By Lem Satterfield
Deontay Wilder promised a “slam dunk” KO of lineal champion Tyson Fury for Dominique Wilkins when the nine-time NBA All-Star visited his home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for a Friday afternoon podcast.
The 6-foot-7 “Bronze Bomber” (40-0, 39 KOs) pursues his eighth straight knockout in as many WBC title defenses against Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) of England on Showtime Pay-Per-View and December 1 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“This was my first time meeting him, and I welcomed him with open arms. He came down from Atlanta to my house along with his crew, and I was on his podcast show. It was fascinating and a blessing to have a Hall of Famer come to my home, because I’m a future Hall of Famer myself in my own profession,” said Wilder of Wilkins, a 2006 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who was listed at 224 pounds during his playing days.
“I definitely think Dominique could have had a run in boxing, believing in himself and having the tall frame as well as the attitude. We did the podcast right out of my house. There were no limits as we went on talking four about two hours. He’s a big fan of mine and he wanted to bring me one of his signed [No. 21] Atlanta Hawks’ jerseys. It was great to receive the blessings of a visit from a Hall of Famer to my home. I know he’ll be watching the Fury fight and might even be there watching me knock Fury out.”
Wilkins, 58, spoke to Wilder about his playing days, including 11 seasons with the Atlanta Hawks and stints for the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic.
“Dominique is a Hall of Famer with the Atlanta Hawks, and was telling me about how he played against [The Boston Celtics’] Larry Bird and [The Chicago Bulls’ players] Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and all of those guys,” said Wilder, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist nicknamed, to BoxingScene.com.
“We were doing a lot talking about meditation, how he did it, and what got him set when he played, which is the same thing with me. It was about how he visualized dominating his competition, and that’s validation for the way that I do it. The same methods of preparation that I use, he used in basketball.”
Known among the premier dunkers in NBA history, the 6-foot-8 Wilkins was nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film.” Wilder is a lifetime resident and native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who graduated in 2004 from Tuscaloosa’s Central High School, participating in football and basketball with a desire to play either sport for the University of Alabama.
“On the basketball court, man, I would jump out of the gym for a slam dunk. Knocking people out is the same thing as dunking. I had hops like crazy and could dunk on three or four people. I also ran track and would have played soccer as well if I had time,” said Wilder, whose 'Bronze Bomber' moniker derived from Alabama-born heavyweight champion, Joe Louis, 'The Brown Bomber.'
“I was playing both forward and center. I was always the first one picked during pickup basketball games because I had an aggressive style as a heavy dunker who was known for bringing it down on you hard. When I’d get up to the rim, I slammed it home just like I do when I’m knocking somebody out. Dominique is definitely wanting me to knock out Tyson Fury, which is what I’m known for.”
Wilder can supplant 6-foot-6 IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO champion Anthony Joshua (22-0,21 KOs) of the UK as the world’s No. 1 heavyweight by stopping the 6-foot-9 Fury following months of failed negotiations in June to make a unification bout against Joshua.
Coming off a two-knockdown, 10th-round stoppage of previously unbeaten southpaw Luis Ortiz in March, Wilder was ringside in April 2017 at London’s Wembley Stadium as Joshua stopped 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko.
Joshua rose from the canvas in the sixth round against Klitschko, scoring knockdowns in the fifth and two more in the 11th for a TKO win. Joshua’s victory came 17 months after Klitschko was dethroned by Fury, a unanimous decision making “The Gypsy King” the lineal and IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO champion.
Wilder was also ringside in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in August for Fury’s unanimous decision over Francesco Pianeta, representing the 30-year-old’s second fight since Klitschko following June’s fourth-round stoppage of Sefer Seferi.
Wilder and Fury announced their clash in the ring post-Pianeta during a profanity-laced face-off similar to Fury’s disrupting Wilder’s interview after his ninth-round stoppage of southpaw Artur Szpilka in January 2016 in Brooklyn, New York.
“I don’t know how many rounds it’s going to go, but I would say somewhere between the mid-to later rounds, depending on how fast I adjust to Fury,” said Wilder.
“But once I make the adjustment, and when I connect, it’s going to be a devastating knockout. I’ve already envisioned it.”