Deontay Wilder comes from a family of Alabama preachers, namely his father and grandmother, which is why his interviews end up sounding more like Sunday sermons.
Speaking things into existence is big with Wilder. The 33-year-old from Tuscaloosa has called himself the best heavyweight boxer on the planet so often he believes it, even though most Americans don’t know he’s the WBC heavyweight champion of the world.
“The more I’m able to display my talent among the world, the sooner everyone will realize that I am special,” Wilder said recently. “I am something that’s a gift from God. I am anointed like my grandmother said, ‘If you all want to see the Ali era, trust in Deontay.’ I’m here.”
Part of the world — and especially those in America and England — will be watching Saturday night when Wilder defends his WBC heavyweight championship against lineal champion Tyson Fury of Britain. The matchup of unbeaten champions at Staples Center here will be shown on Showtime pay-per-view in the U.S.
Wilder (40-0 with 39 knockouts) might be making the eighth defense of his title, but this is his career-defining moment. It’s the culmination of a frustrating period in which he failed to land a potentially lucrative unification fight with WBA, WBO and IBF champion Anthony Joshua of England. Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) may prove to be a better option.
The 6-foot-9 Brit has a huge following, the gift of gab and still considers himself the champion after being the man to dethrone Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Fury never got to defend his titles. He spent the next 2½ years out of the ring battling drug addiction and depression and was eventually stripped of his belts. After two comebacks fights, he wants Wilder’s WBC championship, while Wilder wants respect.
“This fight means everything to me. This is my time to shine,” Wilder said. “This is my coming-out party. It was supposed to happen a long time ago. But we can’t talk about the past because this is the present and I can’t wait. It’s going to be an amazing fight while it lasts.”
The 6-7 Wilder won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics after picking up boxing at age 18. His immediate objective was to earn money to pay the medical bills for one of his daughters, who suffered from spina bifida. His punching power made up for his lack of technical skills and he won his first 32 fights by knockout before going the distance to dethrone Bermane Stiverne for the WBC belt in 2015.
Wilder has won all seven of his defenses by knockout, including a 10th-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Luis “King Kong” Ortiz in March at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Now he has the chance to add Fury to his résumé.
“I can’t wait,” Wilder said. “This allows me to feel like my hard work that I’ve put in hasn’t gone in vain. I’ve worked hard to get to this very point in my life and now I’m here. This is my moment. This is my opportunity. This is what I’ve been waiting on.”
America hasn’t had a heavyweight champion of note since the era of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Interest in the division faded in the States as Klitschko spent much of his 10-plus-year reign as champ fighting in Europe. While boxing’s popularity skyrocketed in the United Kingdom, there were no compelling American heavyweights until Wilder knocked out Ortiz.
“The sport is different today than it was 20 years ago,” said Wilder’s manager, Shelly Finkel, who also managed Mike Tyson. “When you came out of the Olympics you were a star already and able to be on television regularity. Now you have to work a lot of times in obscurity until you get there. Deontay’s where he should be and hopefully it will grow from here.”
Beating Fury would make Wilder a global star.
“He’s waited a long time to have the opportunity for a career-defining fight,” said Wilder’s promoter, Lou DiBella. “I’m proud of him for having patience and not losing confidence in himself and his career. Good things come to people who wait, and this is a good thing. Whoever wins this fight is going to emerge with a lot more leverage than they had.”
Wilder, a man of faith and trash talk, has no doubts about the outcome.
“I’m a different [combination] of athleticism and movement,” he said. “I’m agile, mobile and hostile. I’ve got a heart of a lion. I’m a king, and I really mean every word that I say until somebody proves me wrong.”
Source: George Willis