If Deontay Wilder has his way, then life will truly begin at 40. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
The 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist and current longest reigning titlist has never been shy about envisioning the road even while squarely focused on the task at hand. While hard at work for a heavyweight title fight rematch with Luis Ortiz, the unbeaten knockout artist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama has long ago begun making plans for life after boxing.
“Six years is my max that I’m planning to finish my career,” Wilder (41-0-1, 40KOs) told BoxingScene.com and other reporters during a recent media workout in Northport, Alabama while training for his rematch with Ortiz (31-1, 26KOs; 2NCs), which takes place Nov. 23 on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View live from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. “It’s a beautiful thing to have the team I started with to be the team that I finish with.”
The team to which Wilder refers includes longtime head trainer Jay Deas, who has been with him since he first donned a pair of gloves. His crash course into the sport provided enough lessons to serve on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Boxing team in Beijing, where he was the only American boxer to bring home a medal.
Upon turning pro later that year, Wilder—who turned 34 in October—added to his training team the sharp mind of Mark Breland, arguably the greatest American amateur boxer in history who won a Gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics before going on to become a two-time welterweight titlist in the pro ranks. On the decision making side since day one has been manager Shelly Finkel—who was also Breland’s manager throughout his pro career—and high-powered adviser Al Haymon, with Wilder becoming the face of the latter’s Premier Boxing Champions conglomerate.
The early years of Wilder’s career were spent on shows promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Their final fight together came more than six years into his career, when he decisioned Bermane Stiverne over 12-rounds to win the heavyweight title in Jan. 2015. A repeat win over Ortiz—a Miami-based Cuban southpaw whom he stopped in 10 rounds last March—will extend his reign past the five-year mark by next January, along with giving him a 10th successful title defense.
“In the beginning of my career, we had a plan of things to move forward with,” reflects Wilder. “I can’t say things went exactly as planned. In life, things don’t go as planned. It’s a great to be with a group of guys that have my best interest at heart. The people who were planning the beginning of my career are planning the ending as well. I think the ending is going to be a little bit sweeter than the beginning.
“In the beginning you have a long task ahead of you and you don’t know where the roads will lead. I did the best I can in the heavyweight division. I brought a lot of excitement. I bring a lot of drama.”
More drama could come of his post-fight career—just not in the ring.
“My passion is acting,” admitted Wilder, whose on-screen credits include guest appearances Showtime’s Billions; the televised reboot of Magnum P.I. and reality series WAGS Atlanta. “I’m doing thing thus far and I’ve been killing it. I’m looking forward to do more in the acting field.
“I’m also a certified scuba diver. I’m looking forward to spending time with my family, watching my kids grow.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox