By Jake Donovan
Deontay Wilder is a man who knows what he wants, and isn’t interested in hearing about anything that can potentially prevent him from reaching those goals.
It mattered little that he went into the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the least experienced member of the U.S. Boxing squad. The proof was in the finished product, as the 6’7” Alabama product served as the team’s lone medalist, capturing Olympic bronze.
From there came his pro debut later in 2008, with the goal to eventually capture a heavyweight title. The unbeaten American remains a knockout every time out, scoring 27 stoppages in as many fights, with none lasting beyond the fourth round.
The competition level has been relatively thin to this point, though he receives an upgrade this weekend. A trip across the pond to the United Kingdom (Sheffield, to be exact) is met with a scheduled 10-round clash against Audley Harrison, who captured Olympic Gold for the 2000 Great Britain boxing squad but hasn’t done much in a dozen years as a pro.
Harrison has been a past asset to Wilder, as the two sparred together in 2012 prior to the Brit’s showdown with countryman David Price. Come Saturday night, he stands in the way of Wilder’s road to title contention. Past history aside, this weekend is all about business.
"Audley is a great person and a friend. He had me in camp sparring last year and I appreciate that he had confidence I could help him,” Wilder (27-0, 27KO) says of their time spent together in training camp. “But in boxing, if you say you're not going to fight because you're friends then you won't ever fight anyone! A lot of us are friends from sparring and camps and all, but Audley stands in the way of what I'm trying to do.”
The fight with Price didn’t go well for Harrison, suffering a 1st round knockout. He has since bounced back, winning the most recent heavyweight edition of the wildly popular Prizefighter tournament to improve to 31-6 (23KO) heading into their Saturday night clash.
“He's reinvented himself many times and you can never count him out,” Wilder says of his boxing colleague. “He's on a high right now from winning the Prizefighter, but he's in my way and I'm starving. I'm so hungry I'm like a guy in front of Burger King with a sign that reads, ‘Will Fight For Food!’ I'm starving to become champion, starving to be great.”
The jury is still out on Wilder, who looks the part but has only begun to face the type of competition that paints a clearer picture of his future prospects. The 27-year old is well aware of the criticism surrounding his career, which always serves as motivation once he steps into the ring.
If Wilder gets his way on Saturday, then that very fuel could mean very bad news for his friend-turned-temporary rival.
“Yes, I'm looking for a knockout, because getting through this door leads to all the things I want,” Wilder unapologetically admits, not at all concerned about his friendship with Harrison or playing a road game. “I have a lot of fans in England and a lot of people that don't like me too. That's okay.
“The ones that like me, it's because of the knockouts. The ones that don't wonder if I really hit that hard. Either way they all want to see the fight and I want them to tune in. My fan club is called the Bomb Squad and I want the English Bomb Squad to come out!”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox