He broke his hand and another man at once, the damage begetting more damage still.
A year ago, Deontay Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) hammered his way to a heavyweight world title against Bermane Stiverne with granite-hard blows powerful enough to bend an iron rod implanted in his right fist.
Twelve months later, said hand is fully healed, finally.
What better way to measure its vitality than by using it to go upside another man’s head?
Enter Artur Szpilka (20-1, 15 KOs).
“It took a year, but it’s finally back,” Wilder says of his injured appendage. “I’m looking forward to testing it on Szpilka’s face.”
He'll get that opportunity January 16 when he makes his third title defense, this time in a non-PBC event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
In the first two defenses—both in his native Alabama—Wilder pounded out lopsided victories, stopping Eric Molina in June and a game Johann Duhaupas in September. But in each his case, the 30-year-old says he wasn’t at full strength because of the hand issues that surfaced during his January 2015 bludgeoning of the mountainous Stiverne.
“My last couple of defenses, my hands were about 85 percent,” Wilder notes. “Most times when I punched [in those fights], I would have a tingly feeling in my right hand. Now, it’s like 100 percent. I’m throwing it more aggressively; I’m throwing it with much more power and much more speed, and I’m not feeling anything in my hands. I’m like, ‘Wow.’”
While Wilder KO’d both Molina and Duhaupas, the fights went nine and 11 rounds, respectively, relative marathons for Wilder considering that none of his first 32 scraps went past four rounds.
Heading into his showdown with the 26-year-old Szpilka, Wilder says he’s focusing on ending things quickly, which might register as pre-fight lip service if it wasn’t coming from a man with 18 first-round KOs under his belt.
“I think it’s time to go back to being that four-round king, knocking guys out between the first and fourth rounds,” he states. “I want to start with [Szpilka]—and do it in great fashion, with everything else I’ve showed the world: the inside game, the body punches, the jab, the speed, just mixing it all in.”
The fight will mark Wilder’s Big Apple debut as he headlines a deep card at Barclays Center.
“It’s still a fresh venue for boxing,” he says. “They’re looking for that big face, and I think I’m the man for that job—to have the Barclays Center be something like a home away from home.”
As he says this, Wilder is nearly two weeks away from fight night. And the champ is getting antsy.
“I’m so ready for this fight. Man, I wish it was tomorrow,” he says, his enthusiasm as outsize as his 6-foot-7 frame. “I don’t even know why I’m doing this last week of camp. It’s not going to be able to get me prepared more than I already am.
“If he’s not ready now,” he concludes of his opponent, “then he’s in trouble.”