ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Knockout specialist Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder’s next two fights could be for the WBC’s vacant belt, and, the undisputed heavyweight title owned by former sparring partner and RING champion Wladimir Klitschko, respectively, if Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer gets his wish.
Schaefer first made his assertion to a small group at ringside after watching the 6-foot-7 Wilder (30-0, 30 knockouts) drop his man three times during Saturday’s fourth-round stoppage Nicolai Firtha at Boardwalk Hall on Showtime, and then, reiterated his goal while sitting to the left of Wilder during the post-fight press conference.
Wilder’s performance came in the wake of news that 42-year-old WBC beltholder Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs) has announced his presidential candidacy in Ukraine, and his possible retirement from boxing.
“As a team, we have a plan, and I just outlined the plan to the ringside media,” said Schaefer. “Deontay’s right at the top two or three ratings in the WBC. With the news we got last week that Vitali Klitschko is going to be running for president of Ukraine, I anticipate that he will no longer fight, and that the title will become vacant.
“My goal is to have Deontay fight in his next fight for the WBC heavyweight championship against [Bermane] Stiverne. So that’s the goal, and then, after that, go for Wladimir Klitschko and unify all titles and become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. That was the plan, that is the plan, and I’m going to do whatever I can in my power to get it done because I know that the man on my right here is going to do everything in the ring to make that plan come true.”
A 28-year-old former 2008 Olympic bronze medalist from Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wilder is ranked No. 3 in the WBC’s ratings behind mandatory challenger Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola, the latter of whom lost by unanimous decision to Stiverne in April before stopping Seth Mitchell in the first round last month.
“I’d like to see him against either one of those guys, Stiverne or Arreola,” said Schaefer. “Deontay’s ready to bring the heavyweight title back home here to the United States. He’s ready to go. He’s ready for anyone. I understand from the WBC that they are waiting to get confirmation if in fact he’s [Vitali Klitschko] going to fight or not, and I’m told that they should get that sometime in December.
“We have to see. Maybe do Stiverne against Deontay Wilder, and then, since they would be fighting for a vacant title, they could have a mandatory and the mandatory would then be Arreola, or the other way around. But my goal would be to have Deontay Wilder fight Stiverne for the vacant heavyweight title. I don’t know if it’s an easy fight to make, but it’s a fight that I think will have to happen, and if it can’t get made, you can always go to purse bid.”
Wilder’s effort came the day after the one-year anniversary of the death at the age of 68 of the late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who had called Wilder “No. 1…among the American heavyweights,” as well as “the best heavyweight prospect for winning the heavyweight title.”
No U.S.-born fighter has held a heavyweight title since 2007, when Shannon Briggs briefly wore the WBO’s strap. In 2006, Hasim Rahman held the WBC belt while the IBF title was held by Chris Byrd. Puerto Rican-American John Ruiz was the first Latino to have a belt when he became the WBA champ in 2005.
Wilder celebrated his 27th birthday on Oct. 22 of last year in Austria while spending time as the primary sparring partner for Wladimir Klitschko (61-3, 51 KOs), the 37-year-old holder of THE RING, IBF, WBA and WBO titles.
“I think that Wladimir Klitschkho is a great champion, and I don’t think that Wladimir Klitschko is going to avoid anybody, and I’m sure that Wladimir Klitschko would fight Deontay Wilder,” said Schaefer of Wilder, who worked with Klitschko in advance of his unanimous-decision victory over Mariusz Wach last November.
“I certainly haven’t had any indications from Wladimir that he wouldn’t fight Deontay, but my goal would be to see that Deontay can become WBC heavyweight champion of the world, and then, you go against Wladimir, and see if Deontay Wilder can become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world holding all four belts. That’s the plan, next fight.”
In the 34-year-old Firtha (21-11-1, 8 KOs), Wilder faced a fighter whose last fight had been a six-round unanimous decision victory over Robert Hawkins in July that ended a two-fight losing streak. Firtha has been stopped five times, including by Tye Fields in the sixth round in 2009, and by Tyson Fury in the fifth round in 2011. Firtha has also gone the distance in 10-round losses to Alexander Povetkin and Johnathon Banks in 2010 and 2012.
So while Firtha’s loss represented his swiftest exit from the ring, he was, nevertheless, only the third man to last into the fourth round with Wilder, who has 17 first-round knockouts, six more in the second round and four in the third. Firtha, like Wilder, was among Wladimir Klitschko’s sparring partners prior to his bout with Wach.
“I hope that I answered a lot of questions tonight. Everybody wants rounds, but the rounds that we put in, it was an exciting fight. I told people that Firtha was going to be a tough dude,” said Wilder, who was coming off back-to-back first-round KOs of ex-beltholder Sergei Liakhovich in August and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison in April.
“I was in the Klitschko camp with him, and I saw how he was taking punches from Wladimir, man, and even though he was taking them, he was tough and he kept coming and kept coming. So I knew he was going to be a tough guy. He caught me off guard by charging at me. That was crazy…but once I got into it, it was like, ‘this is great, this is what I need and this is what I wanted to see.’ So, I’m happy with the result, and my team is too, so I hope that you guys are a little bit pleased with it as well.”
Although known, primarily, for his right hand, it was Wilder’s piston-like jab that disrupted Firtha’s forward momentum. Later, Wilder floored Firtha, first, with a short left hook, and, a second time, with a short right hand to the temple — both times during the first round.
“Even though he was wild with it, he caught me with some shots, man, he definitely did…I definitely took some of his punches, so there’s no doubt that I can take a punch. The thing is I’m not just going to stick my head out there and say, ‘Hit me.’ You see how handsome I am? I’m marketable, man, I’m trying to get endorsements…In the first round, they had a great strategy,” said Wilder.
“By him just coming and acting like a maniac, that really threw me off for a little bit, and then I had to get myself together. That’s when you started seeing the sniper rifle coming out with the jabs and stuff like that. I’m 6-7, my reach, as you saw tonight, it’s only going to get better from there with just the jabs alone. I almost made up my mind to not throw one right hand at all just to prove. I like proving people wrong. That’s one of my things. I get excited bout proving people wrong.”
It was, however, the right hand that dropped a bloody-nosed Firtha for good, prompting referee Lindsey Page to step in and wave an end to the bout at 1:26 of the fourth.
“It’ll be the same way with Stiverne, just jab. He’ll have to try to come and get in on me. He’ll have to get in. I’m not going to just let you in there,” said Wilder. “There are a lot of other things that I have. I have different weapons in my bag. Deontay ‘The Bronze’ Bomber. I’m cocking it, and I’m about to let these guns explode. Tonight, I had my sniper rifle out.”
Photos by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]