Thursday, August 15, 2013

Deontay Wilder - The Stats Behind the Streak

Knockout punchers fascinate us, especially when they are heavyweights. Breathing life and debate into the big boys division is Deontay Wilder, the Alabamian who earned America’s last medal in (men’s) boxing at the Olympics, taking home the bronze from the Beijing games of 2008.

Currently, Wilder is 29-0 with all 29 victories coming by knockout. He holds the WBC Continental Americas Heavyweight Title, a top 10 rating and in his last two outings dispatched Audley Harrison and Sergei Liakhovich inside a round each.

According to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Wilder’s current knockout streak of 29 places him fourth all-time for a heavyweight.

No less an expert trio than Wladimir Klitschko, David Haye and Jameel McCline, who have all sparred with Wilder, say he is a tremendous puncher. In fact, McCline stated that getting hit by Wilder “doesn’t feel like you’re being hit by a human being. He’s got Lennox Lewis power and Shannon Briggs accuracy.”

Still, many dismiss Wilder’s streak, chalking it up to the clever matchmaking of abysmal opponents. Amazingly, no one has ever researched the matter…Until now! Where do Wilder’s opponents stand before they fall? Are they in line with the opponents of other heavyweight knockout artists? Is Wilder knocking out better or worse competition than Mike Tyson, Vitali Klischko and George Foreman did? That’s what we set out to answer.

Boxing is a subjective sport. One could pick apart Wilder opponents as too old, too small, coming off a layoff, etc., but in truth these things could be said of every fighter’s opponents.

What follows is a statistical analysis of Wilder’s knockout run, using the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s top 10 heavyweight knockout streaks as a reference guide.

According to the IBHOF the longest heavyweight knockout resume’ in history belongs to:

1. LaMar Clark. 43-3 (42ko) Streak – 39 or 42 depending on source – Competed in the late 1950’s.
Utah’s Clark was a puncher, but faced weak opposition. Very weak. In fact, according to, Clark’s opponents had only a 35% winning percentage when they fought him. 13 of his knockout victims had losing records and another 25 were pro debuts or absent of any verifiable record. Many were professional wrestlers and Clark sometimes competed more than once in a given night. Predictably, Clark was later stopped by a young Cassius Clay in two rounds.

2. Don Steele. 45-6 (44ko) Streak – 39 or 41 depending on source – Competed in
the mid-90’s.
Steele’s opponents were as bad as Clarks, entering the ring with only a 25 percent winning mark coming in. 29 had losing records when they fought him. 7 more were pro debuts. Brian Neilsen stopped Steele in two.

3. Jose Urtain. 56-11-4 (41ko) Streak-24 or 30 depending on source – Competed in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
Little is known about this puncher from Spain, other than he fought a series of journeymen who had a reasonable 52 percent winning percentage coming in. Lost to Henry Cooper among others.

4. Deontay Wilder. 29-0 (29ko) Streak-29. Competing currently.
As the primary subject of this analysis, more information is devoted to Wilder. Wilder’s opponents average 6’3” in height and weigh 244 pounds. They average 34 years of age. The 6’7” right hander has had a height advantage in all but one contest, when he and Kelvin Price were eye to eye. The 224 pound Wilder has been outweighed in 23 of his 29 contests. His opponent’s winning percentage entering to face the Bronze Bomber is a solid 66 percent. 7 had losing records. None was a pro debut. To take it a step further, the opponents of Wilder’s opponents had a 61% winning percentage. That is to say, the winning guys (66%) Wilder knocked out were beating winning guys (61%) themselves. In all, and certainly to the surprise of many, strong numbers.

5. Ernie (sometimes spelled Earnie) Shavers. 74-14 (68ko) Streak-27. Competed in
the 70’s.
Shavers, also from Alabama was a murderous puncher, especially considering his 210 pound frame, which was on the light side even for heavys of the 70’s. During his streak, his opponents rated a 47 percent winning mark. 12 had losing records. Ken Norton, Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes have consistently named Shavers as the hardest puncher they faced.

6. Vitali Klitschko. 45-2 (41ko) Streak-27. Competing currently.
Klitschko is clearly the best statistical heavyweight knockout puncher in history. He has an awkward style but surprising quickness and athleticism. He can bang with either hand and has done so at a high level for a long time. This future Hall of Famer can boast an opponent winning percentage of 70% during his knockout run. Only 3 had losing records and the opponents of his opponents also competed with a 64 percent winning percentage, meaning he beat good guys who beat good guys. Top marks on all scales of our top 10.

7. Mac Foster. 30-6 (30ko) Streak-24. Competed in late 60’s/early 70’s.
Foster’s opponents sported a strong winning percentage of 68 when he knocked them out. 5 had losing records. Solid resume’indeed.

8. George Foreman. 76-5 (68) Streak-24. Compiled knockout streak in early 70’s.
It was said of Big George he could knock a man out with glancing punches. If getting hit by Mike Tyson was like getting hit by a bullet, meaning no pain but a complete loss of senses, then getting hit by Foreman was akin to being run over by a Mack truck traveling at 35 miles per hour, where you felt every inch of it. Big George compiled this streak in his first career against opponents who had a 65% winning slate coming in. 10 had losing records.

9. Alex Stewart. 43-10 (40ko) Streak-24. Competed in the late 80’s.
Stewart rolled up 24 consecutive knockouts to start his career, with opponents sporting a 51% winning mark. 6 had losing records. 4 were pro debuts. Evander Holyfield stopped the streak in a fierce battle, knocking Stewart out in 8.

10. Herbie Hide. 49-4 (43ko) Streak-22. Compiled KO list in the 90’s.
Hide was a smallish heavyweight, who later moved to Cruiserweight but could punch with the best of them. Rocked iron-jawed Riddick Bowe before being . stopped largely due to size difference. His opponent’s winning percentage was 61% during his knockout run and 8 opponents had losing records when they faced him.

BONUS FIGHTER – Mike Tyson. 50-6 (44ko) Streak-19. Compiled in 80’s.
“Iron” Mike blew through his first 19 before James “Quick” Tillis and Mitch “Blood”Green managed to make it to the final bell. Mike’s victims had a 63 percent winning clip and the opponents of Mike’s opponents came in at 60 percent, both good numbers.

From purely a statistical point of view, criticism of Wilder’s opposition isn’t warranted. In fact, his opponents rank third behind only Vitali Klitschko and Mac Foster. It is important to note that of these 11 boxers featured (counting Tyson), only four attained a World title, leading to the conclusion that punching power in and of itself draws crowds and debate but doesn’t necessarily lead to Championships.

*The IBHOF list continues on with Phil Jackson and Frank Bruno. Michael Moorer was excluded from this article as his knockout streak was compiled primarily when he competed as a light heavyweight. Sources include the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and Fight Fax.

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