Ruiz or Usyk? Best 2023 Heavyweight Options for Deontay Wilder
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Former World Boxing Council World Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder is back in the game and the heavyweight mix with his first-round knockout of former sparring partner Robert Helenius on October 15, 2022, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Wilder, now 43-2-1 with 42 knockouts, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, remains the best heavyweight in the world without a title of any kind. At age 37, Wilder may rapidly be running out of time to obtain another world title shot in 2023.
With Tyson Fury facing Dereck Chisora for the third time, Wilder is left waiting in the wings. Chisora, a heavyweight gatekeeper, had lost three fights in a row before upsetting Kubrat Pulev in a rematch to set up the Wilder all-British trilogy. IBF-WBA-WBO-IBO World Heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk wants Tyson Fury next in 2023. However, Usyk told Deontay Wilder he would be interested in fighting Wilder in the interim.
WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman has now ordered Deontay Wilder versus Andy Ruiz Jr., a battle of ex-world heavyweight champions, as a final eliminator for a shot at Tyson Fury’s WBC World Heavyweight title. If Wilder defeats Ruiz, it would set up Tyson Fury versus Deontay Wilder IV, or a super fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Wilder’s trainer, Malik Scott, is on record as stating he does not want Wilder to fight Ruiz, but it is his decision. Canelo Alvarez usually has a Cinco de Mayo date in las Vegas
According to Wilder, “I’m down for whatever, whether it’s Andy Ruiz, or Usyk or whoever. Let’s bring it on. Deontay Wilder is back. The excitement in the heavyweight division is back. There’s no heavyweight division without Deontay Wilder.”
Ruiz, who defeated Luis Ortiz over 12 rounds, has until December to decide his ultimate plans. Wilder versus Ruiz figures into the plans of Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions. British promoter Eddie Hearn feels Ruiz will beat Wilder hands down.
Less likely, Wilder could also face and feast on various lesser name opponets. One remote possibility is the winner of Dillian Whyte versus 21-0 Jermaine Franklin at Wembley, which takes place next month. WBO Interim world champion Joe Joyce is available as well. A bout with Joyce or Whyte would probably mean Wilder fights on UK soil. Martin Bakole, Frank Sanchez, Filip Hrgovic, Daniel Dubois, and Otto Wallin remain interesting lesser names for Wilder in the heavyweight mix. The other alternative for Wilder would be to fight a much lesser tier known name like Kubrat Pulev, Adam Kownacki, or Zhilei Zhang if he is in need of somebody to fight and stay busy, when bigger names are not available or will not take the bout. Wilder feels after his destruction of Helenius, there will not be many takers.
For now, the best pathway for Wilder, in this reporter’s view, is to go for a WBC Silver or WBC Diamond title bout against Andy Ruiz, money. Usyk may be forced to fight a mandatory against Joyce or Hrgovic in early 2023 if a unification bout with Fury is not agreed upon, or a bout with Wilder cannot be agreed upon. If Usyk fights Fury, in a unification bout in 2023, Fury wins, and Fury vacates his belts on retirement, all of the five significant major world heavyweight belts would be available for Wilder to then pursue, most likely in a vacant world title bout with Usyk. Or, Wilder could fight Usyk, if Usyk upsets Fury, barring a mandatory rematch. To be continued.