Deontay Wilder will attempt to defend his WBC World heavyweight title, and his unblemished record, when he faces Artur Szpilka on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“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 via press release. “I look forward to giving the fans plenty of action and excitement on January 16.”
Showtime will carry the live telecast of the fight starting at 10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT.
In the U.K. Live Fight Night International will carry the bout on Sunday at 3:00 a.m. on SkySports1.
Read on for the favorite to win, a preview of the fight, and a prediction.
Odds and Favorite to Win
Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) enters the fight a heavy favorite in Vegas and on online sportsbooks to win the fight (see numbers below), but Szpilka (20-1, 15 KOs) is a game contender who may have the moves to get passed the Bronze Bomber’s flagpole jab and be the first to test the undefeated champ’s chin.
With a building full of pumped up Polish boxing fans backing him up, can Saturday’s encounter be Szpilka’s opportunity to be Poland’s first world heavyweight champion?
“There is no doubt that my crowd, the Polish crowd, will be predominant in Barclays Center,” said Szpilka. “They will be like additional gloves in the ring for me. They’re going to carry me to be a winner, to be a champion, something special.”
Let’s take a look at how the bookies are calling it:
bet365: Deontay Wilder -1400 vs Artur Szpilka +700
skyBET: Deontay Wilder -1600 vs Artur Szpilka +700
sportingbet: Deontay Wilder -1000 vs Artur Szpilka +500
Read on for a preview to the fighters and my prediction.
Meet the Protagonists: Deontay Wilder vs. Artur Szpilka
Saturday’s encounter, Wilder’s third title defense since out-boxing Bermane Stiverne in January of last year to lift the WBC belt, will be his first attempt to retain his title fighting outside of his hometown Birmingham Alabama.
The 30-year-old wields an impressive 97% knockout ratio and an unblemished record, and though some fans and the media still criticized the champ’s less-than-stellar past opposition, the Tuscaloosa native has been making his way up the rankings, and Artur Szpilka certainly presents Deontay’s biggest challenge since his signature fight against Stiverne.
Wilder was last in action stopping Johann Duhaupas in September and knocking out Eric Molina in June.
At 6-foot 7-inches, Wilder boasts a four-inch height advantage over the Pole, and sports an 83-inch reach. Devastating power in both hands and a jab that looks better with each passing fight, America’s current hope for heavyweight domination has developed some fine boxing skills but he is still a work in progress. Ringside experts will be watching him closely on Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to the fight,” said Wilder. “I really am. This is my statement year, the start of the year. I’m looking forward to make a statement on Szpilka’s face.”
Before we get to Szpilka, check out some of the Bomber’s greatest hits in this highlight reel:
If this matchup is a step up in competition for former Olympian Deontay Wilder, then it’s a leap for 26-year-old southpaw Artur Szpilka, who has mostly fought truck drivers or former contenders at the end of their careers. Two notable fights on the Wieliczka, Poland native’s resume: his lone loss to world title challenger Bryant Jennings, a knockout in the tenth round in January 2014; and his unanimous decision marquis win, outpointing fellow-countryman Tomasz Adamek in August of 2014.
Since then, Szpilka been in matches that looked less like professional prizefights, and more like one-sided sparring sessions. Szpilka was last in the ring against journeyman Yasmany Consuegra, who forced to retire in the second round due to a knee injury. Prior to the Consuegra fight, Szpilka had handed Mexican palooka Manuel Quezada his sixth straight loss with a third-round TKO mugging, and veteran plodder Ty Cobb gifted him with a victory after a second-round, pillow-fisted kayo.
Szpilka works best when moving forward with his opponent on the defense. He possesses good hand speed and ring ring movement– working behind a pawing lead right, a fast herky-jerky rhythm, and using his feet to effectively keep turning his adversary. He appears to have a decent chin and good, awkward upper body movement, but he tends to back up in straight line when pressured, and, like Wilder, he can be caught off balance or out of position when on the attack.
“I have everything that a good boxer needs,” said Szpilka. “I’m very confident and I know that this is my time. I have respect for [Wilder], but he’s never fought somebody like me. Everybody he fought but Bermane Stiverne was a bum. Only three people have actually tried to fight him. Everybody else had already lost before they got into the ring.”
Read on for my prediction.
Like I wrote above, fans and observers will be watching the Bomber closely to see what he has to show against one of his toughest assignments yet. Although Wilder ultimately dominated his recent opponents, there were some scary moments for him in his last fights. Moments that more skilled opponents might have been able to capitalize on.
Fans have been wondering where the focused and prepared Wilder that we saw deconstruct Stiverne a couple of years ago has been, and I think we will see that type of masterful performance on Saturday.
What do Wilder and trainer Mark Breland have in mind for their game-plan? Will they look to back up the Pole from the get go and test him, or give ground and control the distance from the back foot? I like the latter, keep the charging Szpilka at bay with your long jab, box him and let him come to you, and look to tag him with a fight-ending poleaxe to the head. (Which is what I think will happen in the fifth or sixth round).
Szpilka will have to use his upper movement to slip and duck his way passed Deontay’s reach (and avoid his power) and paint from body to head. Wilder CAN get caught, but it comes at a premium. However, the reward of making Polish boxing history may make the risk may well be worth the price.
Guy prediction: Wilder wins by KO