Heavyweight champ will have to side step his frustrations before he can roll over the only opponent he has failed to stop in his career.
Throughout the professional career of heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder one thing has been constant: He doesn't make fights personal. Wilder knows that every challenger's goal is the knock him off his throne.
They will use every physical or mental tactic in hopes of improving their chance to dethrone him. Defeating Wilder physically or mentally, however, has proven to be useless. The champ is always physically prepared and mentally focused on doing whatever is legally necessary to leave the ring victorious.
This approach has served Wilder perfectly. His physical and mental advantages have helped him build a very impressive record of 38-0-0 with 37 knockouts. Despite his success inside the ring, Wilder must regularly ward off critics—fellow fighters, journalists and fans—outside the squared circle. It is beginning to wear on Wilder, who is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Much of the criticism has targeted the quality of his opposition—despite there being no evidence of Wilder ever avoiding to face any of today's top heavyweights. It's the main reason he sought a Nov. 4 bout with hard-hitting Luis Ortiz, whom many considered the toughest challenge outside of fellow heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. But Ortiz was removed from the fight after testing positive for the use of banned substances.
“ The way I'm feeling about boxing right now, if Bermane Stiverne beats me, I will retire. You can put that down. I will be out of the way. ... I'm done. ” WBC Heavyweight World Champ Deontay Wilder
Though Wilder has succeeded in keeping the nonstop criticism at bay for several years, at 32, he is tired of this battle. The constant outside-the-ring negativity has begun to take a toll on Wilder leading to his Nov. 4 title defense (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, against Ortiz replacement, former champ and top contender Bermane Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs).
"What have I done so wrong to get the bad [end] of the stick with every fight that comes in," Wilder said. "All I ever wanted was to fight the best. When I say I am the best, that it shows not only on the record, but all the way around as a person.
"It just saddens me. ... It makes me reevaluate my career. It almost made me lose the love of boxing for a little bit as well too because of certain things and activities that [have] been known in this sport with these guys avoiding or wanting to get on banned substances when they know they're not supposed to be taking it in the first place.’’
Wilder's frustration is the result of Ortiz being his third opponent in 18 months to be scratched due to a failed drug test.
It is something that Wilder—who officially weighed in at 220 ¾ pounds, while Stiverne was 30-plus pounds heavier at 254 ¾—will have to put out of his mind as he climbs into the ring against Stiverne, whom he defeated for the world title via unanimous decision in January 2015. That frustration might be one of the biggest obstacles facing the 6-foot-7 Wilder in his sixth title defense.
Being the only professional opponent to go the distance with Wilder, Stiverne wears that feat like a badge of honor. He also attempts to diminish the loss by repeatedly stating that he suffered from severe dehydration before and during the fight. There is no denying that he spent a few days in the hospital following the fight.
"Anybody that knows me knows how I fight and that night, it wasn't me. It wasn't me," said Stiverne, who turns 39 on Nov. 1. "Unfortunately, I lost the title because of my health. Not because he was better than me."
Wilder could also play the injury card, but he doesn’t. He entered the fight with blurry vision in his right eye after a rubber exercise band he was using slipped and popped him in the eye. He broke his right hand (his power punching hand) during the fight and controlled the match with his left jab. It was enough to bludgeon and batter Stiverne, but he couldn’t knock him out.
Wilder, who has had his hand surgically repaired twice since the fight with Stiverne, is coming in completely healthy. He will have a fully operational jab and powerful right hand, which had been the major weapon in knocking out 37 of his 38 opponents. He has vowed to knockout Stiverne this time.
Stiverne is four inches shorter than Wilder and that will be a challenge as his best chance at victory is to wade in and eat a ton of jabs. The fight could swing on just how much punishment Stiverne is willing to take to try to deliver his own knockout shot. The higher his pain tolerance, the longer the fight will last.
In the nearly three years since winning the title, Wilder said he is in a different place than he was when he faced Stiverne the first time.
"I'm better. My mind is better. My mind is a different state of being. I'm at peace. My mind is totally [in] a different state," said Wilder. "I'm happy for him and, we shall see. He said, it's no more excuses after this and, I hope it's not. Because I'm tired of it, man.’’
So certain that he will silence Stiverne and end his dream of a future title shot, Wilder has upped the ante.
"The way I'm feeling about boxing right now, if Bermane Stiverne beats me, I will retire. You can put that down. I will be out of the way. ... I'm done."
For a complete look at Wilder vs Stiverne, visit our fight page.