promotion, Widler also a co-promoter, but the answers came.
Wilder has not been in the ring since October 9, 2021, his third fight with WBC champion Tyson Fury, and the assumption was Wilder was done after winning and losing part of the heavyweight titles. Then again, fighters go through these phases of losing and contemplating their next move.
Especially with the heavyweight division, wide open now after Anthony Joshua lost in his attempt to regain most of the belts from Oleksandr Usyk, but we could not get a proper read about Wilder. Attribute that again to a virtual meeting instead of appearing in Brooklyn to begin the hype for an important fight in the division.
They said it was a travel issue, though, FOX SPORTS and PBC personnel are in Los Angeles this week to put the final touches on a PPV heavyweight fight between former champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and Luis Ortiz scheduled for Sunday evening.
However, this heavyweight fight in Brooklyn has more of an appeal because Wilder and his “Bomb Squad” call have a lot riding on the table after a failure of getting the WBC title back from Fury. “Oh, I won’t bypass Fury,” and preliminary retirement as he looks and contemplates the next move.
Despite the awkward moment, Helenius and Wilder presented their case. Both are aware of the implications, though the emphasis is on Widler, one time the premiere heavyweight who was denied an opportunity to unify the titles.
But that third fight with Fury, was not one of Wilder’s best. He allowed Fury to come at him. Wilder at times looked lost in the ring, could not throw his powerful right that had the boxing world talking and opponents wondering how to counter.
Wilder was dysfunctional and got hit to the right ear, which, he said, caused him to lose balance and coordination as the fight was stopped in the 11th round after Fury put him on the canvas a final time. Both fighters sustained a combined five knockdowns and concluded their trilogy that went down in boxing annals as classics.
The 36-year-old Wilder, the first American heavyweight champion since 2007, who defended his title ten times, contemplated retirement. There were dark days and then that spark returned. He doesn’t need the money having grossed over $300 million and will get his day in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Fury was an adversary and that is in the past. So, what is there to prove with a return at the Barclays Center? We got a virtual answer, well sort of.
“To be honest, I haven’t missed it all,” Wilder said. “Many of times I have sat around and contemplated do I need to come back or not, because I’ve done so well for myself outside of the ring. To the point I don’t need boxing, financially I’ve won all the way around.”
He returned to the gym but said that same feeling wasn’t there, and we have heard similar comments from a fighter or two after sustaining a bitter loss and failure to regain the titles. But they always miss the roar of a crowd.
They always, as Widler probably thought and said, can once again wear the title as heavyweight champion until the body and punches say it’s not the same. But when was the last time a former champion, with the magnitude of knocking out 96 percent of his opponents, said, it’s over?
Again, you could not sense the determination via a virtual big screen response and thousands of miles away from the venue where Widler returns in mid-October.
“I got high respect for Robert, I know what he is capable of doing,” Wilder said. “I know that he is going to put it all on the line, he’s coming to give his best and I’m coming to do the same thing. With that being said, it consists of more rounds, more time of training, consist of a little bit more time just going through the fundamentals and doing the right things because this is a serious fight.”
That was the determination and response of a fighter who has missed being in the boxing ring, a part of the heavyweight division that may never crown a unified champion in the four-belt era.
And when it was over, again we heard, “Bomb Squad” and at its best, thousands of miles away from Deontay Widler.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network. Like, Comment, Subscribe