Deontay Wilder and Eric Molina will square off for the WBC heavyweight title Saturday night, but the question doesn’t seem to be who will win the fight, but rather, whether Molina will actually survive it.
Wilder isn’t going to kill him, is he?
“Well, we hope not, that’s for sure,” legendary Showtime boxing analyst Al Bernstein said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench, laughing. “No, the onus of proof is certainly on Molina. He is ranked in the top 10, but as you well know (from) many years (watching) boxing, that doesn’t mean someone has a chance to win a fight or make a great fight.”
Molina (23-2, 17 KOs) has won five fights in a row, but he’s never beaten a top contender. In fact, he suffered a first-round knocking at the hands of Chris Arreola in February 2012.
“He’s a fighter that’s certainly going to have to be aggressive and hope for the best,” Bernstein said of Molina, “and that’s actually what he said he’s going to do. He’s going to try and really get inside, land a big right hand and see what he can do against Wilder. But clearly the onus is on him to show that he can get int he ring and compete with Wilder, who of course is going to be in front of his 9,000 wildly enthusiastic Alabama fans.”
Wilder, a Tuscaloosa native, will fight Molina at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. It is Wilder’s first title defense and his first fight in the state of Alabama since 2012.
He doesn’t figure to let down the home crowd.
Wilder (33-0, 32 KOs) is coming off a dominant 12-round performance against Bermane Stiverne in January. Wilder beat Stiverne by unanimous decision – the first decision of his career – to claim the WBC heavyweight title.
None of Wilder’s previous 32 fights had gone past the fourth round; 18 of them hadn’t gone past the first.
“(Beating Stiverne) answered a lot of questions about him, but probably not every question,” Bernstein said. “He’s a very good fighter. He’s very athletic. He’s getting better every fight, and you have to look at him in the context of this heavyweight division and know that he’s among five or six fighters who I think could create kind of an interesting future for the heavyweight division.”
Wilder holds the only major heavyweight belt not claimed by Wladimir Klitschko (64-3, 53 KOs). Klitschko hasn’t lost since 2004.