Heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder to fight Szpilka in January

December 10, 2015

Undefeated WBC Heavyweight World Champion Deontay Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) will make the third defense of his title against brawling Polish contender Artur Szpilka (20-1, 15 KOs) in a 12-round bout on Saturday, January 16, 2016, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, live on Showtime.

“I’m excited about coming to New York City, I’m excited about displaying my talents and I’m excited about fighting at Barclays Center,” said Wilder. “I want to thank my opponent Artur Szpilka for accepting this opportunity that I’m giving him.  I wish him luck – he’s going to need it.  I look forward to winning over the Polish fans after I beat him.  I know he’s a southpaw and he tends to give up when things get tough in the ring, going off the fight he had with Bryant Jennings.  He doesn’t have heart when it gets tough.”

It will be Wilder’s first fight in New York and his ninth overall on Showtime Networks.  Wilder is the first United States-born heavyweight champion since 2007.

“It feels amazing to get the opportunity to fight Deontay for his heavyweight world title,” said  Szpilka.  “I can’t wait to be the first ever Polish heavyweight to win a world title.  I’ve dreamed about this many times, and now my time has come.  I’ll be ready to put on a show for my fans and take his belt from him on January 16.”

The 6-foot-7 Wilder will be making his third title defense and fourth fight in 364 days. The 30-year-old won the WBC belt with a unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17, 2015 in Las Vegas, in his first professional fight to go past the fourth round.

Wilder successfully defended the belt against Eric Molina (KO 9) last June 13 and most recently against Johann Duhaupas (TKO 11) on Sept. 26.  Both of the title defenses took place in his home state of Alabama.

The last heavyweight champion to fight four times in 12 months was Lennox Lewis in 2000-01.  Lewis was also the last undisputed heavyweight champion.

“I’m looking forward to being the next undisputed heavyweight champion and the most active heavyweight champion in history,” Wilder said.  “I’m also active once I get into the ring.  In my last fight, I landed an average of 30 of the 53 punches that I threw each round.  That was more than double what Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko landed, combined.”

No coincidence that Wilder chose to mention Fury and Klitschko because should he win his upcoming fight, he could face the winner of the Fury-Klitschko rematch.

"This is Deontay's third title defense in 12 months and a victory will lead to a major clash in his next bout,” said promoter Lou DiBella.

Before turning pro in November 2008, Wilder won the bronze medal at heavyweight for the U.S. at the 2008 Olympic Games.  He is the last American male boxer to medal in The Olympics.

The aggressive-minded, 6-foot-3 Szpilka has won four consecutive fights since suffering the only loss of his career to then-undefeated Bryant Jennings in 2014.  The 26-year-old rebounded with a 10-round unanimous decision over former cruiserweight world champion Tomasz Adamek in 2014, and stoppage victories over Yasmany Consuegra, Manuel Quezada, and Ty Cobb in 2015.

A pro since 2008, the southpaw first gained notice when he stopped the once-touted Owen Beck in four rounds in 2011, then unanimously outpointed former world title challenger Jameel McCline the following year.

Szpilka has honed his boxing skills under the tutelage of Houston-based trainer Ronnie Shields. While he is still predisposed to brawling and coming forward, Szpilka has developed into a more complete fighter under Shields and one that could be the toughest test of the young world champion’s career.

The fight will be the first heavyweight title fight in Brooklyn since James Jeffries knocked out James Corbett in the 23rd round on May 11, 1900, on Coney Island.

Jeffries fought in all three of the Brooklyn heavyweight title fights, which were the fourth, fifth and seventh world heavyweight title fights of the modern gloved era.  All three took place on Coney Island, two in 1899 and the final in 1900.

Brooklyn has a deep history in heavyweight boxing, including hometown heavyweight champions Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, Riddick Bowe, Shannon Briggs, and Michael Moorer.  In addition, Brooklyn-native and 1984 Olympic Gold medalist Mark Breland serves as one of Wilder’s coaches.

