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Volume 25 No. 155

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Wilder (l) in '15 became the first American heavyweight champ in nine years, but still needs a signature win
Photo: getty images

Boxer Deontay Wilder will fight Tyson Fury on Saturday night at Staples Center with "more than a championship belt on the line," as Wilder is "in position to help revive -- maybe even electrify -- the languishing sport," according to Josh Peter of USA TODAY. The "relevance of boxing also is at stake, again," as the sport "always has been at its best with an American heavyweight champion on top." Wilder in '15 became the "first American heavyweight champion in nine years," but he "still needs a signature victory." That "could come Saturday against Fury" (USA TODAY, 11/30). Wilder said, "This is the moment people have been looking for a very long time, someone to bring the golden age into the modern day right here. People can get damn excited about it. They've finally got an American heavyweight, a 6-7 brawler from Alabama." In L.A., Lance Pugmire noted Saturday's bout is Wilder's "first Showtime pay-per-view." Wilder: "This is the moment many fighters try to reach. I'm here. I'm finally here. I'm going to make the best of it, and make sure the fight lives up to the hype." Showtime President of Sports & Event Programming Stephen Espinoza said Wilder-Fury "does signal the return of the heavyweight division." Espinoza: "It's the reinvigoration of the division that once was the bread and butter of the sport" (L.A. TIMES, 11/27). CNBC's Adam Reed notes Wilder is “lesser known in his home country” of the U.S. than “his more illustrious predecessors.” Reed: “Wilder is still looking to find his footing as a really loved champion, but it’s going to be his biggest payday” ("Street Signs," CNBC, 11/30). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jim Chairusmi writes under the header, "Deontay Wilder Might Be America's Next Great Heavyweight" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/30).

PATIENCE REWARDED: RING TV's Mike Coppinger wrote Wilder has "patiently waited for a crack at a marquee fight." After "drawn-out negotiations" with heavyweight Anthony Joshua, "nothing came to fruition." But the opportunity with Fury "presented itself, and at 33 years old, finally, Wilder is fighting on the biggest stage." Wilder said, "This is a moment I've been waiting for my entire career. This is my time" (RINGTV.com, 11/28). In Tuscaloosa, Terrin Waack notes Wilder "dominated 32 fights before he even had a chance at a championship." He turned pro in '08 after winning a Bronze Medal at the '08 Beijing Games. Espinoza asked, "Who would have thought that when Deontay Wilder picked up gloves at 18 years old that he'd be the WBC heavyweight champion and headlining pay-per-view at Staples Center?" (TUSCALOOSA NEWS, 11/30). THE UNDEFEATED's Brin-Jonathan Butler wrote Wilder has "struggled to be taken seriously, knocking out a list of no-names in the first years of his pro career." It is "hard to know what we're looking at with Wilder and where he fits in the litany of American heavyweights." While he is the "first American to hold a heavyweight title since Shannon Briggs" in '07, "lots of questions remain, some about Wilder and others about whether Americans still care about heavyweight boxing" (THEUNDEFEATED.com, 11/28).

No major North American pro sports league has "stretched past" 32 teams, but "no one is ruling it out for the NHL to get there on this continent or beyond," according to Stephen Whyno of the AP. Seattle has "seemed a no-brainer from the beginning and no one expects anything by approval" from the NHL BOG as early as Monday. As soon as the Golden Knights became the league's 31st team, "getting to 32 was inevitable." But as balanced as it "might seem, it's not the end." Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly said, "Not sure there is any magic about 32. Expansion is appropriate when a convincing case can be made that it will be beneficial and add value to the league as a whole." Whyno notes Houston, Quebec City and Toronto have all been "touted as possible new homes for an NHL team." Communications company Quebecor "applied for an expansion team for Quebec City at the same time as Las Vegas," and Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta has "already met" NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. NHLPA Exec Dir Don Fehr said, "Houston's a big city. It's got a long history with professional sports in North America. You would like to think that sooner or later the NHL will have a team there." Whyno notes any thought of a 40-team NHL would "almost certainly involve European expansion," where the NHL would "likely need to put a full division in Europe to make any sense" (AP, 11/30).