A talk with hard-hitting Heavyweight contender Deontay Wilder
By Rob Scott From Atlanticcityweekly.com
Historically, the heavyweight division of boxing has been seen as the backbone and glamour division of the sport.
So much so that when there is ever a lull in heavyweight action, cries of the sport’s demise inevitably surface. Not having a standout American heavyweight for literally years now really seems to be one of the nails that have been sealing the fate of the sport, as the love for the sport and the belief in its re-emergence has really taken a hit that’s been harder than that of a fighter in the ring.
Enter Deontay Wilder, who is a Bronze medal winner in the 2008 Olympic games, and holder of an impressive, 29-0; 29 KOs), professional record. In recent months, along with trainer and 1984 Olympic Gold medal winner and former world champion Mark Breland, Wilder’s reputation has been gaining momentum and notoriety, as he is being touted as a definite American heavyweight hopeful.
On Saturday, October 26, Wilder brings his brand of heavyweight punishment to Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, when he faces Nicolai Firtha, 21-10-1; 8 KOs), as a part of a Showtime Championship Boxing triple header, headlined by Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins’mandatory defense of his IBF Light Heavyweight championship against Karo Murat.
I spoke to Wilder as he was preparing for his upcoming fight. He lays it down to our readers about his heavyweight intentions and what the sport can look forward to with his emergence on the heavyweight scene.
Long being a person who believed that a fighter’s star truly shines when people get to know the fighter, not just see what the fighter can do in the ring, tell us who Deontay Wilder is. Who are your influences?
Well, for those that don’t know me, Deontay Wilder is not only a great boxer, but he is a great down-to-earth person. He is a father. Really, in person, he is a loveable guy. He’s a silly guy, too, who loves to make people smile and make people happy. My inspiration has always been my daughter, Naieya, who was born with Spina Bifida. She has always been my drive, as well as all of my kids, who are my motivation and drive to do well in this sport.
The boxing world has been hearing a lot about you as of late, especially since your last couple of outings. What can the fans at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall and the Showtime viewing audience expect to see from Deontay Wilder on October 26?
You can definitely expect a knockout, that’s for sure. But more than that, you can expect excitement and entertainment. I like to please the fans because I’m a crowd pleaser. You can expect the same that was seen in all the other fights. That’s what I’m going to continue, even after I win the belts. People, when they come to see heavyweight fights, they come to see knock outs. I have delivered that in 29 fights, and I come to deliver it again on the 26th.
Everything takes its time, but you are being seen as the heavyweight that can lead the U.S. out of its heavyweight slump. There are many who not only believe that you can, but it’s only a matter of time when you will indeed change the face of heavyweight boxing. Being conscious of these beliefs, does this create added pressure for you as you climb through those ring ropes?
Overall it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good that a lot of people believe in me. I mean, you’re going to have those that don’t believe until you fight a certain fight up to their expectation, but there are those that have connected with me thus far and have already seen my ability and the things I am capable of doing. Those are true people, and for them to see it now, will only be greater when I win the belts. They will have the right to say, I saw this in this guy a long time ago when others couldn’t see what he had.
When I have accomplished all of my goals and win the heavyweight championship of the world, I would have already had people who have been with me from the start that have always believed in me. It makes me not only want to do this for my family, but also for those who have believed in me from day one.
It’s no pressure on me though, because I’m not the type of guy to panic under pressure. Even when I’m pressured, I give my best performance, so I’ll definitely get the job done. I thank God that he gives me the ability to do what I do, because everybody doesn’t have the ability to get up and work, doing what they love to do. I feel blessed to be able to say I am one that gets up, trains and when it’s time to get in the ring on fight night, performs in front of my fans and the people watching on TV as well.
You’ve heard of the U.S. verbal hits that the division has been taking in recent years. It’s easy for people who have never laced up a pair of gloves to cast judgment, but from your vantage point, what is your take on the heavyweight contenders who you will most likely have to face as you continue your rise?