Fury to fight rematch, but must lose belt

Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko will stage a rematch of their recent heavyweight clash pursuant to a provision in their fight contract.  By taking the rematch, Fury will not be fighting his mandatory challenger, and thus, will be stripped of his IBF heavyweight title.

Main Events, the promoter of Czar Glazkov, the challenger who would have fought Fury but for the rematch, issued a release explaining their perspective on why such rules are necessary.

While it's true that mandatory challenger rules provide order and prevent champions from ducking certain fighters, such challengers do not always provide the most interesting matchups.

Klitschko himself built his win streak on fighting challengers of low-quality when more intriguing matchups were out there.  Frankly, the Klitschko-Fury rematch is a more interesting bout with more star power than the Glazkov bout.

Here is the statement from Main Events:
"In 1990 Evander Holyfield was the mandatory contender for the Heavyweight Title then held by Mike Tyson.  Though Tyson's title defense was overdue, Tyson was permitted to engage in an optional title defense with James Buster Douglas.  As we all know, Douglas won by knockout.
Thereafter all hell broke loose.  Don King, at the time Douglas' promoter, and one of the ratings organizations wanted a rematch, avoiding Holyfield.  The other organizations were prepared to follow their rules and directed that the Holyfield mandatory take place.
Litigation ensued.  Holyfield prevailed and fought James Buster Douglas.  Holyfield's career turned out to be legendary.
Now, 25 years later there is the identical scenario.  Vyacheslav Glazkov won a title elimination bout to become the mandatory contender for the title then held by Wladimir Klitschko.  There is a well-established rotation system among the ratings organizations when there is a unified champion.  When Klitschko fought Tyson Fury it was after Klitschko's mandatory with Glazkov would have otherwise been due (it was due in August).  Following the rotation system, Glazkov stood aside and without any protest watched the Klitschko/Fury bout be scheduled, then postponed, and then rescheduled - all during the period when it would otherwise be his turn to fight the mandatory for the heavyweight title.  He stood aside because of the rotation system, which made it the turn of the WBA/WBO to enforce their mandatories.  However, everyone knew going into the Klitschko/Fury fight that it was Glazkov's turn next.
A word on the rotation system.  Again, we go back to Evander Holyfield.  After Evander Holyfield defeated James Buster Douglas, he was the Unified Heavyweight Champion of the World.  A squabble erupted with the different ratings organizations demanding that he engage in different bouts.  We were forced to go to Court and the Court enforced an equitable remedy, to wit, the rotation system under which the ratings organizations would rotate the mandatories for unified champions.  This enhanced the likelihood of fighters maintaining unified championships rather than allowing them to be stripped due to simultaneous mandatory obligations, something which had occurred too often in earlier years.  This rotation system is crucial to enhancing the ability of unified champions to keep their titles.
Of course, a title holder can always voluntarily give up a title.  That is the Champion's choice.  However, there is nothing at all unfair about the rotational system or the mandatory system.
No one utilized the rotational system more effectively than Wladimir Klitschko.  There is no criticism of this - it was his right.
But everyone involved knew that Glazkov had waited in line for his mandatory to be due.  Everybody knew that the rules of the ratings organizations disfavored rematches and generally prohibited them when a mandatory was due.
Again, it was a voluntary choice for Klitschko and Fury to contract for a rematch. Main Events contacted the Fury camp, it was told that Fury could not negotiate because of the rematch clause. Subject to the rules, they had every right to do so even if it meant giving up a title.  However, that voluntary choice was one that was made by the camps of Messrs. Klitschko and Fury.  There should be absolutely no surprise or anguish that the rules, which are well-established, protect not only the Champion who is protected from being torn from a title by conflicting mandatories, but also the mandatory challenger who is forced to wait due to the rotation because the mandatory challenger is assured that his turn will, in fact, come."

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services

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