Born to be Wilder
Every fighter has a story of how they got into boxing and Deontay Wilder’s certainly merits more space than most. Wilder told Boxing Monthly, “I got into to boxing because of my 10-year-old daughter Naieya who was born with spina bifida. I was in college, but once she was born, I had to drop out and support her.”
Wilder was only 19 at the time and had demonstrated his natural athletic prowess at community college in a number of disciplines, most noticeably (American) football and basketball. His elite ability had generated a great deal of interest from the NFL and NBA, and a young Wilder was getting ready to pack his bags and head for the University of Alabama, for what would surely have been a life resulting in all the financial trappings a person could wish for. When his girlfriend got pregnant, the dream was still in sight, but when his daughter was born with the debilitating spina bifida condition, his game plan changed.
Informed by the doctors that she may never walk, the responsibilities of a good father took over and Wilder took on a number of parallel jobs to generate income to pay for the necessary medical care and pending operations. It was during this time that Wilder starting thinking about ways to generate further income to pay for the ever increasing bills. Wilder explained to BM: “I thought boxing was my best bet - simply because I was a great streetfighter. I ended up joining a gym and the rest is history.”
His rise within one of the toughest sports on the planet was fast to say the least. He walked into that gym towards the end of 2005, by 2007 had won the National Golden Gloves and US Championships and by 2008 won further sporting spoils, which would then became part of his nickname and identity, ’The Bronze Bomber’.
Wilder elaborated to BM on the genesis of the nickname. “The bronze part came about because I was the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist. The Bomber part – we had one of the best heavyweight boxers of all-time who came from Alabama, who went by the name of Joe Louis. He was ‘The Brown Bomber’. I was a big fan of Joe Louis and wanted to dedicate the ‘Bomber’ part to him. That’s how ‘The Bronze Bomber’ came about.”
Debuting in the pro ranks in November 2008, Wilder began a blazing trail of 32 devastating knockouts over the next six years. In fact, he only boxed a mere 58 rounds during those fights, equating to an average of 1.8 rounds per bout. He started turning heads very quickly outside of the ring and literally inside it.
However, as sceptics do, in advance of the Bermane Stiverne fight, many had doubts that Wilder’s 6ft 7inch muscular frame could take him the distance. Challenge in the face of adversity is something Wilder has thrived on his whole life and, when posed a question regarding stamina, he replied initially with a deep, warm laugh, which paved the way for the kind of answer you’d expect from a confident world champion.
“I’ve always trained for the long haul – right from my first fight. You can’t be naïve when you’re knocking out guys so fast and so quickly, that one day it’s not gonna happen - that one day there will never be someone who can withstand the punches that you land. We ALWAYS train for the long haul. People always thought that I was just about my right hand. They didn’t realise my skill level. We train for a number of scenarios and eventualities, but when you’re knocking guys in in one or two rounds, you don’t see those skills. In the last few fights, my opponents brought those skills out of me.
“Whereas in my first 32 fights, I didn’t have to worry about conserving my energy, in my last [four] I used my skills to conserve my energy and wait for the right moment to land the bombs. I’d been telling people I could fight 12 rounds easily, but nobody believed me. I’m a professional elite athlete and was fit enough to fight for 20 rounds in any of my 35 fights. That’s what will make me excel amongst the world ranked fighters.”
Any doubts from the sceptics were certainly answered in those last three fights, as he boxed 32 rounds, equating to an average of 10.6 rounds per bout. The next issue which arose within the boxing community, understandably, was the calibre of opponents Wilder had taken on since becoming world champion.
In November of this year on Sky Sports, Wilder expressed his willingness to want to fight Anthony Joshua (then ranked No2 by the WBC behind Alexander Povetkin) and to give the public the fights they want to see. Wilder said, “We’re always looking for the up and coming guys and he's one of those guys."
Here’s the thing – fans don’t want to see Wilder fight ‘up and coming guys’. No disrespect to Anthony Joshua, as he’s the bookies favourite to become world champion within 18 months, but ever since Wilder beat Stiverne in January 2015, he’s come under sharp criticism from the boxing community for the level of opposition he’s taken on.
Fair play to Molina and Duhaupas for taking Wilder nine and eleven rounds respectively, but these are not the fights we want to see [Wilder subsequently KOed Artur Szpilka in nine rounds in January]. Perhaps an old fashioned perspective, but in order to be ranked the best, you need to take on the best.
