As the mandatory challenger to newly-crowned WBC titleholder Bermane Stiverne, Deontay Wilder said it would take a significant amount of money were he to step aside and allow Stiverne to face RING heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, who has stated his desire for a unification bout.
A 28-year-old 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, Wilder (31-0, 31 knockouts) was ringside at USC's Galen Center in Los Angeles for Saturday's sixth-round technical knockout by Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) over Arreola for the belt vacated by Vitali Klitschko. Stiverne-Arreola was a rematch of Stiverne's unanimous-decision victory in April of last year.
Coming off a 96-second knockout of Malik Scott in a WBC eliminator bout in March, Wilder is well aware that Wladimir Klitschko (62-3, 52 KOs) has expressed the desire to fight Stiverne, even as Klitschko has been ordered by the IBF to make his next defense against Kubrat Pulev (20-0, 11 KOs).
"Only Wilder can reach an agreement with them. Wilder is the mandatory challenger and the only way to have [Klitschko-Stiverne] happen would be for Deontay Wilder to accept that," said Mauricio Sulaiman, president of the WBC. "We are basing everything on the ruling that was made at the WBC convention in Bangkok in October 2013 and we have been consistent with that ruling."
Wilder said he would consider stepping aside but only for a significant chunk of cash.
"I heard the same thing, that Klitschko wants to fight Stiverne. But I am the mandatory challenger, so that's the case as it stands right now," said Wilder, who celebrated his 27th birthday in Austria in November of 2012. At the time, he was the primary sparring partner for Wladimir Klitschko in advance of the unified champion's unanimous decision victory over Mariusz Wach.
"The thing about step-aside money is that I know that many people have taken the easy money and stepped aside and let other people fight. That being said, you know, as far as step-aside money, they would have to really come with something for me to want to step aside. Let's talk about something in the range of $10 million. Other than that, there won't be no stepping aside. That would be the end of that."
In the meantime, IBF President Daryl Peoples said he has been notified that the Klitschko and Pulev camps have begun negotiations.
Wilder watched the second half of Wladimir Klitschko's fifth-round stoppage of Alex Leapai, whom he floored once in the first round and twice in the fifth last month. Klitschko's 16th defense ranks third, all-time, among heavyweights behind Joe Louis with 25 and Larry Holmes with 20.
No U.S.-born fighter has held a heavyweight title since 2007 when Shannon Briggs briefly wore the WBO’s belt. In 2006, Hasim Rahman held the WBC belt while the IBF title was held by Chris Byrd.
Puerto Rican-American John Ruiz, from Massachusetts, was the first Latino to hold a heavyweight belt when he became the WBA champ in 2001.
Before his death on Oct. 25, 2012, at the age of 68, Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward had called the 6-foot-7 Wilder, “number one…among the American heavyweights,” and, “the best heavyweight prospect for winning the heavyweight title."
"My thing is that I've been waiting for a long time to get this opportunity myself to become a champion and to get this belt. Also, I want to fulfill my dreams and to back up a lot of things that people have said about me," said Wilder.
"There are a lot good things that people have said about me like Emanuel Steward and I want to be able to see that to its fruition and to be able to make a statement for myself and to be able to, once I get this belt, to be able to fight the best of the best of the best."
Photo by Tom Casino