LAS VEGAS - Long before World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champion Bermane "B. Ware" Stiverne (24-1, 21 KOs) knocked out Chris Arreola (35-4) this past May to claim the coveted title belt vacated by retired Vitali Klitschko, Deontay "The Bronze Bomber" Wilder (31-0, 31 KOs) started talking smack about Stiverne and he hasn't let up as the impending showdown approaches later this year.
Wilder is the mandatory, No. 1 challenger for Stiverne's first defense. If the relatively untested fighter from Alabama believes his incessant trash talk, juvenile antics and bizarre behavior is getting to Stiverne, he has another thing coming when they step intoi the ring. In fact, Stiverne admits he's been amused.
"He's not going to get under my skin," Stiverne said. "I think he's funny. Maybe he should think about doing a comedy act after I beat him? Friends have sent me stuff he's said and done. It's funny. He's like a little kid who needs attention, so he keeps opening his mouth. His trash talking doesn't bother me at all. I saw some people who brought up what he's said. What am I supposed to do, hand my title to him? I guess he wants to entertain his fans. If he thinks his tricks are going to bother me, he's going to be in big trouble."
While Wilder's chatter hasn't fazed Stiverne, his manager, Camille Estephan (Eye of the Tiger Management), has already tired of Wilder's act. "Wilder is a clown," Estephan remarked. "No respect! What's he ever done to act like this? Look who he's fought. Bermane is going to expose him and shut him up for good. His actions are ill advised. Wilder doesn't realize he's in for such a rough ride and a very big surprise. We're happy to fight him, mandatory or not."
Some have proclaimed Wilder as the next world heavyweight champion, using his perfect professional record as evidence for his coronation. His skeptics, however, believe Wilder's record has been built up by fighting fraudulent opponents, pointing out he's never fought anybody as nearly as good as Arreola (Stiverne's victim in his last two fights), never mind somebody with the rare combination of power and quickness that Stiverne possesses. Meanwhile, "B-Ware" has been basking in the glory of being a world heavyweight champion, proudly noting he is the first Haitian-born fighter to achieve that distinction.
"My life hasn't really changed too much other than my popularity growing," Stiverne talked about life after becoming world champion. "My Instagram followers went up from 2,000 to 13,000 from one picture. There hasn't been one day I haven't done something in public. I expected change but not like this. People used to look at me and ask if I played in the NFL. I've had people tell me they always thought I was a football player until they saw me fight Arreola. Places I used to stand in line to get in, well, I don't stand in line anymore.
"I try to stay on the down-low. I'm not out clubbing every day, or feel that I have to do something in public. I'm available but, closer to the fight, I'll shut down everything 4-5 weeks out unless it has to do with the promotion. I don't think it has fully hit me, yet. It will when I go back to Haiti to meet the President (Michel) Martelly."
Stiverne is a breath of fresh air in a division dominated by the robotic, impersonal Klitschko brothers for the past decade. Stiverne's fan-friendly boxing style, coupled with his bubbly personality, make him extremely marketable as long as he keeps winning. Stiverne-Wilder has tremendous implications for the winner in terms of a potential mega-fight with Wladimir Klitschko for a total unification of the heavyweight belts. Stiverene, though, remains fully focused on Wilder.
"I do feel like a fresh face in the heavyweight division," Stiverne concluded. "I'm bringing excitement back to the heavyweight division like years ago. Wilder's not a threat but I'm taking him serious. I take all my opponents seriously but I'm going to teach that little kid a lesson. It's a shame his promoter and manager are putting him in such a big fight like this so early in his career."