All Wilder has done in his last few fights is cast an air of doubt that his power and ability at a higher level does not travel as far as it did before becoming the WBC world champion. BM posed a straight question to Wilder, “Many criticised you for not taking stiffer opposition after Stiverne. What’s your message to them?” Wilder’s response, “Try getting in the ring with Molina and Duhaupas! These guys were tough and had chins like rocks. I followed a gameplan exactly as I was supposed to and it worked out. No matter what I do, there’s always gonna be something else to complain about. Those people will never be happy. In fact, they are happy being sad and negative, so in the same way I make my fans happy, I make those negative guys happy also. I make everyone happy! The main thing between me and the people who criticise me? What I can do, they can’t do. They’ll never achieve my heights inside or outside of the ring. Either way – I’m winning! [Deontay laughs]. My skin is tough and the message I give to those haters is, ‘Your words are like rain and I’m the umbrella.’ Their words have been falling off that umbrella for as long as I can remember.”
The next question ignited Wilder’s engine, BM asked, “Did you watch the Fury/Klitchko fight?”
Wilder replied: “Are you talking about the most boring fight in boxing history? If so – yeah I saw it! When you are in a bout where the heavyweight champion of the world throws about two punches per round and the challenger about 18 – that’s a boring fight! In my last fight, which only lasted 11 rounds, I threw and landed more punches than they did combined in the whole fight. The fight should have been called ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ because there was a lot of dancing.
“You can’t take nothing away from Fury, a win is a win and he goes down in history. Wladimir’s biggest battle was against Father Time – and when you facing Father Time, he’s undefeated. There were probably times in that fight where Wladimir was probably thinking, ‘Hey – I need to get in with the jab and find my range,’ but his body was finding it difficult to do that. Maybe we saw Father Time catch up with Wladimir Klitchko that night.”
“Here’s my message for Tyson Fury [Deontay laughs, then pauses] – RUN, RUN, RUN as fast as you can! I’m coming to claim my prize man. Congratulations on your win, but you’re really not the champion – I am. You’re just keeping my belts warm for me. I hold the most prestigious, the most famous, the most recognised of the titles, the prime jewel of boxing – the WBC belt. Hold onto those belts as long as you can, because I’m coming for them.”
Many journalists and boxing aficionados had speculated the outcome of the Fury-Klitchko fight to the point that they’d already leapfrogged the result and lined up a showdown between Wilder and Wladimir. Many predicted Wilder would be the Ukrainian’s next jab and grab victim. With Fury’s win, the landscape of heavyweight boxing has changed - for the first time in over nine years. Rematch and successful Fury defence allowing, this could potentially open the gates for, dare I say it, excitement to pour back into the heavyweight division. With former WBA world heavyweight champion David Haye now back in the ring, and in pursuit of crowning glory again, Wilder may well be facing a British challenger in 2016.
When BM asked Wilder who he’d ideally like to face in 2016, he replied: “It not about who, it’s about why. When I started boxing, all I’ve wanted to is unify the division and become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. I’m a force to be reckoned with. I will unify the division and that’s a promise. I always keep my promises. Nobody in this division is on my level. Nobody has my style, my skills, my speed or accuracy. Not to mention the number of punches I throw and the power behind them. I was destined to be somebody and boxing is my calling. It doesn’t matter who tries to come after me and how many times they have a go, they won’t win.
“They can say what they want, but nobody wants to share that ring with me. Everything they do outside of the ring is for the cameras, the hype, building up their profile and publicity. When they step into that ring, there’s nowhere to run. Nobody can tag team you in that ring. Nobody can fight for you. When it becomes me and you [Deontay laughs] somebody got to go – and it damn sure ain’t gonna be me!
“All these fighters saying stuff about me in the media is good. It makes it more fun for me when I whoop them. I bring a certain kind of weigh to my punches and, with their badmouthing, they gave me that extra bit of weight that I’m looking for behind each punch.”
Wilder signed off with a few words of gratitude. “My message to my fans, especially those who have been with me from the very start of my career, right until I became world champion – I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. That’s true loyalty. Those who have recently come on board – welcome, welcome and welcome! 2015 was a great year, but 2016 is going to be THE year. I can’t wait to show the world what an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world looks like.”