For the ninth time during his reign, Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) will defend the WBC heavyweight title. Wilder will take on Dominic Breazeale (20-1-0, 18 KOs) at the Barclays Center on Saturday, May 18. The fight airs on Showtime PPV, with the broadcast beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
The proud Alabaman first won the title in 2015 with a sensational performance against Bermane Stiverne in a lopsided unanimous decision victory, one of only two bouts in his career he hasn’t finished with a knock out. Since then, he’s defended his title successfully eight times, including another win over Stiverne, this time atoning for his non-knockout with a first round KO.
Over that time, Wilder has developed from a raw, powerful talent into a more complete fighter, although there are some that still question his boxing bonafides in the ring. His first defense against Eric Molina in Birmingham, Alabama was partially spent working on things in the ring, like using his left hand more effectively for power shots, knowing the right hook was always there waiting to end the fight if needed. Since then, he’s shown similar patterns in fights, sometimes looking downright sluggish in mid-rounds as he plies his craft, but he typically finds the opening to deliver the knockout blow once his opponent tires some and lets down his guard.
His last retention, however, came via a split decision draw against Tyson Fury, in which he was unable to turn out the lights on the big Brit despite a stunning knockdown in the 12th round that many assumed would be the end of the bout. That left some questions about Wilder, and whether his run as champion could be teetering, but he’ll look to answer those in a big way on Saturday.
Breazeale is a hefty underdog at +450, as his only other world title fight ended with him being knocked out by Anthony Joshua, the other superstar heavyweight titleholder in boxing. Wilder spoke with Uproxx on the phone last week to discuss his journey in boxing, what still pushes him into the ring after eight defenses, and why he’s confident his KO streak will restart and Breazeale’s night will end in spectacular and painful fashion on Saturday.
First off, how did you feel camp went and how do you feel with a week to go before fight night?
Camp has been great. It was an amazing camp, one of the best camps I’ve had in my career thus far. I’m just ready to go. I’m so excited about May 18. It’s finally here. All the hard work, the preparation is out of the way, and now it ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it.
What do you expect out of Dominic Breazeale in the ring and what are the challenges he presents?
I’m expecting the same old Dominic Breazeale. To come in with no head movement, very slow, came in slow, and you know he don’t even talk a good game. When this guy talks, you can’t even take him serious. When he talks, it’s not even believable when he speaks. So I’m expecting the same old him, he’s not on my level at all. I can’t wait to show the world.
He’s only been in there with one elite fighter and we already know what happened to him, he got knocked out. So in this situation, I’m going to do the same thing and it’s going to be in even more dramatic fashion. It’s going to be in a life-threatening fashion, and I can’t wait to put my hands on him.
What are your takeaways from the Tyson Fury fight about yourself and the things you’re able to look back on to learn from in the first draw of your career?
Only thing in that fight was being patient. That’s solely being patient. Fury brought the best Fury possible, and that was only half of me, and the only highlight you got out of that fight was me knocking his ass out and him getting off his back. Period. So, that was it. I had the world in my hands. It’s been hard in America to get the eyes and I finally had got ’em. For that special night I didn’t have to go against no other sport and it was all about me and myself and I tried to do something I know I can do, and I forced that. That’s the only learning thing and on to the next.
The first fight I covered of yours was your first title defense against Eric Molina in Birmingham. You’re now on your ninth title defense. How would you describe your journey from winning the title to now and how you’ve grown as a fighter?
Aw man, just over the years it’s just learning so many things from so many different fighters, so many different styles. Even with my sparring partners, like Mark Breland. I owe so much to Mark Breland. He taught me so many different things with my jab, how to twist my wrist in certain ways to get in different openings.
For example, like the Bermane Stiverne fight two, the only way I was able to get in there was with twisting my wrist in a certain way to break through his guard, cause all night he had his guard up. And that’s just technique that takes time and dedication to building your craft. I have a unique style, and I’m unorthodox and not textbook, so you can’t really train for me. There’s no one in the world that fights like me at this point. In the future there will be plenty of fighters that imitate my style, but for right now, there’s none other. I’m one of a kind and that’s what makes me stand out among the rest. I’m blessed. My grandma always said I was anointed by God and I show that each time I get in the ring.
What are you most proud of from your four-year title reign as you’re now looking to become the 10th heavyweight to defend it nine times?
Just still being here. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to still be standing. This is a brutal sport and a tough sport, especially with training. Some guys can’t get past the training part, let alone the sparring part, and to be able to defend my title for the ninth time, it’s a blessing. I’m definitely getting up in the ranks of legends and legacy, and it just feels good. So many guys came before me and never had the opportunity to fight for a world title, let alone become a champion, and here I am in my ninth title defense and I’m the longest reigning champ in the business. Man, it’s just a blessing to be here and say I obtained glory and to be able to be here to this day.
Every fighter starts with the goal of becoming a world champ and then it’s to defend it successfully, but once you get this deep in a title run, what are still the goals for you? What do you still look at as things you want to accomplish in the ring?
The main thing I want to accomplish is legacy. That’s what I’m building for, that’s what I’m fighting for, legacy. Generational wealth. I want to say I fought the best and I knocked them out in a dramatic fashion. It’d be amazing to end my career out with all knockouts — undefeated, with every guy I’ve stepped in the ring with tasting canvas. I’m always trying to make big fights happen and a lot of guys don’t want to make that happen, because they’re scared of one particular thing that I possess, and that’s my power. Of course, in the heavyweight division, everyone has power, but me, I have unique power. Unexplainable power. That forces me to suffer by always having to go the longer route because of that.
Most of these guys don’t want to lose and their motto is, low risk, high reward. With me, I take high rewards with high risk, and I’ve done that many times to prove my point and my case to people. At this point and time, that’s my mindset. I want to win and build a legacy. I tell people now that I’m a walking, living icon. I still have a long way to go, but I’m willing to prove that in each and every fight. Every time I win I get closer and closer to my goal of what I’m trying to achieve in the heavyweight division and the sport of boxing.
What have you learned over the years about the frustrations that can come from the business of boxing? You mention wanting to make the biggest fights but that can be difficult. You’ve had fighters fail drug tests and have to change opponents late in the process. How have you learned to stay focused on your craft when those things happen?
I definitely had enough practice, so they say practice makes perfect. With everything I’ve endured in this sport, I’ve learned from it. It’s been a learning curve for me and it allows me to have patience. I just know how to handle so many different things at this point in my career because of the experience I’ve had in many situations. It comes with the sport and it’s one of those things you have to adapt to. If you don’t, you’ll be depressed, be stressed, you’ll probably want to quit.
Many times I’ve wanted to quit as well, but I just know how to handle it because of the many experiences. It’s not one time, two times, but a few times. But I appreciate it, though, because to be a true champion, you must go through all aspects of this sport. I haven’t been through everything, but I’ve been through a lot of things, and it makes me a better champion. It makes me train even harder and it makes me aware of certain things in this business that, next time, I can look out for or know what to do in a certain situation. And it feeds my hunger as well, to stay ready and stay fit because you just don’t know what can happen in this business.
You say Breazeale is going to taste the canvas, but after this fight who’s next for Deontay Wilder? Who do you want to see in the ring?
Man, the heavyweight division is on fire right now. There’s so many different avenues to go through, so at this point and time, we’re just taking it fight by fight. I know a lot of people want to see the big fights and I assure them that the big fights definitely will happen. I’m known for making the big fights and I’m always in the big fights, so that definitely is going to happen. Right now my total focus is on Dominic Breazeale and getting him out of the way, and then we move on to the next step.