By Matt Richardson
Photo: Premier Boxing Champions
Deontay Wilder has had a disappointing 13 months.
The WBC heavyweight title-holder and former U.S. Olympian started 2016 with a brutal knockout of Artur Szpilka at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
But a scheduled May defense against former title challenger Alexander Povetkin was cancelled when Povetkin failed a drug test just days before the fight.
Not looking to waste a completed training camp, Wilder moved on to an easy defense against Chris Arreola in July. But that fight wasn’t easy on Wilder’s body and injuries sustained in the bout – combined with previous ones – put him on the shelf for the remainder of the year.
When Wilder (37-0, 36 KO’s) got back on the docket for a February 25 encounter with Andrzej Wawrzyk, the Alabama-native thought he could finally prepare for his return. But Wawrzyk also failed a drug test and Wilder had to switch opponents again, this time to undefeated but untested Gerald Washington.
It’s a fight that Wilder told Fightnews he expected to win, despite the recent run of failed drug tests and nagging injuries.
“It’s disappointing,” Wilder said last week.
“It’s just a disappointing feeling. On their behalf, all these fighters do all this talking all the time in front of media and stuff like that but when it’s time for the fight, you know, or get in camp, they want to have an advantage. Everybody wants to have the advantage over me because they know that I’m tall. They know that I’m very athletic. They know that I come with an attitude where I’m coming to knock your head off your shoulders. And they know that I have the power. So, with that being said, although they do all this talking, deep down inside I think they get a little nervous and intimidated by the fact that I actually have real power.”
Ironically, despite the last-minute switch in opponents, Wilder said that he thinks Washington could prove to be tougher than Wawrzyk.
“He’s (Washington) actually a real athlete. And Wawrzyk, wasn’t an athlete, he was a fighter, of course. But when you have an athlete involved in it, it makes it that much better because he’s going to be able to do things that someone else wouldn’t be able to do. He’s going to make the competition even better. He comes from a background where you have to be in shape, where you have to lift weights and you have to have power so in my opinion I think it’s definitely a better opponent than with Wawrzyk. And a great opponent if you want to put that I’m coming off an injury.”
In the Arreola fight, Wilder broke his right hand and injured his biceps – both issues which the fighter said are now resolved.
“Everything’s been good. Camp’s been good. All of my sparring partners have been amazed that I’ve come off a hand injury and you can’t tell at all. I’ve been dropping sparring partners. I’ve been hurting them. You know, it’s been crazy. One of my sports doctors says that once everything is done, even when I broke it, that once everything is done, that I’m going to find that I’m even stronger. Things came back even tighter and the strength increases,” Wilder said.
“I don’t know if it’s what he said is true or if it’s the fact that I finally, out of all this time since breaking my hand that I finally let it properly heal. I can apply even more force and pressure to it. So I don’t know which one it is but right now I’m feeling good, I’m looking good and I can’t wait to get back up in there.”
Boxing fans want Wilder back, too. Since his knockout of Szpilka, the heavyweight hype has revolved around the UK’s Anthony Joshua. Joshua is set to fight former champion Wladimir Klitschko in a record-setting event in April.
Should Joshua win, the inevitable “big” heavyweight fight will be against Wilder. The fans know this. So do the media and Joshua.
Wilder does, too.
“It’s huge,” the 6’7” Wilder said of the potential fight.
“For one, that’s one of the fights that everybody, all the fans want to see. They want to see that. They see two tall guys, two athletic guys and two guys that are in very good shape, so who wouldn’t want to see that fight? That’s like a dream fight to happen. That’s going to be one of the best heavyweight fights in many, many decades that has happened. If that fight happens.”
“So, you know, I’ll be looking forward,” he said. “I’ll be sitting back waiting on those guys and hopefully we can get something done, whether it’s Joshua or whether it’s Klitschko. You know, hopefully it’s Joshua because that fight for the fans is even bigger. I think overall it’s bigger for the fans and bigger money as well, too. And we’re both undefeated, too, so that makes it even more exciting. I think that fight will be not only big in hype but the fight itself will be big, as well.”
But don’t expect that fight to happen immediately, regardless of how Joshua fares against Klitschko. Wilder said that there’s a plan that he intends to abide by, culminating with the Joshua showdown in the final quarter of the year.
“I want them at the end of the year,” he said. “My plan is that when I win this fight I want Joseph Parker next for the WBO (title), that way I have that title in my possession. And then, at the end of the year, I’ll fight the winner of Joshua and Klitschko and then we unify the division. Winner takes all. Winner will be labeled the baddest man on the planet.”
For the immediate future, Wilder said he is excited to just be able to box again.
“When people come to see heavyweight fights or when they turn on the TV to watch it, they want to see knockouts,” he stated. “And numbers don’t lie. I’m 37 and 0 with 36 knockouts. So when you turn the TV on, there’s more than likely that you’re going to see a knockout. So, I think that’s more exciting than anything,” he said.
“Deontay Wilder is back.”