By Jake Donovan
Deontay Wilder was in his usual jovial mood while holding court at Skyy Boxing Gym in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s where he’s trained ever since first lacing up gloves as a teenager but was presented with a different element during a media workout earlier in the week.
The reigning unbeaten heavyweight titlist didn’t hold back on any subject thrown his way. Chief among the discussion was his upcoming defense versus mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin on May 21 in Moscow, Russia.
However, there was one topic that rubbed him the wrong way, although he did his best to take a light-hearted approach to the subject. Less than three months after claiming a vacant heavyweight belt, Charles Martin conceded his portion of the crown in limp fashion, as he was stopped in two rounds by 2012 Olympic Gold medalist Anthony Joshua earlier this month on the road in London, England.
“Man, I don’t know if his shorts were too tight or what,” Wilder joked to BoxingScene.com of Martin’s questionable fashion sense on that evening, though less suspect than the effort he put forth in the ring. “Maybe he just couldn’t get his footwork going, he couldn’t open his stance far enough ‘cause of them tight shorts.”
A lot of history is being made in the heavyweight division as of late. Joshua became just the second ever boxer to win a Gold medal for Great Britain and a major title in the pro ranks, while Martin’s exit produced the second-shortest title reign in heavyweight history.
Wilder is still a month from becoming the first U.S-based heavyweight titlist ever to defend his title in Russia. He was hoping that he’d have at least one more American alongside him atop the division, but instead was left to feel embarrassed for his countryman.
“To be honest, though, Charles Martin disappointed (all American boxers and fans),” Wilder notes. “He let down a whole lot of people. You could tell, that first time he got hit harder than he’s ever been hit in his career, he didn’t want to fight no more. In my opinion, he could have gotten up (from the second knockdown, when Martin rose at ‘9 ½’) but he got hit harder than he ever got hit before in his career and – mentally – couldn’t figure out how to deal with that.”
While it’s cliché to suggest a boxer would take a dive in this era – and flat out erroneous to suggest Martin went that route – there is the line of thought that suggests the now ex-titlsit basically sold his title to Joshua. The American southpaw received a career-high payday – rumored to be anywhere between $4-5.5 million, depending upon whom you believe – which is life-changing money for just about any athlete, especially a pro boxer who’s lived a hard life.
However, it’s a long road back to respectability for Martin, who is advised by Al Haymon although that no longer guarantees steady paychecks for as long as he continues to box. The likely scenario for the California-based heavyweight is a return to undercard filler status on Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) shows, which frankly pays less than was the case even six months ago.
“I heard after the fight, he went home and bought a Bentley,” Wilder notes of Martin’s post-fight spending spree. “You can’t do that, not knowing that the money’s gonna keep coming in. I got my indulgences, we all do. But look around. I’m a heavyweight champion but still tapped into my roots and also knowing when I can spend and when I need to save.”
“Had he won – yeah, he’ll be making money hand over fist. But he didn’t want to get back up and fight, earn that payday. He just thought about how he made more money than he ever has before in his career. Now he’s the second-shortest reigning heavyweight champion in history. That’s something I wouldn’t brag about or want to go down in history as. But that’s him… I don’t even want to talk about him anymore.”
Wilder is still working out a travel schedule but plans to arrive in Moscow well ahead of fight week, to acclimate not only to the climate but to the culture.
“I’m the people’s champion, the heavyweight champion of the world – the key word being WORLD,” Wilder points out. “When I hit Russia, I want to meet the people, get to know what they do, how they live and work from that. I’m like a chameleon, I adapt to any situation, to any climate. I don’t need the stuff I have in America.
“However long I’ll be there, I’m still coming back home, so I’m just going to live like they do in Moscow while I’m there. I represent all people. I worked hard to become heavyweight champion of the world and I’m going to do everything in my power to keep that title. I won’t lie down and I won’t accept no excuses fighting in another country, when all I have to do is work hard.”
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox