So it begins, the possible resurgence of the heavyweight division. Hopefully, we will see the unification of the many world heavyweight titles by year’s end and there will be less negative talk about this division and the match-ups within the division being referred to as “complete rubbish.”
On Saturday night, the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York, hosted the first stage in this rebirth. The fights were billed as Brooklyn’s first heavyweight title matches in over 115 years. On the fight card they had 218 pound, 31 year-old, 6’3” Vyacheslav “The Czar” Glazkov (21-0-1) who lives and trains in Fort Lauderdale, Florida but hails from Lugansk, Ukraine facing the 29 year-old 6’5”, 249½ pound, southpaw Charles “Missouri” Martin (22-0-1, 20 KOs) from Carson, Calif. by way of St. Louis, Missouri fighting for the vacant IBF World Heavyweight title plus in the Main Event they had the 28th ranked, 26 year-old, southpaw 6’3” Artur Szpilka (20-1, 15 KOs) from Wieliczka, Poland going up against the 30 year-old WBC Champion 6’7” Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The Glazkov versus Martin bout didn’t get very far. In the third round, Glazkov suffered this freak ACL injury when his knee twisted as he lunged forward to throw a body shot at Martin. Up to that point, the 1:50 mark of round three, it did appear the taller and 31½ pound heavier Martin was ahead on the scorecards.
In this match, the bookies had Glazkov, the 2008 Olympic super heavyweight bronze medalist as their favorite. Why? Glazkov had fought a tougher slate of competitors namely a draw against Malik Scott, an unanimous decision victory over Denis Bakhtov, a stoppage victory over Tor Hamer and a decision victory over Tomasz Adamek. The only boxer of note that Martin had faced and beat was Alexander Flores.
In the Wilder versus Szpilka bout, the end came at the 2:24 point of the ninth round. That’s when Wilder landed this devastating right cross directly on his opponent’s chin and down he went. Looking down at the unconscious Szpilka, referee Michael Griffin stopped his 10 count when he reached four. Then, as a precautionary measure, Szpilka, on the advice of the fight doctor, was transported on a stretcher to an awaiting ambulance for a trip to the local hospital.
With the emergence of the two American World Heavyweight champions, the WBC Champion Deontay Wilder and the new IBF Champion Charles Martin, plus the WBA Champion Luis Ortiz of Miami, Florida by way of Camaguey, Cuba and finally Tyson Fury, the WBO, IBO Champion who still has to deal with that rematch requirement with Wladimir Klitschko, the boxing world, namely the promoters, managers and TV Networks can finally re-establish the preeminence of the sport by showcasing it’s star power in the heavyweight division.
Boxing fans have grown weary of matches like the Bryant Jennings loss to Klitschko on April 25, 2015. In that snoozer, Klitschko leaned on, pushed and wrestled Jennings to get the decision win. He held so often, the ref finally had to step in and deduct a point. To make the bout watchable, the referee should have stepped in more often and deducted multiple points. In that fight, Jennings, a pro of only six years, landed 16 jabs while using his gloves as earmuffs.
The Fury versus Klitschko bout of November 28, 2015 was no better. It was marked by frequent clinches but not much punching. Despite being fought in the center of the ring, Klitschko landed only 52 punches all night for an average of 4.5 punches a round. His lack of activity made that fight mind-numbing to watch.
The Barclays Center crowd of 12,668 on Saturday night was the second largest for a Barclays Center boxing crowd and it’s obvious they enjoyed the show. Wilder must now face Alexander Povetkin, the Russian No. 1 challenger for his WBC title. That fight could happen in April or May, as Wilder has declared his desire to remain an active heavyweight champion.
It’s a harsh statement to make but once the venerable, 39 year-old Wladimir Klitchko is positioned firmly in the rear view mirror, the present group of heavyweight champions can begin to make some real coin. For Saturday’s performance, Wilder, who landed 75% of the punches he threw, earned $1.5 million, his largest purse since becoming a professional. Bottom line, these changes are good for the sport.