Deontay Wilder wanted to fight Joseph Parker in 2017.

Wilder had held the WBC heavyweight title for two years by then. Parker, who edged Andy Ruiz Jr. by majority decision to win the then-unclaimed WBO belt in December 2016, traveled to Birmingham, Alabama two months later and watched Wilder stop Gerald Washington in the fifth round at Legacy Arena.

That’s when Wilder is convinced Parker changed his mind about facing the Tuscaloosa-based knockout artist in what would’ve been a championship unification clash between unbeaten belt-holders.

They’ll finally fight Saturday night, almost six years later than Wilder had hoped, in the co-feature of a stacked card at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) promised during a recent interview with a small group of reporters that he would make Parker pay for making him wait so long to get in the ring with him.

“I definitely remember that,” Wilder said. “And Joseph Parker ran from me because he seen what I did to Gerald Washington. And, you know, he came to talk a good game and talk about, you know, fighting me or whatever, just like all the other ones. And he seen, you know, the performance I had by knocking Gerald Washington out, and he [fled], he ran, just like all the other ones. I always say many times I was supposed to unify the division many, many years ago, if I had the opportunity.

“But unfortunately, no one has ever given me the opportunity like I’ve given other fighters the opportunity to fight. You know, and it’s just sad because I have a blessing and a curse. But God is good. Here we are again. You know, a lotta great things is happening, a lot of doors has opened and a lotta opportunities is looming around. And I’m just honored to be able to perform in Saudi Arabia, and start and kick the thing off. And I’m looking forward to the ‘Day of the Reckoning.’ ”

If Wilder wins and Anthony Joshua beats Otto Wallin in the 12-round main event, the former heavyweight champions are expected to square off early in 2024, reportedly March 9 at Kingdom Arena.

New Zealand’s Parker (33-3, 23 KOs), who lost his WBO belt to Joshua in March 2018, has won three straight fights since London’s Joe Joyce (15-2, 14 KOs) knocked him out in the 11th round of their September 2022 bout at AO Arena in Manchester, England. Wilder will end a 14-month layoff in his first fight since he knocked out Finland’s Robert Helenius (32-5, 21 KOs) in the first round in October 2022 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“Me and Parker, like I said, we supposed to been fought a while back, but he ran,” Wilder said. “I don’t know how he built the courage up now, you know, or whatever. But I’m glad he’s here, you know, because Imma punish him. You know, and I’m looking forward to fighting him. All in all, I’m just looking forward to fighting him. And I can’t wait for it to happen. It won’t be long now.”

DraftKings sportsbook lists Wilder as a 6-1 favorite in the bout before England’s Joshua (26-3, 23 KOs) and Sweden’s Wallin (26-1, 14 KOs, 1 NC) square off in the main event. This pay-per-view show is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. ET and 8 a.m. PT in the United States ($39.99) and 4 p.m. GMT in the United Kingdom (£19.99).

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.