You know Deontay Wilder as the undefeated heavyweight champion whose devastating right hand has put 36 of his 37 opponents to sleep. But did you know that the pride of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has mad culinary skills?
Or that movies dealing with children turn him to mush? Or that he very easily could’ve been Airman Deontay Wilder instead of heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder?
Learn all this, and more, as we jump in the ring—with headgear on, of course—and go “12 Rounds With …” the 30-year-old knockout artist.
Who is your boxing hero?
You already know who it is: Muhammad Ali, of course, for his activity in and out of the ring. I think I’m achieving some similar things, with my skills in the ring and being known as the most dangerous heavyweight in the division, captivating the world as I am.
Each and every time I get into the ring, I’m gaining fans from all over. I’m charismatic and entertaining, and I have what it takes to help make boxing exciting.
Who is the fighter in history you wish you could have fought, and how do you think such a fight would play out?
Joe Louis. He was a smaller heavyweight but he was considered one of the best, and like me, he’s from Alabama—LaFayette, Alabama, to be exact. Being that he was the “Brown Bomber,” and I’m the “Bronze Bomber,” it would have been the battle of the Alabama Bombers.
That would have been a great title fight between two hard-hitting heavyweights. Of course, I would knock Joe out. I think given his height, he would never get past my jab.
But even if Joe was able to muster enough energy to get beyond my jab, the jab would have hypnotized him enough to where he would never see the right hand coming. And once I land that right hand on him, that’s it.
What fighter has hit you hardest?
Johann Duhaupas [in September 2015]. He not only hit the hardest, but he was one of my toughest fights to this day. It wasn’t hard enough to where it buzzed me or whatever, but he definitely had a stiff jab, and when he threw it and landed it, you could feel it.
There were several points throughout that fight where I had to readjust because of his jab. I had to reposition my body at a different angle so that my jab would reach his face or body before his would reach mine. He was very brave and came in with the mindset that he had nothing to lose.
Who is the best fighter you’ve ever sparred with but never fought?
I’ve been in with Wladimir Klitschko, David Haye and Tomasz Adamek, but the best would have to be Klitschko. There are a lot of things I learned from him, like his work ethic. When Klitschko comes into the gym, he’s super focused. He makes sure he gets everything done, and then he’s back to his old self.
In sparring with him, I also learned that I could bang with the best. I had the mentality that I was going to go in and to be the best that I could be. It was an amazing experience to be able to match my skills against a man who, at the time, was the heavyweight champion. And look at me, now: I am the heavyweight champion of the world.
“ Each and every time I get into the ring, I’m gaining fans from all over. I’m charismatic and entertaining, and I have what it takes to help make boxing exciting. ” Deontay Wilder
What is your favorite punch to throw and where did you use it most effectively?
My favorite punch is obvious: the right hand. But my jab is a close second. I feel like I maximized both of those punches during the Artur Szpilka fight [in January]. That was a beautiful display of showing that I could think in the ring and also keep my opponent at bay and finish him off with the right hand.
I didn’t get hit too many times and didn’t allow anything dramatic to happen, and then once I was able to set him up, I was able to knock him out with that right hand.
Excluding yourself, who is the top pound-for-pound fighter right now?
I guess you’d have to give it to Triple G [160-pound world champion Gennady Golovkin.] Andre Ward’s coming back, and we didn’t hear from him for a while. But Triple G’s been getting all of the attention, and that’s why everybody wants him.
What’s the public’s biggest misconception about boxers?
That we’re mean and arrogant and we’re the bad guys. If anyone has the courage to go up to most fighters and meet them, they would see that we’re upstanding guys and funny. We’re emotional, and some of us are intelligent and speak very well.
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be ...
… in the military, either the Air Force or in special [operations]. I’ve never talked about it because I never had a reason to—it was never relevant for me to bring it up. But if it wasn’t for [boxing], that would have been my next plan: to join the military and serve my country.
What are your favorite and least favorite exercises?
My favorite exercise is stretching. It allows me to warm up my muscles and become flexible in the ring. My least favorite is jumping rope. I hate jumping rope.
Favorite boxing movie?
That’s gotta be Southpaw for the simple reason that they had that cute little girl playing [Jake Gyllenhaal’s] daughter and the love that they displayed for each other even after they had to endure hard times.
It’s like [Gyllenhaal] used the boxing ring to accomplish his goals, he never gave up and worked hard until he overcame [obstacles], using boxing as an outlet. I can relate to that, because boxing was a means and an outlet to solve many things that were not going right in my life.
The struggle is real, and boxing could make me forget certain things—like if I had gotten into an argument that day with someone, I could use boxing to bring serenity and tranquility back into my mind and stay positive.
I cried during that movie. If you want to see me cry, give me a movie dealing with kids. It’s going to touch a soft spot in my heart.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, what actor would you want to portray you?
I would have to go with a Wesley Snipes or Morris Chestnut. Chestnut is a little taller. I think either one of them could pull it off. They’re great athletes and great actors.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
That would have to be Nia Long. There was just something about her when she played in Big Momma’s House. I have always had a crush on her.
Batman or Superman?
Superman. He’s got the X-ray vision, he can fly and he’s strong.
Drake or Kanye?
At this moment in time, I would have to go with Drake.
Whose career would you rather have had, Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan?
That’s easy: Michael Jordan. He had a great end to his legacy and he led the Chicago Bulls to [six] world championships. He became a billionaire from going something that he loves to do.
Would you rather have LeBron James’ skills or Steph Curry’s?
LeBron James. He can do it all—shoot, post up in the box, drive to the hole and pass the ball. He’s a thinker and strategizes on the court.
Would you rather be able to throw a football as far as Cam Newton or as accurately as Peyton Manning?
I would rather have the accuracy of Peyton Manning. Accuracy is [more important], not necessarily how far you can throw. You want to hit the target and score.
Would you rather run over a linebacker or juke him out of his shoes?
Let me run him over. I want to show who the big dog is. Nothing like running someone over and getting the “oooos” and the “aaaahs” from the fans.
When I was playing peewee football, I remember Halloween was coming up, and our coach told us that when we make a great tackle, you say, "Trick or treat, I’ll be back."
Finish this sentence: People would be surprised to know that I …
… enjoy cooking. There’s nothing better than going to the grocery store and buying all of the ingredients and then being able to make your own food to satisfy your soul and your stomach. I love making people happy with food. That’s the key to peace on earth—through people’s stomachs.
What is your dream vacation destination?
I want to go to the island of Mauritius off the coast of Africa. It’s beautiful. When I get away, I like to go to the islands. You want to get away from everything and be among just a few people.
What’s on your bucket list?
I wouldn’t mind scuba diving in Fiji. Have you ever been scuba diving? There’s an entirely different world under there. I’ve done it in Cancun.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would that be?
Racism. And the key to [ending] racism starts with the kids. A child will play with anybody in the world until that parent allows them not to. We have to start with the new generation and teach them differently.
I would start with [teaching] children to love and respect one another, and to learn that we’re all humans and equals. People have different lifestyles, but at the end of the day, we’re all equal. There is no need for hatred.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: Erickson Lubin.