Outside The Ring: Deontay Wilder Has a Heart as Big as his Punch

The undefeated Heavyweight Champion is living up to his title, doing his part to make the world a better place.

The heavyweight champion of the world is broadly known as the “baddest man on the planet.” In the case of undefeated WBC World Champion Deontay Wilder, the sobriquet couldn’t be more appropriate.

Wilder has knocked out 95% of his opposition, often in dramatic fashion. Like many fighters, he is a different person when in fight mode. One could say he transitions into “The Bronze Bomber” to be at his most effective in the ring. 

Most of the time, however, he’s just Deontay, a down-to-earth father who is a product of his humble upbringing. Growing up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Deontay’s world view was fostered by his maternal grandmother. The two had a special bond.

“I’m a grandma’s boy,” Wilder said. “I’m not a mama’s boy or daddy’s boy. She was a super strong, religious woman. I never seen her hating on anyone. I always saw her love people, give to people. She had a lot of love in her heart.”

It was his grandmother’s generous spirit that influenced Wilder’s charitable nature as an adult.

"A stranger would come up to my grandma’s house and knock on her door, and she’d fix them food. Even if it was the last piece of bread or bacon in the house.

“I remember one time making me a bacon sandwich. This homeless man came to my grandma’s house. My grandma made me give up my sandwich that I spent my time making and put my love into because I knew I was about to tear it up. I didn’t understand—I was mad. I was like, ‘Who is he?’ But looking back at the situation, I understand. She walked it like she talked it.”

Now a successful, world champion fighter, Deontay is taking a page from his grandmother’s book and using his platform to give back to people who most need it.

In April, Wilder hosted an Easter event to give back to local families in rural Alabama. It’s an event he plans to host annually.

“I’m always looking to target the rural areas for kids. They always get left out,” Deontay said. “I got over 50 families. It made me feel good to see everyone come together and laugh and not worry today. Today is a celebration. Today is a day we’re just gonna have fun, let our hair down, and we ain’t gonna worry about our problems today. Tomorrow is a different day but today is a day to rejoice. I like to bring that to families. It was a time to come together and have fun just like Easter. You eat, you’re around your loved ones, and you have fun.

“We had a blast. Everyone ate, and we had a nice gift basket for all the families with turkeys and stuff like that for them to take home.”

Despite becoming an international celebrity, Wilder has not forgotten what it was like to grow up in similar circumstances as the kids he’s reaching out to now. He has also made the choice to stay in his native Alabama.

“I grew up in that kind of area,” he explained. “It’s only right for me to [give back]. Though I’ve been successful and obtained the things I’ve obtained, I’m not far from reality and what goes on in the real world. I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. I came from a struggling family so I know how hard it is. It ain’t nothing pretty. People who’ve never been through it can’t relate. They can try to picture it but they’ll never understand it because they’ve never been in the trenches.

It’s only right for me to give back. WBC World Heavyweight Champion - Deontay Wilder

“But I understand and that’s my target, [to help] those types of kids. They are very smart, intelligent kids and people are just writing them off. Kids are one of the reasons I come back to Alabama. This is my headquarters. 

“I just got finished with a back-to-school event at Dave & Buster’s in Hoover. We had Tuscaloosa kids and Birmingham kids. We gave out backpacks full of all the supplies they needed and we also gave out shoes to all of them, too. I was a kid that went without shoes. I’ve got a lot of history of not having the things I needed. Even with the simple things, like shoes, kids get teased. Kids like to have something fresh.”

Children, particularly those growing up in less fortunate conditions, are dear to Deontay’s heart. 

“I love kids. When I look at a child, I really feel they are the future. Kids can make dramatic changes in their generation. They can correct the wrongs into rights. A child is supposed to enjoy their life as a child. That’s what I’m looking to provide for them.”

When Wilder travels, he also makes it a priority to connect with local kids and people in need wherever he is. In New York, before his last fight versus Dominic Breazeale, Deontay paid a visit to a local school to give a motivational speech to the children

"It was crazy how it happened. I was out promoting the fight and we had a tight schedule. We were going to another school but time was running too close because traffic was so bad. We got a call about this school. They asked if we could please come and see them. I said yeah, let’s make it happen.

"When I walked in the building, the kids just erupted and started cheering. The energy was amazing. I went in and spoke from the heart. You’ve gotta know how to deal with kids and teenagers—especially kids, because they have a short attention span. So I’ve gotten good at giving them a special message they can dissect and remember when they get home.”

The events Deontay has organized are just the beginning. His excitement was palpable as he described what he wants to do going forward.

“Each year we want to get bigger and bigger. My vision for helping out kids is through the roof. I’m looking to do things every year, maybe six months out of the year.

"I’ve got a foundation about to start. It's going to help single moms with their rent, families in general [to stay] in their homes. We’re looking at how we’re going to structure it. It’s a process. Once that comes together, I’m gonna release it."

Wilder has also become an ambassador for CHIVA Africa, a non-profit organization that works to improve healthcare for children and adolescents in Africa who are living with HIV. 

This past summer, Deontay traveled to the United Kingdom to a warm reception by British fans. While there, he visited London’s Fitzroy Lodge Boxing Club and delivered a motivational message to a group of rehabilitated former criminals.

"That was a great experience. I talked to some guys who came from a hard background, who committed crimes. I gave them an outlook on life that works for me. Though it works for me, it may not work for you, but this is another avenue you can go down and try.

"My mother gave me a poster when I was young. It had a bear running a race with a red bandanna on his head and was finishing. It said, ‘You don’t know what you can do until you try.’ So I like to give people something to try."

Recently, Wilder began selling limited edition t-shirts bearing his image and motto "Fightin’ Til This Day!" A portion of the proceeds go to the NAACP, a well-known American organization that strives to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights to eliminate race-based discrimination.

"I wanted to come out with some apparel where people can feel like part of the BombZquad team," Deontay said. "We had the NAACP come to us and brought certain things to our attention. I love helping out the culture, helping my people out. 

“I love doing the right thing. You plant a seed and it grows."

For a closer look at Deontay Wilder, check out his fighter page.

Anyone can donate to CHIVA Africa and the NAACP.

"Outside the Ring" is a regular feature centered on the charitable efforts of PBC fighters. Learn more about what motivates these boxers and the causes they support outside the ring.

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