With all the chaos, confusion and uncertainty that currently surrounds the heavyweight division, it’s easy to forget that we still have a champion who earned his belt before Tyson Fury’s night of brilliance just under a year ago. Deontay Wilder stands as one of only two current belt-holders in the sport’s marquee division, alongside Anthony Joshua – who captured the IBF strap which Fury was stripped of a matter of days after his masterclass in Düsseldorf. The 6′ 7″ hard-hitting American has won all 37 of his previous professional bouts, with 36 coming inside the distance – making him one of boxing’s must-watch superstars.
In spite of picking up various injuries in his most recent outing (including a broken hand), Wilder is currently gearing up for a seek-and-destroy mission – with all heavyweight belt holders being the primary objective. Ryan Elliott caught up with the self-proclaimed ‘Bronze Bomber’, and as expected, he was full of confidence regarding his return to the ring.
“I’m back to full health and I’m using both hands,” He said. “I’m still in therapy just to be on the safe side, but as far as fighting goes, I’m ready. My whole plan for 2017 is to unify the whole division. I’m trying to gain all the belts, all major belts. I want to fight all the champions that have the belts. I don’t care about no other fighters unless they’ve got a belt. That’s my vision, but if we have to add a few other people in here and there so be it. In the heavyweight division that’s how it works sometimes. You add a few, then you fight the best, but when these champions are freed up and ready to go, I’m ready to go.
There’ll be one champion, one name, one face – and that’s Deontay Wilder!
“What I will say is I’m only looking for exciting fights in 2017, I can promise you that. I’m 31 years old and I’m not even in my prime yet. I’m ready to go, I’m ready to take over this division and I’m ready to unify it. There’s only going to be one champion. I’m sick and tired of all these champions. I want one champion – that way it won’t be confusing to anyone around the world. There’ll be one champion, one name, one face – and that’s Deontay Wilder!”
Rumours have surfaced of late that he’ll be facing the unbeaten Hughie Fury (20-0-0) – cousin of Tyson – in early 2017 for his comeback fight, and though the American acknowledged talks may well be ongoing with Team Fury, he was quick to stress that nothing is concrete and there are plenty of other names in the frame for his ring return.
“I’ve been hearing the rumours. They may well be in talks. My team may well be talking to his people – I’m not going to deny that – but until that final decision happens, and we’ve narrowed it down to two or three people, I won’t get involved. When we narrow it down, that’s when I’ll get involved.
I guess we’re going to bless somebody with another opportunity like we did with Duhaupas. Before I fought him, nobody knew him. Look at him now – he’s a silver champion. We may have to pick another unknown fighter or up-and-coming prospect. I know once we’ve got this fight out the way, we can look at one of these mandatories, or one of these guys with the titles.”
Boxing’s top tier lies in a weird place at this moment in time. We’ve got Lucas Browne and Shannon Briggs waiting to fight for the WBA regular strap, as well as Joseph Parker waiting to take on Andy Ruiz Jr. for the WBO belt in December – both of which were recently vacated by the now-recovering Tyson Fury. With such bouts taking place (as well as a Joshua-Klitschko unification for the WBA super and IBF belts in spring 2017), we’ll go from having just two champions to four by the end of the year – not all of which boxing fans and fighters alike will feel are genuinely worthy. This certainly applies to Wilder, who admitted he hadn’t seen too much of the four new world title challengers. One man that did come in for wide criticism from the Bronze Bomber was the 44 year-old Briggs, who finds himself in line to become a three-time world champion.
“I haven’t seen much of Parker or Andy Ruiz,” He admitted. “I also haven’t seen much of Lucas Browne, and I’ve seen nothing of Shannon Briggs. Shannon Briggs only fights F-class fighters, but then comes out like he’s the best of the best. I’ll never be sold on Shannon Briggs. I just think he’s one of the puppets and clowns in the heavyweight division. He’s entertaining, and that’s great, but as a fighter I don’t rate him at all. He’s trying to be a comedian, and that’s okay. We need those guys in the sport.
“We can’t all be bulldogs that just fight and be known for knocking out people. We do need those that are more known for entertaining. He’s big on excitement and big on promoting the fight, but I’m not sold on Shannon Briggs at all. He’s just talk. As far as the opponents that are facing each other go though, I think it’s equal. As I say I haven’t seen much of them, but Parker and Ruiz should be a great fight.”
