Deontay Wilder clearly takes his self-appointed moniker of ‘baddest man on the planet’ seriously.
The unbeaten American boxing superstar first expressed his desire to kill a man in the ring two years ago and — despite reported apologies over comments widely branded “disgusting” — it appears he still feels that way.
Wilder will defend his WBC heavyweight world title against Dominic Breazeale in Brooklyn on Sunday (AEST), his first fight since last year’s epic decision draw against British star Tyson Fury.
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That classic fight sent unbeaten Wilder’s (40-1-0, 39 KOs) star power soaring globally. However the 33-year-old is yet to truly endear himself to the wider boxing public to the extent many US stars before him did— including Mike Tyson, whom he’s often been compared to.
There are likely complicated reasons for that (Wilder himself claims racism is one) but Wilder’s controversial comments — strangely at odds with the respectful, charismatic and peaceful (he’s spoken of wanting to make a difference and help others) aspects of Wilder’s personality — may have played a role.
Wilder first coldly expressed is desire to “get a body on my record” in the lead-up to his 2017 fight with Canadian Bermane Stiverne.
“I’ve been wanting one for a long time anyway and what better opponent to do it with. So much pain, so much frustration, so much things that been going on in my career,” Wilder said.
“I want a body and he’s going to be the body.”
He doubled down in a radio interview last year, blaming his alter-ego the ‘Bronze Bomber’ for his murderous desires.
“I want a body on my record, I want one … I really do,” Wilder said.
“That’s the Bronze Bomber. He wants one.
“… When I’m the Bronze Bomber, I don’t really care. Everything about me changes. I don’t get nervous. I don’t get scared, butterflies, I don’t have no feelings towards the man I’m going to fight.”
Wilder’s comments sparked outrage, especially coming so soon after 31-year-old British boxer Scott Westgarth died as a result of injuries sustained in a fight.
Many of Wilder’s rivals, including Anthony Joshua, strongly condemned the remarks while leading promoter Eddie Hearn described them as “disgusting”.
“A fighter lost his life here a couple of weeks ago,” Hearn said at the time.
“But I don’t think he (Wilder) really means that. He’s just a desperate man saying things to just try and get something going.
“He’s done the wrong thing … I think he’s lost his marbles. He doesn’t really mean that.”
British heavyweight Tony Bellew. meanwhile, blasted Wilder as a “senseless idiot”.
An apology, of sorts, followed in the form of a WBC statement in which World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman reasoned: “When I say ‘if I do this, my Mother is going to kill me’. Of course, she isn’t going to kill me, but it’s a statement.
“Deontay is very sorry about how this all transpired and how it was taken and he’s going to take immediate action about that.”
But Wilder has never publicly apologised himself. Indeed, he’s going down the same, ugly road ahead of Sunday’s fight.
“If he dies, he dies,’’ Wilder, borrowing a line from Rocky’s Ivan Drago told USA Today of Breazeale.
Among his most chilling comments this week: “This is the only sport where you can kill a man and get paid for it at the same time. It’s legal. So why not use my right to do so?”
When put to him in an interview with reporters that he didn’t really mean it, and that threatening death was crossing the line, Wilder resonded: “I mean every word that I say”.
“How many times you ever heard me talk like that before?”
“When I’m in the ring, I’m the ‘Bronze Bomber,’ and in this sport, we can do this and get paid for doing it. This is a gladiator sport. This is a heartless sport.
“There ain’t nothing nice about this sport. I don’t understand what people can’t comprehend. There ain’t nothing nice about this sport. If you ain’t in there, you won’t understand it.
“When you get in that ring, it’s do or die because guess what: That’s what we’re trying to do anyway.
“Any doctor in this world that you talk to, they’ll tell you the human head ain’t meant to be hit in the first place.
“Guys in this sport, they get knocked out all the time and they’re losing something in their head each and every time. Let’s be realistic.
“Without words, these are the actions that are being applied.
“Actions speak louder than words, so don’t be mad because I say it.
“It’s a brutal sport. You guys love it because you know.
“If I say I’m going to kill a man, everybody’s going to tune in to see what happens.”
Wilder says his disregard for Breazeale’s safety stems from long-running bad blood, claiming the Californian he threatened his brother in a 2017 run-in.
“He told my brother, and it was confirmed by other people that was around, that Breazeale made the statement that ‘I’ll kill you. If my family wasn’t here, I’d kill you and your entire family’,” Wilder said.
“And I don’t take threats lightly.’’
Nor should any of Wilder’s opponents, it appears.
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