By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Deontay Wilder wanted to give Bermane Stiverne a present the day after Stiverne’s 39th birthday.
Stiverne refused to open the gift bag Wilder gave him, so Wilder revealed Thursday what was inside. The sarcastic WBC heavyweight champion bought a bottle of Pedialyte to help Stiverne avoid the dehydration Stiverne insists hurt his performance in their first fight nearly three years ago.
A stone-faced Stiverne wasn’t remotely amused by Wilder’s display during the final press conference before their mandatory rematch Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
“Dehydration, right?,” a smiling Wilder said. “He became the first heavyweight in history that became dehydrated in a fight. The first. And we gonna give him that. We’ll give him that. We’re gonna say he was dehydrated. We heard he was in full health the first time, right? He said that if he wasn’t training, then he would be worried, that he trained his ass off, right? That he was ready. But when he got in that ring, I don’t know what happened. But we’re gonna make sure it don’t happen no more, Bermane. … Bermane, we’re gonna make sure that don’t happen no more.”
Wilder defeated Stiverne convincingly to win the WBC title from him in January 2015, yet Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs) remains the only opponent Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs) hasn’t knocked out since he turned pro in November 2008. The 32-year-old knockout artist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, won a unanimous decision in their 12-round bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (120-107, 119-108, 118-109).
The Haitian-born, Las Vegas-based Stiverne has fought just once since Wilder beat him, but the WBC still installed him as Wilder’s mandatory challenger. Stiverne was preparing to meet Dominic Breazeale (18-1, 16 KOs) on the Wilder-Luis Ortiz undercard Saturday night, but the former champion replaced Ortiz once the unbeaten Cuban southpaw tested positive late in September for two banned substances.
Though disappointed that Ortiz failed to follow protocol for the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program, the hard-hitting Wilder is eager to prove he can knock out Stiverne.
“He was the only man to survive ‘The Alabama Slammer,’ ” Wilder said. “And this is what makes this a great fight, because when I knock him out there won’t be nobody, no fighter, that says they survived with Deontay Wilder. That’s what’s so special about this fight. That’s why people should watch it. This is the magic about this fight – he was the only one to survive. He left with a lot of lumps and humps on him, though. A lot of excuses. This fight right here, we’re gonna leave it all in the ring. No excuses. Winner takes all.”
The Wilder-Stiverne rematch will headline a Showtime tripleheader set to start Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
The co-featured fight will match former IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter (27-2-1, 17 KOs), of Akron, Ohio, against Adrian Granados (18-5-2, 12 KOs), of Cicero, Illinois, in a 10-round, 147-pound bout. The telecast will start with a 12-round battle between Kazakhstan’s Sergey Lipinets (12-0, 10 KOs) and Japan’s Akihiro Kondo (29-6-1, 16 KOs) for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.