Whatever disappointment Deontay Wilder may have had in not fighting Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury next is gone.
Now the heavyweight champion can’t wait to get in the ring with Dominic Breazeale.
“It’s going to be an amazing night for me and a sad night for him,” Wilder said.
Coming off the first fight of his career that didn’t end in a victory, Wilder wants to get back in the win column Saturday when he defends his version of the title at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
It’s not a unification showdown against Joshua or rematch of his draw with Fury, either of which would have been far bigger events. But to Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs), this is much more than just a mandatory defense of the WBC belt.
His anger toward the challenger stemming from an altercation a few years back has led to harsh words , and Wilder promises it will be followed by harder punches.
“He asked for this and he shall receive,” Wilder said.
Details of exactly what happened in a hotel in Wilder’s native Alabama, which came after they fought on the same card and involved family and friends, are unclear. But it’s made for an easy buildup to the Showtime-televised fight that at first felt like a letdown.
Even if a Joshua bout still seemed out of reach, all roads pointed toward an immediate rematch with Fury, who fought Wilder to a draw in December. However, the British former champion then signed with Top Rank, the promotional company that has an exclusive deal with ESPN and another timetable in mind.
But the first bout, in which Fury memorably got up from a devastating combination Wilder landed in the 12th round , coupled with Joshua’s impending U.S. debut on June 1 across town at Madison Square Garden, helped provide Wilder and heavyweight boxing with a boost in publicity even with Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs) not carrying the same level of fame as the more desired opponents.
Showtime president of sports and event programming Stephen Espinoza said the first fight, Wilder’s debut as the headliner, was the most successful pay-per-view bout of the last decade or so that didn’t involve Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao or Canelo Alvarez. Wilder has since gone on to launch a clothing line and this week rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange — his powerful slams broke the gavel, naturally — moving toward the type of stardom that the heavyweight champion used to command.
“Deontay has achieved a new level of visibility and popularity,” Espinoza said. “We think he’s only grown since then.”
Breazeale, whose only loss was to Joshua, doesn’t think so. He doesn’t see any growth at all in the longtime champion, agreeing with those who believed Wilder was gifted a draw in Los Angeles.
“You guys know damn well he lost that last fight, man. He did not beat Fury,” Breazeale said. “There hasn’t been any development on Wilder since the last four years, probably in his whole professional career. He looks the same as he did as an amateur and even then he didn’t look great. To think that he’s been the WBC champ for what, four years now, that’s a disgrace to the heavyweight division.”
Wilder had been good enough to beat everyone until Fury and with a win Saturday would become just the 10th heavyweight to make nine or more successful title defenses, joining a list that includes Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson.
To reach their level, Wilder probably needs a victory over Joshua or Fury — if not both. The politics of boxing make those matchups tougher to set up. But Espinoza is optimistic they can happen, noting Showtime’s role in facilitating bouts between fighters from rival networks, such as Mayweather-Pacquiao and Tyson-Lennox Lewis.
Wilder doesn’t seem to be looking that far, more because of his animosity toward Breazeale than any fear of losing. He alluded to being able to kill his opponent in the ring. He wanted to ensure Breazeale understood his taunts at their press conference Thursday, having a team member drop an urban dictionary on the table.
“This isn’t a gentleman’s sport,” Wilder said. “We have bad blood and it’ll be in the ring Saturday night.”