WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder is known for one thing: power. The heavy hitter from Tuscaloosa, Alabama has knocked out every person he's stepped in a boxing ring with ... except one. That one being the man he will rematch on Saturday night in the main event from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Tyson Fury. The two battled to a disputed draw in December 2018, but not before Wilder put his amazing skill on display with a wicked knockdown in Round 12 that left Fury motionless on the canvas for a few brief seconds.
As Wilder celebrated and the commentary team reacted as though the fight was over, referee Jack Reiss began a count that seemed largely unnecessary. Then, Fury rose to his feet, appropriately followed Reiss' instructions and the fight continued with Fury actually closing the fight as the fresher man.
What still makes Fury rising from the canvas so shocking is that men simply don't get up when Wilder puts them down. In 43 fights, only two men have stepped into the ring with Wilder and made it to the final bell. Before Fury, Bermane Stiverne took Wilder the distance in January 2015, managing to stay on his feet but losing a lopsided decision in a fight where Wilder became the first American heavyweight champion in nearly a decade. Wilder erased the "stain" of failing to knock out Stiverne when they rematched in 2017 and Wilder wiped him out in the first round.
Thirty-four of Wilder's wins have come by knockout before the conclusion of Round 4. That level of power has led many, including Wilder himself, to say the 34-year-old has the hardest punch in boxing history.
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"At this point in time, I think I've earned my due respect and credit to say I am the hardest-hitting puncher in boxing history. Period," Wilder said during the post-fight press conference after his November 2019 knockout of Luis Ortiz. "It reminds me back of what [the late legendary trainer] Emanuel Steward once told me personally. He told me, 'You're fighting little opposition right now, but even when you move up to the top, you're still going to knock them out.' He told me that personally, and I'm fulfilling what he told me."
Anointing any athlete the greatest of all time in any aspect of a sport always provokes some sort of backlash. And with boxing, plenty of men have built up a sort of mythical status. For some that is earned, for others it's built on reputation with a lack of video evidence of actions for much of the sport's early history. But there's no doubt former heavyweight sluggers like Mike Tyson had rare, truly violent levels of power.
George Foreman, another of heavyweight's biggest power punchers ever, was recently asked by TMZ if he felt Wilder was the biggest puncher in history and was quick to dismiss the idea, including "Iron Mike" in the men he places ahead of Wilder.
"He's good but he hasn't approached Joe Louis, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson," Foreman said. "No, he hasn't approached that kind of recognition yet. No way."
Teddy Atlas has been around boxing his entire life and has trained or been in the presence of many of the men who are placed in the pantheon of the heaviest hitters ever. He disagrees with Foreman, and includes Tyson and Lewis among those whose power doesn't quite equal Wilder's on a punch-for-punch comparison.
"For one punch, just one punch, I think Wilder, I'm telling you, is the hardest puncher in the history of the sport," Atlas told BoxingScene. "As far as the hardest punchers, you have Earnie Shavers, Max Baer, Joe Louis, Mike Tyson could do damage with the left and right. But for just one punch, I have to go with Wilder."
Ben Davison, who trained Fury until a split in December, was in attendance when Wilder wiped out Luis Ortiz in November and was quick to give Wilder credit.
"He's the biggest puncher not just in heavyweight history, [but] boxing history -- bar none," Davison said after the fight.
Ortiz himself didn't go as far as crowning Wilder after being knocked out twice by the WBC champ. He did, however, say that Wilder's right hand carries unimaginable power.
"His right hand is more powerful [than] one could imagine," Ortiz told Business Insider. "His power is like a whip type of punch, like Thomas Hearns. He's got long arms, ya know. Wilder is the best heavyweight of this millennium ... [and] deserves everything he gets. He's earned that in the ring."
Former WBA heavyweight champion David Haye shared a similar sentiment from his days of having Wilder in for sparring sessions.
"I always really respected him, from the first sparring session I ever had with him, I knew this guy was something special," Haye said via TalkSport. "His punch power is 10 out of 10, that's it. I don't know how else to say it. You know when you've been hit by him. It's very different to anyone else.
"He is the hardest puncher I've ever been in the ring with."
In the end, Fury will be the man across the ring from Wilder this Saturday. Fury has felt the power and been able to get back to his feet. While Fury said he doesn't feel Wilder hits as hard as Wladimir Klitschko, the former champ Fury defeated in 2015 to become heavyweight champion, he did admit he doesn't have the data to make the final call on Wilder's ultimate place in the power punching pantheon.
"You know, I felt the power," Fury said on a recent conference call. "Ain't so bad. Ain't so bad. He can't be the biggest puncher in history because he couldn't knock 'The Gypsy King' out, could he? I took his best shot, flush on the chin, and got back up. You know, he punches hard, but you know, I've never been hit by the likes of someone like Earnie Shavers. I've never been hit by George Foreman. I've never been hit by Rocky Marciano, or any of those top guys. I haven't been hit by them, so I can't comment. So, if he's the biggest puncher in history, I'm not really sure because I haven't been hit by all the guys in history."