Johann “The Reptile” Duhaupas momentarily lost his way to the ring Saturday night, but the Frenchman didn’t lose his courage nor his will. He pushed WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder to 11 rounds, before succumbing in a lopsided, though entertaining fight on Premier Boxing Champions on NBC, from the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala.—the first primetime network TV heavyweight championship fight in 30 years.
Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) didn’t lose a round, though Duhaupas (32-3, 20 KOs) gave “The Bronze Bomber” one of his toughest fights. Referee Jack Reiss ended it at :55 in the 11th, making it the first time Duhaupas was stopped.
“I wasn’t feeling any pressure at all,” Wilder said. “I’m well experienced. (Duhaupas) did everything we expected him to do. We knew he was tough, we knew he was going to keep coming. When you fight for a world title, it brings a different beast. He did a heck of a job and I definitely respect him. He has a great chin. I was prepared to go all 12 rounds. I started listening to my corner, and they told me to start coming with punches in bunches. Each and every fight I prove a little more. I displayed a lot tonight, but without (Duhaupas’) toughness, I wouldn’t be able to do what I did tonight.”
As for a possible fight with world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, Wilder said, “Hopefully, we can do it sometime late next year. That fight will surely come around. Soon, we’ll have an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.”
Wilder landed 326 of 587 total punches, to Duhaupas who connected on 98 of 332 total punches. The Bronze Bomber connected on 183 of 267 power shots thrown (Duhaupas: 47-152 power shots), and his jab dictated the fight, with 143 connects on 320 jabs thrown, to Duhaupas’ 51 jab connects of 180 thrown.
What made the fight intriguing was the durability of Duhaupas. He kept getting pounded, and you had to wonder how much more the Frenchman could take? If he was an unknown before Saturday night, his gallant display certainly made a few fans.
Wilder had Duhaupas in some trouble in the third. A lot of credit goes to Reiss, who let them fight, and allowed Duhaupas to come back. But while Wilder’s left eye began to swell after the second round, The Reptile never went after Wilder’s vulnerability. By the fifth, the mouse hanging under Wilder’s eye had swelled so much, it jiggled when he threw a punch.
Entering the fifth, Wilder had outlanded Duhaupas, 124-47. Maybe because his left eye was nearly closed, Wilder stepped up his intensity in the fifth. Wilder had Duhaupas in serious distress again, causing Reiss to look in closely, tempted to wave it over.
In the seventh, Wilder hurt Duhaupas again, with a right on top of the head, which caused the rugged Frenchman to reel backwards. Wilder then applied more pressure, crowding Duhaupas and pounding away to the body and head. Wilder’s work rate dropped considerably in the eighth, though he had the better of Duhaupas.
Duhaupas, with a cut over the bridge of his nose, which came in the first round, and a cut under his left eye, kept coming forward. He seemed to get stronger as the fight wore on, pushing Wilder past nine rounds for only the second time in his career.
With less than a minute in the 10th, Wilder had Duhaupas teetering again, forcing Reiss to lean forward a third time to think about stopping the fight. Duhaupas had a huge welt under his left eye. It just seemed a matter of time—and that came early in the 11th, when Wilder again had Duhaupas cowering and in serious jeopardy of getting hurt, starting with two right uppercuts, and a left uppercut when Duhaupas was bent over. Reiss made the right call when he ended it at :55.
On the undercard, 6-foot-7 Dominic Breazeale (16-0, 14 KOs) remained undefeated by beating the game, and underrated Fred Kassi (18-4-1, 10 KOs) in a 10-round unanimous decision. Judges Irwin Deutsch saw it 98-92 for Breazeale, while David Hudson (97-93) and John Westeterp (100-90) also saw Breazeale winning. But many at ringside saw the fight far closer than the judge’s scores, and certainly narrower than Westeterp’s shutout for Breazeale.
In the first round, Kassi landed a few head shots, but Breazeale kept him away with his superior reach and size. Kassi changed that in the second, frustrating Breazeale by switching dominant hands. He connected with more shots to the head, breaking through Breazeale’s guard with straight lefts. But every once in a while, Breazeale would drop and land a body shot on Kassi.
Within the first :30 of the fourth, connected with another straight left. Though with just over a minute left in the round, Breazeale caught Kassi with a straight right in the corner. That seemed to stir some confidence in Breazeale, who opened up more crashing rights and lefts off Kassi, who turtled-up in the corner.
Kassi appeared to have Breazeale in some trouble early in the fifth. The smaller Kassi, listed at 5-11, had the 6-7 Breazeale in the corner, his head against Breazeale’s chest, negating his power. Kassi, however, made the constant mistake of coming forward in a straight line, using no angles. Kassi was there to be hit, and that’s exactly what Breazeale did.
After seven, it appeared as if Kassi was getting the better of Breazeale. In the eighth, Breazeale re-established himself. He began mixing his punches, going to the body, and then coming up to the head. The eighth enabled Breazeale, though slow and ponderous, to climb back into the fight.
Breazeale, the former 2012 U.S. Olympian super heavyweight, nailed Kassi with a straight right in the first :10 of the ninth. Breazeale closed the round with a right uppercut body shot with just over :40 in the round. It may have been the round to sway the judges in his favor. Entering the last round, Kassi had outlanded Breazeale in total punches, 107-99.
Breazeale may have sensed he was in some trouble of losing. Displaying a sense of urgency, he upped his activity level. He banged Kassi with a body attack, mixed with a few shots of Kassi’s head. It’s a fight the 30-year-old Breazeale needed. He went 10 for the first time in his career.
The unanimous result received a spattering of boos. Breazeale connected on 118 of 555 total punches, while Kassi landed 119 of 458. Breazeale hit Kassi with 89 of 310 power shots, and 29 of 245 jabs thrown. Kassi was slightly more accurate with his power shots, landing 86 of 239 shots and 33 of 219 jabs.
“This is probably the most frustrated I’ve ever been in a fight,” Breazeale said. “I have to give Fred a lot of credit. I knew I had it in the tank and I could tell the body shots were having an effect. I have a lot to learn. I’m still a young guy in this game. It was a learning lesson.”
The crowd thought Kassi deserved a better fate.
“He didn’t really hit me with nothing,” Kassi said. “I thought I was the better fighter. I was blocking his punches. I take nothing away from him. He’s a good fighter.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.
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