Everything you need to know about this weekend’s heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and Artur Szpilka at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
This weekend marks the first time that a heavyweight title fight will be held in the Brooklyn borough of New York City in 115 years, going all the way back to when James J. Jefferies defended his title, one year into a six-year reign as the heavyweight champ. (Fun fact: Jefferies knocked out James J. Corbett in the 23rd round of a 25-round fight.)
In the main event at the Barclays Center, Deontay Wilder will be looking to increase his stature in the heavyweight division with his third title defense, against Polish contender Artur Szpilka. At 30 years old, Wilder has amassed an impressive record of 35–0, and aside from a unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne in early 2015, all of Wilder’s wins have come by way of knockout. Although he has defeated every opponent he’s faced, Wilder still needs to notch a few more signature wins before he can be ranked among the top fighters in the sport.
In the first truly big break of his career, Szpilka gets a shot at the heavyweight title. The 6' 3" southpaw is built more like a traditional heavyweight, while Wilder is built like an NFL tight end. Since he turned pro at age 19, Szpilka has knocked out his opponent 71% of the time in his 21 fights. He has gained enough of a following to garner the bout with Wilder, and since his only loss, to Bryant Jennings in early 2014, Szpilka has gone 4–0, taking out Tomasz Adamek, Ty Cobb, Manuel Quezada and Yasmany Consuegra along the way.
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Tale of the Tape
|DEONTAY WILDER||VS.||ARTUR SZPILKA|
|35–0 (34 KOs)||Record||20–1 (15 KOs)|
|6' 7"||Height||6' 3"|
|228 lbs.*||Weight*||231 lbs.*|
|30 (October 22, 1985)||Age||26 (April 12, 1989)|
|Tuscaloosa, Alabama||Hometown||Wieliczka, Poland|
*Official weights are announced at the weigh-in (Friday, Jan. 15, 1 p.m. EST). All statistics and information obtained via BoxRec.com.
The case for... Deontay Wilder
Standing 6' 7", with a reach of 83 inches, Wilder has the size and athleticism to leave behind a legendary career once he finally hangs up the gloves. The one strike against him would be the quality of opponents thus far in his career. However, he’s still physically equipped to match up with anyone in the division.
In this fight, Wilder will need to be precise in picking his power shots, while also being careful not to leave himself open to Szpilka, who has the size and the power in his right hook to take the title if given the chance. With his reach advantage and ability to string together combinations, Wilder can lean on his jab to work Szpilka down until the time is right. Then, Wilder can do what he has done 34 times before, pushing his name further into consideration as the best heavyweight in the game today. Wilder should be able to find an opening if he’s patient, as Szpilka has a habit of leaving himself open while trying to set up his own jab.
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The case for... Artur Szpilka
Although it’s expected that Wilder will carry the fight, there’s reason to believe it could go the full 12-round distance, just like his lone unanimous decision, against Stiverne. Szpilka has shown an ability to take a beating; even in his only loss, to Bryant Jennings, Szpilka put forth a valiant effort until the very end, barely showing signs of fatigue. And ever since that fight, the Polish native has been working with a new trainer.
If Szpilka’s own preparation has improved since the Jennings fight, there’s no doubt that he’ll be able to handle Wilder’s above-average physicality. Szpilka packs his own power in both hands, but particularly in his right hook. But the key for Szpilka will be his ability to keep his distance from Wilder, who has a five-inch advantage in reach. Szpilka will also need to pick his spots carefully, as he has a tendency to set things up with short jabs, but those movements may succeed in baiting Wilder into some power punches that Szpilka can counter, bringing home the title with one sweet right hook.
Last Five Fights
|WILDER (5–0)||SZPILKA (4–1)|
|Johann Duhaupas (32-2) | W (TKO)||Y. Consuegra (17-1) | W (RTD)|
|Eric Molina (23-2) | W (KO)||Manuel Quezada (29-9) | W (RTD)|
|Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1) | W (UD)||Ty Cobb (18-6) | W (TKO)|
|Jason Gavern (25-16-4) | W (RTD)||Tomasz Adamek (49-3) | W (UD)|
|Malik Scott (36-1-1) | W (KO)||Bryant Jennings (17-0) | L (TKO)|
All statistics and information obtained via BoxRec.com.
97.1: The percentage of Deontay Wilder’s fights that have ended in a knockout, with Bermane Stiverne being his only opponent to go the distance.
115: The number of years since the last heavyweight title fight in Brooklyn, between James J. Jeffries and James J. Corbett on May 11, 1900.
85: How many rounds Artur Szpilka has fought since turning pro at the age of 19. He may be a young contender at 26, but “The Pin” is very experienced.
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Deontay Wilder knocks out Malik Scott in the first round
Artur Szpilka with his own first-round KO of Terrance Marbra
“Thank you champ, because you give me chance. But I don’t think you know what to do now. You will see, man. This is no joke. This is no f------ joke. ... Remember champ, I’m gonna kick your ass.” —Artur Szpilka on getting the opportunity to fight for the heavyweight title against Deontay Wilder
“I’m always the same whether the camera’s in my face or not. When I’m in the ring, I don’t care about you and I don’t care about nothin’ you come with. I want to destroy you. I want to disfigure your face to the point where your mother can’t recognize you—and she had you. I mean business.” —Deontay Wilder when discussing the possibility of fighting Artur Szpilka
With both fighters entering this bout in peak physical condition, it’s safe to say this may go the distance. Both have a lot to prove, and in the first heavyweight title fight in Brooklyn in 115 years, it’s important for both fighters to leave their mark in their climb up the ranks of the division. Wilder’s tenacity and precision will be the keys in this fight, with Szpilka reverting to his bad habit of leaving himself open one too many times. Look for a close fight early on with Wilder’s jab taking over midway through the scheduled 12 rounds, eventually leading to another knockout for “The Bronze Bomber.”
Predicition: Wilder by knockout.
The other fight of the night will be a 12-round bout between Charles Martin and Vyacheslav Glazkov for the vacant IBF world title belt. Martin, the 6' 5", 29-year-old southpaw from Carson, Calif., is 22–0–1, with his lone draw coming in a four-round bout in 2013. Glazkov, a native of Ukraine nicknamed The Czar, has been fighting professionally since 2009, running up a record of 21–0–1, also with a draw in 2013. According to ESPN.com, the total purse for the fight will be $1.24 million.
These two fights will be part of Showtime’s Free Preview Weekend, meaning that fans at home can watch two heavyweight title bouts for the first time ever on YouTube without having to pay a cent. Sports Illustrated will be live-streaming the fight via YouTube on SI.com/boxing.