Now that Deontay Wilder has been granted an optional heavyweight title defense, his team’s next move is to secure an opponent and lock down a location. Rumors have been swirling about the former. As for the latter, Wilder definitely has a preference: somewhere near home.
The 30-year-old heavyweight champ was slated to make the fourth defense of his title on May 17 against mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs) in Moscow, but the bout was called off by the WBC after the revelation that Povetkin tested positive for the banned substance meldonium.
After returning from London, where he was finishing training before heading to Moscow, Deontay Wilder was informed he could make an optional defense. The fight likely will occur this summer, and the champ would prefer it take place near his lifelong home of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His first two title defenses were in nearby Birmingham, Alabama.
“It's our belief that the fight could land in New York, Los Angeles or Alabama, with Mississippi also being in play,” said Jay Deas, Wilder’s manager and one of his three trainers. “People in Alabama see this as a rare opportunity that they did not think possible. Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Biloxi want it. Birmingham and Tuscaloosa want it. I can tell you every 30 seconds I’m getting a call from somebody from Alabama with power who is doing everything they can to make it happen here.”
Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) is coming off a ninth-round knockout of southpaw Artur Szpilka at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in January. That followed consecutive stoppages of Eric Molina (ninth round) and Johann Duhaupas (11th round) in Birmingham’s Bartow Arena and Legacy Arena, respectively.
“I’ve been on the road and wouldn’t mind coming back home since I haven’t fought there in a while,” said Wilder, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist. “It feels good to have so many places wanting to welcome me. But every time I go out, people are asking me to come back to Alabama.
“I feel as if I’m being steered back home for this one, and it would be a tremendous feeling to go back again.”
As for the possibility of rescheduling the fight with Povetkin—who is awaiting word on a possible suspension—it doesn’t appear to be on the radar of Wilder and his handlers.
“We were ready to travel to his home to fight, but when Povetkin tested positive, that was his fault,” Deas said. “Right now, we’re ready to move on and continue concentrating on Deontay trying to be the most active heavyweight in history.
“If the WBC gives [Povetkin] some sort of suspension, and he tests negative throughout the suspension, then we’ll definitely look at it when that times comes.”
PROVODNIKOV EYES DOMINATION, STOPPAGE OF MOLINA
Ruslan Provodnikov (25-4, 18 KOs) has lost narrow decisions to four world champions during his career, despite scoring a knockdown in one of those fights and two in another. Meanwhile, for his biggest career accomplishment, Provodnikov took matters into his own hands, twice dropping Mike Alvarado in the sixth round and finishing him off in the 10th to win a 140-pound world title in October 2013.
Given his struggles with the judges, it’s no wonder the man nicknamed “The Siberian Rocky” would prefer to end things early against hammer-fisted John Molina Jr. (28-6, 23 KOs) when the high-volume punchers battle on June 11 at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“Sometimes, I haven’t been lucky with decisions, so I try to win every fight by knockout,” Provodnikov said. “It’s been a bad experience with some of these close fights. Now my goal is to try to make sure that there are no more close fights.
“If I can’t get the knockout, I want to make sure I dominate every round.”
Molina, 33, is 4-5 with four knockouts over the past four years, including a three-fight losing streak that began with a bloody 11th-round knockout to Lucas Matthysse in April 2014. Molina floored Matthysse in the second and fifth rounds before being dropped himself in the eighth and 10th rounds of a bout that was eventually stopped by the referee.
“We’ve been working on boxing, but if the fight becomes a brawl, I’m ready for that,” said Provodnikov, who is entering his second fight under trainer Joel Diaz. “If I have to counter, then I can do that. The plan is to be ready for any scenario.”
JACOBS TO HOST CANCER CHARITY EVENT
Brooklyn’s Daniel Jacobs (31-1, 28 KOs), a 160-pound champion and cancer survivor, will honor National Cancer Survivors’ Day with an event from 2-5 p.m. Sunday at ShadowBox in New York City.
Jacobs, 29, is the founder of the Get in the Ring Foundation, which assists children and their families who suffer from cancer. Sunday’s event is centered around giving back to families in the community stricken by the disease.
Nicknamed “Miracle Man,” Jacobs was diagnosed in May 2011 with a form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. He underwent a nine-hour surgery to remove a handball-size malignant tumor that was wrapped around his spine—a tumor that damaged nerves and caused paralysis in his legs.
After extensive rounds of chemotherapy and physical therapy, Jacobs returned to the ring in October 2012, when he scored a 63-second knockout of Josh Luteran. That win is among a string of 11 consecutive stoppage victories Jacobs has recorded since falling by fifth-round knockout to Dmitry Pirog in July 2010.
GUZMAN IN LINE FOR TITLE SHOT; LARA TARGETS SELBY
Dominican slugger Jonathan Guzman (21-0, 21 KOs) and hard-punching southpaw Jorge Lara (28-0-2, 21 KOs) of Guadalajara, Mexico, have entered the fray among the 122- and 126-pound divisions, much to the delight of their mutual adviser, Sampson Lewkowicz.
Guzman is coming off yet another bone-crushing performance, this one against Daniel Rosas (20-3-1, 12 KOs) on April 29. Guzman dropped his Mexican opponent at the end of the fifth and eighth rounds, with the referee calling off the contest before Round 9.
That made Guzman 21-for-21 in stopping his opponents and put the 26-year-old Dominican Republic native in position for his first world championship opportunity, as he's in line to fight Japanese southpaw Shingo Wake (20-4-2, 12 KOs) for the 122-pound title recently vacated by Carl Frampton.
The victory over Rosas was bittersweet for Guzman, whose 8-year-old son suffered a severe foot injury during a motorcycle accident just hours before the fight.
“It was a very sad situation with his son, but he knew about it and he took the fight regardless,” Lewkowicz said. “Guzman fought his heart out on behalf of his son for an opportunity for a world title that will help him to better provide for his family.”
The day after Guzman took apart Rosas, Lara floored fellow fellow Mexican Fernando Montiel (54-6-2, 39 KOs) four times during his 97-second stoppage, doing what no other fighter had previously done to the former three-division champion. It was Lara’s eighth knockout in his last 10 fights.
Now Lewkowicz is hoping to match Lara against 126-pound champion Lee Selby, the Welshman who won a unanimous decision over Montiel in October. If the Selby fight doesn’t materialize, Lewkowicz said he’d like the winner of either the June 25 bout between champion Jesus Cuellar and Abner Mares, or the July 30 fight between titleholder Leo Santa Cruz and Frampton.
“Jorge wasn’t surprised at what he was able to do to Montiel. He wanted to prove that he could knock out a guy who went the distance with Selby,” Lewkowicz said. “We would love for [Lara] to fight Lee Selby, and he would go to England to do it.”
Lem’s Corner is published each Wednesday at PremierBoxingChampions.com.