LOS ANGELES — Deontay Wilder isn’t naive.
He knows that even if he vanquishes Tyson Fury in the most impressive fashion possible, come Monday, there will still be those who doubt him. Those who harshly criticize what they claim to be an amateurish, boorish style. The fans who mock his recklessness when he has his foe hurt; the memes of what they call his “windmill punches.”
That’s OK, Wilder says. More fuel. More motivation. He’s been counted out his whole career. Forget his ascension to heavyweight titleholder with seven defenses under his belt. Forget making it to this stage, a Showtime Pay-Per-View on Saturday in L.A. against the lineal heavyweight champion.
To many critics, Wilder was just another guy, the latest in a line of heavyweight hopefuls who looked the part but couldn’t fight worth a lick. Even with an Olympic bronze medal to his name, Wilder received little respect. Ten years later and perception hasn’t changed.
“[Fury] said I’m a pretender, but how can I pretend when I’m 40-0 with 39 KOs? I’ve beat every man, ya’ll seen this every fucking fight! How can I pretend?” Wilder angrily asked Wednesday during a sit-down with reporters. “Well, he’s going to find out Saturday. He knows.
“They’re going to [criticize] for the rest of my career. It’s no worries to me. I’ve had this all my life. What people say, it goes on deaf ears.”
Wilder, at 33, is still seeking the plaudits that elude him. He hoped to earn the title of undisputed heavyweight champion with a fall showdown against Anthony Joshua. Instead, he’ll settle for another Brit. The excuses are obvious if Wilder knocks Fury out.
The 30-year-old Fury was sidelined for two-and-a-half years as he battled depression and substance abuse. He ballooned to nearly 400 pounds during that time. His two comeback bouts in June and August did little to inspire confidence in his current state. He scored victories over two journeymen, and even Wilder said he wasn’t impressed. After all, Fury was taken the distance by Francesco Pianeta in his most recent outing.
At his best, Fury (27-0, 19 knockouts) is an incredibly difficult assignment for anyone. He’s 6 feet 9 inches tall yet possesses uncanny foot speed. His herky-jerky movements make him difficult to time. He owns great understanding of how to control range.
Wilder proved he could handle a gifted boxed in his most recent performance, the signature victory of his career. Luis Ortiz, he of 300-plus fights in the Cuban amateur system, battered Wilder in Rounds 7 and 8. The Alabaman seemed on the cusp of a knockout loss. He showed great mettle to not only withstand the onslaught, but rally with the stoppage victory in Round 10.
The critics predicted Wilder would avoid Ortiz. Then they claimed Ortiz would knock him out. Vindication? Of course not. There’s always an alibi.
“You damn right it [fuels me], because I have the power to prove you wrong. Your words only go so far,” said Wilder, The Ring’s No. 2 heavyweight. “Your words can only go so far as I allow it to go. And if it’s not true, then it don’t apply to me. Why would I worry?
“It feels great to prove a hater wrong. There’s many haters amongst me right now. It’s the time to be brave now. It’s the time to step up and say your shit and not be with me now. Again, I can feel the energy. I can feel it. So again I’m going to prove you wrong, over and over again.”
It isn’t just inside the ring where Wilder feels disrespect. He believes he’s held to a different standard outside the ring. Before he eviscerated Bermane Stiverne inside a single round in their rematch last November — the Haitian is the only man to last the distance with Wilder — The Bronze Bomber said sternly, “I want a body on my record. I want one. I really do.”
The comments sparked outrage from fans and boxers alike. Fury was one such fighter who expressed his displeasure with Wilder’s stated desire to end someone’s life in the ring. Wilder later backtracked and said that’s simply his mentality when he steps inside the ring. It didn’t matter.
“You don’t have to like who I am. You don’t have to like what I bring. But you will witness me bringing the pain to someone else,” Wilder said. “If you don’t like it, how could you say bring back the golden age, bring back the age of great fighters, when these same caliber of fighters done the same fucking thing that I do?”
Now Wilder was really angry. He slammed the table five times to drive the point home. Then continued. “They expressed themselves. They said harsh things. Even said they’d kill a man. But when I said it, it’s different. This sport been around for over 100 years. There’s nothing I can do or nothing I can say that haven’t been done before but knock motherfuckers out.”
That’s exactly what he hopes to do once again Saturday. Fury said he would be embarrassed to lose to such a “bum.” Don’t worry. Even if Wilder delivers on his promise to spark Fury out, the credit will still elude him.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger
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