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Boxer Deontay Wilder emerging as force in your grandpa’s sport

Last weekend was not the greatest one for your grandfather’s favorite sports.

It was highlighted by the Preakness, the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown. This year’s running was more trinket or bauble than jewel. The first four Kentucky Derby finishers skipped the race, whose most lasting image was of a horse navigating decrepit Pimlico Race Course without its jockey.

Not exactly the Sport of Kings’ finest hour.

Baseball finally had a fine hour Monday. Actually, it was a snappy 1 hour, 58 minutes. A Mets’ victory over the Marlins was the fastest major league game played in nine years. But most of the other games over the weekend plodded along with far too many walks, strikeouts, home runs, pitcher changes and replay challenges.

Would it be asking too much to trade launch angle and exit velocity for a stolen base?

Another sport honored by time and men who wore fedoras is boxing, which offered a heavyweight title fight on relatively free TV (Showtime). The combatants were Deontay Wilder and Dominic Breazeale. Wilder has been a heavyweight champion for five years; Breazeale has been a quarterback at Northern Colorado.

Their fight was far less entertaining than watching a horse run around Pimlico without its jockey.

One-punch knockout

The introductions lasted longer than the fisticuffs. Wilder knocked out Breazeale with one punch; the end came at 2:17 of the first round. Any former linebackers from Montana State or Northern Arizona who might have been considering getting into the fight game no doubt reassessed their options.

Remind me never again to criticize NASCAR drivers for slapping each other in the helmet on pit road after paint is traded.

And yet there are boxing people who believe the unbeaten Wilder (41-0-1) finally may be on the verge of resonating with the casual fight fan the way that jackhammer punch resonated off the former signal-caller’s jawbone.

“He’s got freaky power in his right hand,” said Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press sports columnist, longtime boxing writer, enthusiast and author and recent inductee into the Nevada Press Association Hall of Fame. “I’ve rarely seen power like this. It’s nothing you can teach. You either have it or you don’t, and there are very few people who have it.

“But he’s got it. He just flattens guys. He makes them crumble.”

Could it be that Wilder is slowly turning into a 6-foot-7-inch version of Mike Tyson? Iron Mike had the kind of freaky power Dalhberg referenced, and boy, did he ever flatten guys and make them crumble.

Only time and pay-per-view dollars will tell, but count Dahlberg among those who believe Wilder is starting to build a following at age 33.

Heavyweights on parade

“It’s taken him a long time, but that’s partly his own problem,” Dahlberg said of Wilder who has been WBC champion since defeating Bermane Stiverne at MGM Grand in January 2015. “He started out so slow, fighting nobodies. But lately he has been fighting pretty much everybody they’ve put in front of him.”

That includes fellow colossus Tyson Fury, with whom Wilder fought to an exciting split draw in December, after which Fury serenaded boxing writers by singing “American Pie.”

While the marching band may refuse to yield, the same can’t be said for a boxer with a microphone who thought he won the fight.

With a rematch looming and the emergence of Anthony Joshua — like Fury, a British fighter with drawing power — Dahlberg said the heavyweights are attracting attention again.

“A matchup between (Wilder and Joshua) will be the fight of the year,” Dahberg said. “I think there are good times ahead for the heavyweight division, and as the heavyweight division goes, so goes boxing ostensibly.”

The heavy hitters will remain in the spotlight for the next couple of weeks with dreaded tuneup fights. But even your grandpa knows the Yankees and Red Sox can’t play every weekend.

“Joshua is fighting in New York next week — his first American fight, they’re gonna show him off a little bit — and Fury’s fighting here next month against somebody I’ve never heard of,” Dahlberg said.

Tyson Fury’s opponent at MGM Grand on June 15 is Tom Schwarz. As far as anybody knows, he never played tight end for Eastern Washington.

More boxing: Follow at reviewjournal.com/boxing and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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