Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder enjoys inactivity about as much as he does absorbing a left hook to the jaw.
This is a man, after all, who fought 26 times in the first 37 months of his professional career—knocking out, by the way, all 26 opponents.
So it comes as no surprise that Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) is eager as can be to end a six-month ring absence—the longest of his career—on July 16. That’s when he makes the fourth defense of his title against Chris Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs) at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), about an hour from Wilder's native Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
It also comes as no surprise that Wilder—like a caged tiger about to be set free—is ready to inflict some serious damage on his prey.
“I’m super focused to put on a great show in this fight,” said the 30-year-old Wilder, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist. “I’m not going to allow anything else to marinate in my mind. I predict the fight being punishment from the first round on the way to a knockout.”
Wilder will be taking on Arreola six months to the day of his ninth-round destruction of previously once-beaten southpaw Artur Szpilka before a raucous crowd of 12,668 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Although he took some good shots from Szpilka in the first eight rounds, Wilder came out of the bout unscathed, which hadn’t exactly been the norm of late. For instance, when he dethroned Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision in January 2015, Wilder had to overcome an eye injury suffered the night before the fight and a broken hand he sustained in the ring.
“I had injured my left eye the night before the fight in training, [so] I could only see black and gray in the one eye, and I broke my hand in the fourth round,” Wilder says. “So I had one eye and one arm fighting Stiverne. If that ain’t adversity, I don’t know what is.”
Then in his second title defense in September, Wilder battered and bruised Johann Duhaupas for 11 rounds, turning the rugged Frenchman’s face into a crimson mess until the referee finally stepped in and ended the abuse. But even while absorbing one vicious shot after another, the 6-foot-5 Duhaupas managed to tag Wilder with some solid blows of his own, one of which caused a large hematoma under the champion’s left eye.
“He was the toughest guy I’ve ever faced with that cut-off-the ring pressure mentality, and he took a great shot,” Wilder says of Duhaupas. “With my eye being swollen in the corner, my trainers understood that I still had to bring it on.
“So if I can pound Duhaupas for 11 rounds until he’s stopped for the first time in his career, then nobody else has a chance.”
If that doesn’t put a little fear in Arreola, perhaps this will: Despite knocking out 35 of his 36 opponents, the 6-foot-7 Wilder swears his best is yet to come.
“I haven’t even reached my peak, yet,” he says. “I’m on the rise, but I’m still learning.”
JAMES, OMOTOSO SET TO SQUARE OFF IN KEY 147-POUND MATCH
The Wilder-Arreola clash might be the main course served up on July 16, but it’s hardly the only tasty dish on the menu.
In addition to a 147-pound showdown between title contenders Sammy Vasquez Jr. (21-0, 15 KOs) and Felix Diaz (17-1, 8 KOs), another intriguing 147-pound matchup is on the docket as Jamal “Shango” James (19-0, 9 KOs) put his perfect record on the line against Wale “Lucky Boy” Omotoso (26-2, 21 KOs) in a bout set for 10 rounds.
James, a lifelong resident of Minneapolis, and the Nigerian-born Omotoso are looking to bust through an already stacked division that includes champions Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Kell Brook and Jessie Vargas; former titleholders Shawn Porter, Amir Khan, Andre Berto and Timothy Bradley Jr.; and rising contenders Vasquez, Diaz, Errol Spence Jr. and David Avanesyan.
James was rarely tested through his first 17 professional bouts, winning each contest by stoppage or lopsided unanimous decision. But in his last two outings, the 6-foot-2 boxer-puncher went a career-long 10 rounds to win unanimous decisions against then-once beaten opponents Juan Carlos Abreu (in September) and Javier Molina (in January).
In the battle with Abreu, James hit the canvas in the fourth round, but returned the favor with a sixth-round knockdown.
“I think what makes me a threat is my ability to make adjustments,” said James, who will turn 28 on July 27. “I was banging with Abreu at first, but then I started boxing and I was able to drop him.
“I boxed with Danny Garcia and a lot of other guys as an amateur, and I feel like I’m just paying my dues. For right now, I’m the secret in the division that no one knows about. … If I do what I’m capable of doing in this next fight, then God willing, I’ll be right there on the doorstep.”
Omotoso, a 31-year-old who now lives in Oxnard, California, is coming off October’s unanimous decision over Gilberto Sanchez Leon. His only two losses came against aforementioned contenders Vasquez and Vargas, both by 10-round unanimous decision.
“This is very, very important for me to do whatever I have to do to win for my family,” said Omotoso, who is 8-2 with five knockouts since making his U.S. debut in 2011. “Jamal James is a good fighter who is tall, very crafty and will have his range, so I will have to start from the body.
“I don’t think he’s as good as either Vargas or Vasquez. I’m going to be one of the best fighters that he’ll face, so I’ll use that to my advantage.”
LIPINETS PREPARES FOR CASTILLO BY WORKING WITH EX-CHAMP BENAVIDEZ
Fast-rising 140-pound contender Sergey Lipinets (9-0, 7 KOs) will return to action July 15 when he takes on against hard-punching Nicaraguan Walter Castillo (26-3-1, 19 KOs) at Horseshoe Tunica Hotel & Casino in Tunica, Mississippi (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
As part of training for Castillo, who has never been knocked out, the 27-year-old Lipinets has been sparring at the Fortune Gym in Los Angeles with former 140-pound champion Jose Benavidez (24-0, 16 KOs).
Benavidez is a talented 24-year-old who won an interim title by unanimous decision over Mauricio Herrera in December 2014, then defended it with a 12th-round stoppage of Jorge Paez Jr. last May before moving up to 152¼ pounds to fight Sidney Siqueira.
“Jose Benavidez is a better fighter than Castillo, being an ex-champion of the world,” said Lipinets, a native of Martuk, Kazkhstan, who now lives in Russia. “Jose is a lot bigger, taller and way more technically sound than Castillo.
“I’m getting some great experience, because this is going to be a heckuva fight.”
Lem’s Corner is published each Wednesday at Premier Boxing Champions.com.