Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder handled a busy Saturday as efficiently as dispatching the 36 opponents he's faced in the ring.
Wilder’s work began at the CBS headquarters in New York, where the world champ served as an in-studio guest analyst alongside Showtime’s Steve Farhood and Barry Tompkins for English counterpart Anthony Joshua’s seventh-round knockout of Dominic Breazeale.
Farhood, a longtime respected boxing analyst, came away impressed by Wilder’s work.
“For his size, Deontay’s non-threatening, smiling, joking and laughing easily with a natural likeability factor that you can’t fake,” Farhood said of the 6-foot-7 knockout artist. “The power of Deontay’s personality translates to television, which is part of his appeal in and out of the ring.”
From CBS’ Manhattan studio, Wilder made the short drive to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the scene of his most recent triumph, a vicious ninth-round knockout of previously once-beaten southpaw Artur Szpilka of Poland on January 16—a thunderous finish that thrilled the frenetic crowd of 12,668.
In his return to Barclays on Saturday, screaming admirers craned their necks to get a glimpse of Wilder, who was ringside for Keith Thurman’s successful 147-pound title defense against former champion Shawn Porter in a Fight of the Year candidate.
Prior to Thurman-Porter, Wilder and 160-pound champion Daniel Jacobs were part of an in-ring tribute to the late Muhammad Ali, on whose 73rd birthday Wilder became a heavyweight champ in January 2015, dethroning Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision.
“It was a great weekend, and the perfect time for all of this to be happening,” said Wilder, a 30-year-old native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “The fans embraced me with love as if I’m the one to rule the division, and I truly feel that I’m that man. I’m ready to accept full responsibility to fulfill that role, conduct myself in the right manner and to portray that image as a champion in and out of the ring.
“As a human, I’ll make mistakes, but it’s about walking with pride and remaining true to myself. It’s time for people to return as fans to boxing, and I want to show that I’m the real deal and bring the heavyweight division and boxing overall back to its glory days.”
The journey toward that goal continues for Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) on July 16 when he pursues his fourth straight knockout in as many title defenses against two-time title challenger Chris Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs) at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
“ The fans embraced me with love as if I’m the one to rule the division, and I truly feel that I’m that man. ” Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder
Wilder will perform as the champion in his home state for the third time in four fights, and in the same venue where he recorded an 11th-round stoppage of Johann Duhaupas in September.
Following his win over Szpilka, Wilder was scheduled to make his next defense against Alexander Povetkin in Russia in May, but the contest was called off after Povetkin failed a test for a performance-enhancing drug.
Given the option to defend his championship against an opponent of his choosing, Wilder selected Arreola, a 35-year-old Southern California native who lost his previous two world title fights against Vitali Klitschko in September 2009 and Stiverne in May 2014.
Wilder insists he’s wary of the hard-hitting Arreola, but he’s also mindful of potential unification fights against either Joshua (17-0, 17 KOs) or Joshua’s countryman, Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs).
“Of course I would want Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua or whoever else is at the top of the food chain,” Wilder says. “But I’m focused on an impressive victory against Chris Arreola before I can begin to think about anybody else.”
Wilder sees the chiseled, 6-foot-6 Joshua as the ultimate matchup.
“Breazeale did the best that he could do, but I’d like to see a more athletic guy in the ring to match the speed and power of Joshua, and that’s Deontay Wilder,” Wilder says.
“Joshua is still growing as a champion, and the U.K. fans are hyped for him. He’s still unknown in America, so I think that a fight against me on U.S. soil would put him on the map, even though he would lose.”
As eager as the champ is to get a shot at Joshua, for now, nothing matters but Arreola.
“There is no Anthony Joshua or [Wladimir] Klitschko or Tyson Fury without Arreola,” says Jay Deas, Wilder’s career-long trainer. “Arreola’s coming to kill our dreams, so why focus on anything else?”
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