By Lem Satterfield
There were some who considered Deontay Wilder to be too light and scrawny to compete as a heavyweight.
A 2008 Olympic bronze medalist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the 6-foot-7 “Bronze Bomber” weighted a career-low 207 ¼ in November 2008 for his professional debut and second-round TKO of Ethan Cox.
But on December 1 at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Showtime Pay-Per-View (9 p.m ET/ 6 p. ET), Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) will pursue his eighth straight knockout in as many WBC title defenses against lineal champion Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs).
“The Gypsy King” stands 6-foot-9, is two bouts removed from a career-high 276 pounds for June’s fourth-round stoppage of Sefer Seferi, has mocked Wilder’s “skinny legs,” and implied that, at times, he might abandon his stick-and-move style and straight up bully the smaller champion.
“I don’t care how big he is. I don’t care how well he moves, I don’t care what Tyson Fury’s gonna bring,” said Wilder. “Every fighter I’ve faced in there has out-weighed me, and out-weighed me double my weight. That don’t matter to me. I’m 40-0 with 39 KOs. When you possess that sort of power, you don’t worry about a lot of things, man.”
Wilder alludes to the days of undersized five-belt champion Evander Holyfield, who weighed 208 for his third-round KO of 246-pound Buster Douglass (October 1990), or Muhammad Ali's 216.5-pounds for an eighth-round KO of 220-pound George Foreman (October 1974).
"Ya’ll wanna see the Muhammad Ali of the golden days?" said Wilder. "Well I'm here. I’m special. I’m a gift from God like my grandmother said."
Wilder was-out-weighed, 239-to-219 when he dethroned Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision in January 2015, and 254 ¾-to-220 ¾ for his three-knockdown, first-round stoppage of Stiverne in his rematch and sixth defense in November 2017.
Wilder weighed career-highs of 229 for second- and ninth-round KOs of Damon McCreary (September 2012) and Eric Molina (June 2015). He's coming off a two-knockdown, 10th-round TKO in March of previously unbeaten Luis Ortiz, 6-foot-4 southpaw whose weight advantage was 241 ¼ to 214 ¾.
“When it comes to me, I’ve got that killer instinct. I’ve got the most killer instinct in this game. No one has a mind-set like me,” said Wilder. “I don’t have to get mad at you or play mind games with you or to get in your head, because an ass-whoopin’ is an ass-whoopin,’ whether I’m mad at you or I’m happy. I can beat your ass and be smiling at you at the same time.”
Co-Trainer Jay Deas said Wilder’s emphasis is on performance during preparation as opposed to his weight, which was depleted due to a severe cold heading into his fight with Ortiz.
“I don’t worry about my weight. When people see my weight at the weigh-in, that’s when I see it,” said Wilder, was limited to three weeks of preparation for Ortiz. “I don’t care about weight or dwell onit. I’m not like, ‘Oh my God, this guy’s bigger than me.’ Those negative thoughts never enter my head."
Wilder was ringside in April 2017 at London’s Wembley Stadium as the Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) stopped the now retired 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko by 11th-round KO in a clash of fighters who stand 6-foot-6.
He craves a unification with Joshua, a 29-year-old IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO titleholder who weighed 245 ¼ for September’s seventh-round stoppage of former titlist Alexander Povetkin (34-2, 24 KOs).
But for now, Wilder’s zeroed in on Fury, who out-weighed 6-foot-3, 210-pound, former cruiserweight champion, Steve Cunningham, by 44 pounds. Cunningham floored Fury with a head-swiveling right hand in Round 2 of their April 2013 battle before losing by seventh-round knockout.
“If Tyson Fury tries to rough me up like he did Steve Cunningham or try to get aggressive with me, I’m gonna be his worst nightmare," said Wilder. "They better get a referee who lifts weights and is very strong, because if it gets violent in that ring, I’m a different monster, and he knows it."