On Tuesday afternoon, Deontay Wilder announced he will make the ninth defense of his WBC World Heavyweight title versus mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale on Saturday, May 18. The bout will occur at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, live on Showtime Championship Boxing.
Wilder-Breazeale, a legitimate grudge match, came to fruition through a series of unexpected events—much like Wilder’s pro career. It was his daughter Naieya’s battle with spina bifida that caused him to take up boxing. The three jobs he already held would not cover mounting medical bills.
That led to an improbable 2008 Olympic run where Wilder won bronze, and then to the pro ranks, where “The Bronze Bomber” is now one of boxing’s longest reigning champions.
Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) has always had a strong belief in destiny—and himself. He was initially slated to face former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in a rematch of last December’s Showtime PPV. The first fight was one of the most dramatic heavyweight bouts since, well, Wilder’s thrilling TKO win over Luis Ortiz in March 2018.
Fury’s miraculous recovery from a 12th-round knockdown went viral; the fight ended in a disputed draw verdict.
Wilder believes he won but wasn’t pleased with his performance.
“I rushed things,” said Wilder. “It was my first PPV. How you perform and what you do is very important. I tried to give the fans a devastating KO and rushed it. Just the excitement of it all got to me.”
Rematch talks began almost immediately afterward. When both parties agreed to all terms, the contract was sent over to Team Fury to sign.
“It was about five days to a week and no word,” Wilder recalled. “[Wilder manager] Shelly Finkel and [Fury promoter] Frank Warren, they always talking. To make the first fight was easy, they stayed in contact. This one was different. They weren’t answering the phone so we knew something fishy was going on.”
On Monday, February 18, Fury announced a multi-fight, co-promotional deal with Top Rank Promotions. The deal effectively killed the Wilder rematch.
“What challenger do you know won’t take a rematch after they feel they got robbed?” asked Wilder. “If you think you won so easy, then why not do it again for big money? But that wasn’t the case. They had to look out for themselves and put themselves in the best position for them.
“I did the appropriate thing. Many people felt our fight was controversial so I gave him the rematch. I think he should have taken our deal while it was on the table. He got his new deal because they thought I was going to be a part of it. I mean, if I don’t give him that rematch, they’re going to be sick.”
Wilder was also offered a multi-fight contract by Top Rank, which he turned down.
“The thing about having freedom is that it allows you to dictate your career,” Wilder said. “When you sign with people, now they’re in control. We’ve seen many fighters get into situations with promoters and get put on the shelf. They have families they need to feed but they aren’t in control. You don’t want to be tied up for a long time.”
That last point was hammered home last Tuesday, when Wilder and his team met with executives from sports streaming app, DAZN. Again, Wilder was offered a multi-fight agreement. This one included a potential unification bout versus fellow heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
Of the meeting, Wilder says, “One thing I can tell you is that I have an amazing team. We came into the meeting very well prepared. I don’t think DAZN was prepared for what they saw. After that meeting, I went to my quiet place, meditated and did what was best for me and my family. I went with what energy felt right for me.”
Wilder says his decision boiled down to several factors, the first being a substantial but flat fee for a potential Joshua bout, a match which could generate significant revenue worldwide.
“I swallowed my pride and took a flat fee last year for Joshua and they didn’t come through,” said Wilder. “I took a high risk, low reward fight against Ortiz. I was willing to go to Russia to fight Alexander Povetkin. I showed my courage by fighting Fury right after Ortiz. I have receipts to prove that I’ve tried to be the best. Now it’s time I establish my position.”
Wilder says visibility also played a role in his decision-making.
“The more eyeballs, the better, especially because I give you your money’s worth. I’m the people’s champion. Some fail to realize that we have our own money, our own networks with a big audience, and a big stable of heavyweights. They always saying I’m stuck, what is my next move, but the question is, what are these other guys going to do? I’ve got a lot of options here with heavyweights at PBC.”
Naturally, some fans believe Wilder should have taken one of these offers.
“I would tell the fans to relax,” said Wilder. “This is my career. I don’t go to your job and tell you how you should ask for a raise because you work hard or that you shouldn’t because you don’t. So, don’t do it to me. Just be happy that I’m in this position right now because I’ve been through so much in my career.”
Wilder expects a Joshua bout versus to occur eventually because there is simply too much money at stake. For now, he is focused on the 6-foot-7, hard-hitting Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs). They share bad blood stemming from a hotel altercation in February 2017.
“When I take a fight personal, something magical is going to happen,” Wilder said. “I’ve been up at 2:00 AM, hitting the heavy bag for 12 rounds straight. And still breathing smoothly. This is going to be a disaster for Breazeale.”
After weighing 209 pounds against Fury—his lowest since his November 2008 pro debut—Wilder says he is working on bulking up. He’s hired specialists and a nutritionist who are monitoring every part of his body, from diet to bone structure to the champion even giving 17 tubes of blood for examination. The goal is to properly gain weight without losing his speed and explosiveness.
“I’m just really starting to invest in myself as a fighter and for my health,” Wilder said. “People would be surprised at my previous training compared to other world champions. And I still get in the ring and knock you out. But now it’s time to become that ultimate package, that ultimate king. I want to be able to say I did all the right things.”
“Everything I’m doing now is about investing in myself. I’m betting on myself. I want the fans to know that I listen to them. You’ve got a great champion, a great king who will make it happen. Some fights will take longer to happen, of course. Patience will be the key. But put your trust in Deontay Wilder and buckle up, because it’s going to be a hell of a ride.”