I think the heavyweight division is coming back to life. I mean we have a lot of great guys, including myself, that’s bringing the division back, and it’s exciting. A lot of people want the Klitschkos out of there because when you look at the champions of the past, you saw excitement. Now with the Klitschkos there, everyone considers them boring. It’s good that we have a lot of new prospects coming out bringing changes, and I am loving that my name is involved in that movement to bring the heavyweight division back. I’ve actually had people thank me for doing what I have done thus far, because they say, “Now we can watch heavyweight boxing again, because now it’s become exciting again, and I thank you.”
That makes me feel good that the things I’ve done is inspiring others to pick up the sport again when they may have laid it down when we didn’t have an American heavyweight. Now they see me in the future as being the heavyweight champion of the world, so the division is making a comeback. It’s never really been dead, it’s just been asleep.
I can’t wait to get my opportunity to get a hold of those belts to hold high and bring back to America baby.
With most fighters, their management and promoters take charge of who the next opponent will be. The goal would be one of the Klitschko brothers, but are there any fighters out there on the heavyweight landscape that you personally would like to meet before you get your heavyweight championship opportunity?
I have two lists for myself. One list is my personal list of who I definitely want to fight, but we also have a game plan as well. So whoever’s there in my path along the way before I get to that ultimate point, we can deal with them, too. I have an awesome team, and I truly trust and believe in them, and they trust and believe in me. We have gotten this far and are climbing the rankings, so if something’s not broke, then why try and fix it?
I really want to fight the top guys and fight the fights that the fans want to see. The thing is; all fighters can say that I want to fight this guy and he wants to fight me, but what will be the benefit out of it? We can’t solely please the fan because the fan doesn’t care how much you make or how much punishment you take, they just come to see the fight.
In other words you are saying that boxing is not only a sport, but it’s also a business?
Most definitely. All involved can see the potential of a fight happening, but they want to build it up to where the money makes sense. We have families to take care of, where as we can’t just fight for pennies just to satisfy the fans and we don’t get any satisfaction. We’ll be sitting and waiting on other fights, but paying the bills with these checks. If we’re going to fight, we look to have both sides satisfied; meaning the fans as well as the fighters. That’s why it takes so long for fights to happen sometimes, but I know I just want to please my fans and build the fight up to a historical moment.
Did you happen to see Wladimir Klitschko’s heavyweight title defense a couple of weeks ago? If so, what was your take on the fight?
I saw the last couple of rounds, but I didn’t see the full fight. When I did turn it on, I saw Wladimir clinching and holding on to Povetkin. I’ve been so busy that I actually forgot about the fight, but one of my guys asked me was I watching. When I saw it, I asked, “Was he [Wladimir] doing this throughout the whole fight?” He said, “This fight has been a super boring fight.” It was said that he grabbed over 170-something times, and everyone is saying the same thing. With everyone saying the same thing, that it was a boring fight, everyone can’t be wrong. A lot of people seemed displeased that he was the champion and he didn’t perform like a champion, and get his man out in great fashion. Even though he got the win, they were unpleased. It’s a good time to for any heavyweight to go in there and get all the Klitschkos out of there. It’s time and it’s a new era.
There have been many who thought they had the Klitschko remedy, until they ultimately faced a Klitschko. What is your remedy or plan in solving the long standing Klitschko puzzle?
Well I am much taller than the guys they are use to fighting. They aren’t use to fighting taller guys who see them eye-to-eye. I mean, also my reach is longer than they are use to; I’m definitely more athletic than they are; I have more speed and I am young guy. Most of all, I have God given power. With all of these combinations together, you have a great match-up. It’s like when a southpaw fighter fights an orthodox fighter; it’s going to be an awkward fight. The thing is with us, the awkwardness comes from us fighting eye-to-eye, so it will be more competitive than him fighting shorter guys. With shorter guys, he can keep the jab out there to keep the shorter guy at bay. If the shorter guy gets in, he can hold onto them. But the thing is no one knows that I have a great inside game that people have never seen. I have sparred with him and I know how to beat him. You are right about having a game plan until you get in there; when they finally do, it is so different. It’s different though when you have been in there with him, because you know what to expect. I have been in there with him, and I already know what to expect.
Deontay, thanks for your words ahead of your fight here on the 26th. I wish you luck in the fight and I wish you luck in the remainder of your career.