The Two Sides of Deontay Wilder

The WBC World Heavyweight Champion has transformed into The Bronze Bomber as he prepares to go to war against top-rated contender Dominic Breazeale, Saturday night on PBC on SHOWTIME.

Some day, someone may write a book about the two faces of Deontay Wilder.

They will describe the citizen Wilder, the reigning heavyweight boxing champion from Tuscaloosa who often does charity work, cares deeply about family, friends and fellow Alabamans and fights to make sure they’re taken care of, such as his eldest daughter, Naieya, who has overcome spina bifida from birth and inspires her dad daily.

And they will discuss the Wilder who once dreamed of playing football for his beloved Crimson Tide, but when that didn’t transpire begat another dream, becoming the only U.S. boxing medalist at the 2008 Beijing Games, a bronze that led to his fighting nickname, The Bronze Bomber.

Then they will describe the other face, the one boxing fans are more familiar with: A 6-foot-7-inch, 220-pound monster who, when preparing to enter the ring to defend the WBC title he’s held since 2015, flips a switch and works himself into the kind of frenzy that enables him to do what he’s done his entire pro career – knock foes silly with that bazooka of a right hand.

Listen to his longtime trainer-manager, Jay Deas: “The guy you see a month before the fight, and the guy you see in the dressing room and on the way to the ring is not the same person. You really don’t want to be around that guy. He really, really wants to hurt somebody, and you got to understand, they want to hurt him, too.”

Since he is less than a week away from fighting a man he describes as “my least-favorite human on earth,” we’ll focus on this face. It’s not pretty so you may want to send the kids out of the room first.

Dominic “Trouble” Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs), the mandatory heavyweight challenger, former college quarterback and recipient of Wilder’s “least favorite human” label, will face his hated rival, The Bronze Bomber, on Saturday on Showtime Championship Boxing (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) has one big reason to get lathered up about this pairing. Breazeale, 33, a Californian who is as tall, 20-to-30 pounds heavier and the same age as his arch-rival, got into a fight with Wilder’s younger brother Marsellos during a Birmingham hotel melee in 2017 after Breazeale fought on a Wilder undercard. The champ has that night seared in his memory.

“He wasn’t a man to admit his wrongdoings; instead he wanted to play the victim, just like a woman,” Wilder seethed by phone last week. “This man came to my city and threatened my brother and my family that he would kill them. And I don’t take threats lightly. He called my family goons. He came in with 20 people. He played the victim when in fact he started it. And I’m gonna finish it.”

Deas believes the personal animus Wilder feels toward Breazeale is a good thing, at least for this fight.

“When Deontay has a personal thing with somebody, like he did with (Bermane) Stiverne (first-round KO in their rematch), the results have been pretty spectacular,” Deas said. “This is a fight he’s wanted for a long time, so he’s on point. He’s gone back to the basics on a lot of things and we’ve gone back to the roots of technique and all those things, so I’m very excited about what you’ll see on Saturday night.”

Deas also touted the top-notch sparring Wilder had during a seven-week camp in Alabama.

“We had four really great (sparring partners) in camp. We had Junior Fa (New Zealand), Robert Helenius (Finland), Roberto Alfonso (Cuba) and Malik Scott (USA), who’s always in camp with us,” Deas gushed. “We got everywhere from 6-4½ to 6-8, and from 245 to 270 pounds. We’ve got a real good thing.”

Another real good thing is the longtime training team that has been guiding Wilder for years. Deas, who has been there from the start 15 or so years ago, along with Mark Breland and Cuz Hill, have made Wilder a happy camper and a happy champ.

I love when they say I’m one dimensional. Until they get inside that ring. Undefeated World Heavyweight Champion - Deontay Wilder

As Deas describes it, “it’s almost like a pit crew in racing, you got to know what the guy next to you is going to do.”

It’s the perfect situation for Wilder: Team for life.

“It’s been amazing to have a group of great guys – including Al Haymon – that know me, know the ins and outs and be able to understand any situation I get in,” Wilder says. “We know each other so much we can probably tell each other what they’re thinking at times. And that’s the beautiful thing about having a relationship amongst a group, especially in boxing, where you see fighters get to a certain point and then leave the ones they been with. I’m glad I have the guys I love the most be with me. It allows me to relax and I can sleep at night. They have my best interests at heart and I ain’t got to worry about nothing.”

He ain’t worried about Breazeale, either, even as Breazeale calls Wilder one-dimensional, with a big right hand and little else. Does that criticism bother him?

“Not at all. Every opponent I’ve faced said the same thing. And when you get fighters that say that kind of stuff, it allows you to know they’re foolish,” Wilder laughs. “They’re foolish in thinking that. And if their trainer is saying that, they’re just as foolish. That gives me more of an advantage because they don’t know how to prepare for me.

“So I love when they say that. I love when they say I’m one dimensional. Until they get inside that ring. And then Bam baby! Good night.”

Wilder thought he had a Bam, baby, good night! moment against unbeaten former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury back in December when he dropped Fury for the second time in the fight. It occurred in the 12th round; a vicious straight right followed by a left hook that put the 6-foot-9 Brit down hard on the canvas, like a giant tree being felled in the woods. Few, including Wilder, thought he’d get up, but he did and finished the fight. And Wilder ended up with the only non-victory of his pro career, a 12-round split draw.

“I was (surprised), and he was too. I knocked him into a concussion, I knocked brain cells out of him to the point he had lost his memory,” Wilder says. “He don’t even know how he got on the canvas, nor does he know how he got up. He had memory loss, and that’s very dangerous. I understand why he didn’t take the rematch.”

For now, Breazeale – who has won three in a row since his only career blemish two years ago, a seventh-round TKO loss to a unified heavyweight champ Wilder is itching to tangle with, Anthony Joshua – is the only thing on the Bronze Bomber’s mind.  

“We call him Dominic ‘Basic Cable’ Breazeale. He’s not pay-per-view-worthy,” Wilder chuckles. “I don’t want to give him the privilege of thinking he’s worth it (PPV). Everyone wants to see this fight, and if you subscribe to Showtime, it’s amazing. If you’re not, then subscribe to it. I’m reasoning with the people. I’m the people’s champion.”

The people’s champion. That’s more like the first face of Wilder, the kinder, gentler champ.

But we’re here to talk about the snarling Wilder, the one who wants nothing less than to knock his opponent’s head off in the ring.

“[Breazeale] is the kind of guy that will come into your establishment and waste water and ice and then slip on it on purpose,” Wilder says, nonchalantly. “He tries to play like, the upper [crust] kind of guy, but he’s not. He’s an opportunist. And I can’t wait to destroy him. This is a moment in time for me. It’s judgment day for him and I’m the judge.”

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

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