Deontay Wilder leads parade of big hitters with tilt at the premier prize

If 2014 was the year when boxing itself made a comeback as spectacular as any renaissance witnessed then 2015 seems destined to underscore the fight game’s critics

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If 2014 was the year when boxing itself made a comeback as spectacular as any renaissance witnessed in the ring then 2015 seems destined to underscore the fight game’s enduring capacity to counter-punch the critics.

Big fights, big nights, big names and big hitters are already filling the fistic calendar both here and in the United States, with the focus on big men with fire in their fists.

It all kicks off at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on 17 January when American hopes of reclaiming a partial grip on what is still the richest and most revered prize in sport – the world heavyweight championship – rest on the power-packed Deontay Wilder.

His record of 33 wins, with all opponents battered inside four rounds – 18 of them not surviving the first – makes him the most frightening heavyweight force since Sonny Liston and Mike Tyson stalked the rings.

The 29-year-old Bronze Bomber – named after the Olympic medal he won in Beijing – was seen here fleetingly 18 months ago poleaxing Audley Harrison almost before the ding of first round bell had faded.

Audley Harrison is knocked down by Deontay Wilder

Such is his phenomenal punching power that few will be laying bets against him to wrest the WBC version of the crown held by Bermane Stiverne, the new leading man of the octogenarian impresario Don King.

The Haitian-born Canadian acquired the title after the retirement of the new mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, whose multi-belted brother Wladimir awaits a re-unification bout with the winner in April.

What we may discover on 17 January is whether Wilder wilts when whacked himself.

Similarly the world waits to see if Britain’s own heavyweight champ-in-waiting, Anthony Joshua has a chin to match his clout and charisma. Next up for him at London’s O2  in 31 January is the American warhorse Kevin Johnson,35.

The O2 sees more heavyweight action on 28 February when Tyson Fury faces the Romanian Christian Hammer, who can bang a bit.

Elsewhere boxing’s boomtime continues with new year world title fights for the middleweight Billy Joe Saunders; and Carl Frampton, the super-bantamweight champion, against Californian Chris Avalos in Belfast.  Also on 2 February, in Monte Carlo, Martin Murray, meets Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin, another thunder-punching beast from the east who is the most feared middleweight with 28 kos in a perfect record of 31 wins. Good luck to the Mancunian. He’ll need it.

It looks likely that Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally will get it on in May, leaving Khan to contemplate an equally lucrative British blockbuster with the IBF welter champion, Kell Brook.

All this plus the promised return of the Hayemaker, apparently now a vegan.

Seconds out. Boxing is ready to rumble again.