Deontay Wilder staying balanced despite added pressure in build-up to Tyson Fury bout

WBC heavyweight champion says he's mastered the art of zoning his focus as newfound responsibilities and time requests have mounted in advance of his first pay-per-view fight.

WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder answers questions after a media workout in Santa Monica, Calif. on November 5, 2018. (Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions)

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Entering the final stretch of the build-up to the biggest fight of his career, unbeaten heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder is learning about the cost of taking that next step into being a crossover star.

Wilder meets Tyson Fury on Dec. 1 at the STAPLES Center on Showtime pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). It's his first foray into the pay-per-view market, and he'll do so surrounded by celebrities in Los Angeles. On Monday, he was in Santa Monica at Churchill Boxing Club for his last public workout before fight week.

Wilder has learned fast there's a mountain of obligations when you're trying to move the needle as a PPV headliner. He's adjusted accordingly and hasn't let it get in the way of his preparation for Fury.

“When the (distractions) and pressure get too far, I know how to fall back,” he said. “I definitely know how big this fight is, and how much that means to fans and the people around me. I feed off of their energy as well. I’m going to make sure the fight lives up to its hype.”

But how does the unbeaten WBC champion stay focused when people are tugging on him from every direction?

“We can have a million people in the room and I can just zone into myself and my thoughts,” Wilder said, explaining his approach to tranquility and focus. “But I want to beat (Fury’s) ass, and then knock him out. This is my time. This is my introduction to the world as heavyweight champion of the world—the baddest man on the planet.”

Wilder told reporters that he's been utilizing meditation since his Olympic boxing days. It helped him earn a bronze medal at the 2008 games in Beijing, and it's helped him navigate the heavyweight waters over the past decade since turning pro. Almost nobody thought Wilder would reach the top of the division when he first started out as a pro, but here he is on the verge of becoming the first American heavyweight star in more than a decade.

"I feel like I'm at my very best right now," Wilder told the media members on Monday. "Mentally, physically and emotionally I'm ready to go. Everything is perfect. I just want to get in the ring and show action. Tyson Fury doesn't know what he's gotten himself into."

This is my time. This is my introduction to the world as heavyweight champion of the world—the baddest man on the planet. WBC Heavyweight Champ Deontay Wilder

Wilder displayed his underrated footwork and movement as sparring partner Malik Scott displayed some of the herky-jerky style that Fury has become known for. Wilder too often has been reduced to just utilizing his big right hand, but now he's come a long ways as a boxer.

"Fury has height just like me and he also brings an awkward style like myself," Wilder said. "He's rangy, mobile and he believes he's the best in the world. You'll get two giants who are athletic and move around the ring like no one else in this sport."

"Tyson Fury is kind of like a Rubik's cube," Wilder's trainer Jay Deas said. "But a Rubik's cube can be solved. Fury is a very versatile fighter who can move, he can box and fight from lots of distances. He's the total package as a fighter and on top of that he's strong-willed mentally."

Wilder's camp opted to go with slicker heavyweights as sparring partners rather than taller guys. Wilder is 6'7" but will be looking up at his 6'9" opponent Fury on fight night. The last time Wilder faced someone as tall as he is was Kelvin Price in 2012. But his camp thought adjusting to Fury's footwork is more important than preparing for his size.

"Deontay has had a fantastic camp and we've had really good sparring partners," Deas added. "Fury is a tall fighter, but it's really the athleticism that makes him what he is. We believe we're better off finding more athletic guys who are slightly shorter than Fury, rather than someone his height who is a statue."

On Dec. 1, Wilder has an opportunity to cross over into being a household name not just in boxing but in sports in general. Wilder is a slight favorite to claim the lineal crown from Fury, but he still has his doubters. The detractors have only fueled his ascent, which he expects to continue with a win over Fury.

"I'm training for a certain type of mission," Wilder said. "As a fighter I have to have the mindset that I must be ready for anything. Then, once it's time for the bell to ring, I become 'The Bronze Bomber.'"

For a complete look at Wilder vs Fury, check out our fight page.

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