Strong words indeed for Briggs, who has maneuvered a world-title shot as well as a worldwide following since his return to the ring in 2014 following a four-year layoff. Another heavyweight who many believed to be the best on the planet (before Saturday night) is the Cuban Luis Ortiz. The powerful southpaw won via a one-sided 12 round snooze fest against the lifeless Malik Scott – who happens to be a close friend of Wilder. That performance – in spite of the victory – drew many to change their opinion of Ortiz from most feared heavyweight on the planet to ageing hype job. Among those was Wilder, who again, was not impressed with what he saw. He also revealed that Malik Scott actually phoned him after the fight to apologise for his performance (which was widely criticised). Of the Monaco bout, he said:
“Of course I saw the fight, Malik’s my brother. He’s my brother, but you know, he looked like he was in there to survive. He knows that though, and he knows his faults. He was man enough to assess that that wasn’t his best performance, and we talked about it for a while. He called me after the fight and apologised. He said ‘Bro, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my performance’. I told him he didn’t have to apologise to me – it’s his career! He was very apologetic, and truly sorry. It was one of those nights where you can be ready, but then when you get out in front of the big lights and the cameras, and your opportunity hits you, everything else goes out of the window.
Malik actually told me that Luis Ortiz’s power is overrated. It’s overrated big time, he don’t have no power!
“He understood that he didn’t put in a great performance, but the things that he did do exposed Luis Ortiz. We already know Ortiz has many, many holes in his game. I told Malik before he fought him that Luis Ortiz cannot fight a mover. He can’t fight a guy that moves at angles. He’s a fighter that needs you to be right in front of him, because he can’t plant his feet with a mover, so his power’s nothing. Malik actually told me that Luis Ortiz’s power is overrated. It’s overrated big time, he don’t have no power! Now this is the second guy to say that, because Bryant Jennings said the same thing. He said his power is not what people think it is. He’s not no boogeyman, he’s not dangerous. People only hype him because he’s a southpaw and he’s a Cuban. Luis Ortiz was very slow, he was very frustrated and he was starting to get fatigued too.”
“He wants to be the guy that gets in there and bangs with people, but if you get any kind of a boxer that likes to move, it’s over for him. If Malik had put out more punches as he was moving, that would’ve been an easy fight for him. Once these guys like Ortiz get belts, or become mandatories to me, I’m ready to go. There ain’t no doubt in my mind and I’ve got no fear. I’m scared of nobody in this heavyweight division, and I mean that. I’ll back up everything I say, and I have no worries. If anything, those guys are worried about me!”
Looking elsewhere at the heavyweight picture, Anthony Joshua will defend his IBF crown against Eric Molina on December 10 – a man Wilder faced for his first defence in 2015. Bookmakers, fans and fighters alike are giving the man who Wilder floored several times en route to victory little chance, and though the American refused to predict a winner, he offered his thoughts on the bout – speaking positively about Molina.
“I think it’ll be a great fight between them two. Molina comes to fight, especially when it’s for a world title. After fighting me he got better – he’ll tell you himself. He thanks me all the time! He thanks me to this day that I gave him an opportunity to display to the world what he was capable of doing. That set him up for the Adamek fight, and he went to his hometown and beat him. Now, he’s in another championship fight and I’m so happy for him.
“That’s what it’s all about; giving your all. You never know when you might get your last opportunity – some guys don’t ever get a second chance. I wish both of those guys good luck. I don’t know what the outcome of the fight is going to be, but I definitely know Molina is going to give him the toughest fight he’s ever had in his life. If he’s going into there with the mentality he had with me, and I know he is, he’s going to give Joshua a run for his money.”
To finish, we discussed what the future holds for the big man himself. What next for Deontay Wilder? What is, realistically the ultimate goal? When does the WBC champ hang up the gloves for good? Here’s what he told us…
I’m going to say it right now… I’m going to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world – mark my words!
“For me, unifying the division is my ultimate goal of my career. I’m not going to stop until I do that. I want to unify the division, and I want to make boxing great again. Once I unify, I want to fight all mandatories – maybe four to five times a year – and I want to keep doing that. After I’ve defended them a few times, that’s going to be it for me. Then I’ll go into acting! I’m going to go from getting hit to acting like I’m getting hit!
“Everything in boxing that I said I would do, I’ve done it. Deontay Wilder has done it, and I’m going to say it right now… I’m going to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world – mark my words! I’m gonna rule the heavyweight division. I don’t care where they’re from, I’m going to beat them. Point blank, period. I just can’t wait for my time, and it’s coming up.”
Here’s hoping Wilder and co. can reignite the heavyweight division once again in 2017 after a disastrous few months. If we actually get the tasty unification fights so craved by the masses (and clearly Wilder himself) it could just be a year to remember for the sport of boxing. Fingers crossed.