Friday, December 09, 2022  |

News

Aficianado

Wilder says he’s ‘anointed, ordained’ to win title from Stiverne

16
Dec
Deontay Wilder (L) lands a punch on Jason Gavern during their fight on August 16, 2014, which Wilder won by fourth-round TKO. Photo by Stephen Dunn - Getty Images.

Deontay Wilder (L) lands a punch on Jason Gavern during their fight on August 16, 2014, which Wilder won by fourth-round TKO. Photo by Stephen Dunn – Getty Images.

 

When Deontay Wilder was a teenager, his grandmother, Evelyn Loggins told him he was “special,” “anointed” and “that I was ordained.”

It was about three years ago when a similar and more specific prophecy was made by the late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who called the 6-foot-7 Wilder (32-0, 32 knockouts) “No. 1ÔǪamong the American heavyweights.”

Wilder will attempt to validate the plaudits of his elders on Jan. 17, when he challenges WBC titleholder Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Showtime.



If Wilder is successful, neither Steward, who died at the age of 68 in October 2012, nor Loggins, who was 76 when she died in 2010, will be around to witness it.

But their words will inspire Wilder, nevertheless.

“I really feel like, in my heart, that I was ordained to do this. You know, my grandmother, years ago, when she was a pastor in a church, she used to always tell my parents that I’m anointed and that I was going to really be somebody some day. She was more of a lecturer and a teacher. She saw it before anyone else could see it. My mom would talk about that all of the time,” said Wilder, 29, who was “about 12 or 13” when his grandmother first made the observation.

“She was the pastor of a church and I grew up in the church. She would always tell me that God has something special for me to do and now, as a man, I see that my life has unfolded in that manner. So going through all of the things that I’ve been through and what I’m going through now, I’m just calm. It feels natural. It’s like it’s supposed to happen. It’s like I’ve lived this before and I’m reliving it. I’m excited and I love the people, the fans, the crowd, the energy around my fights. There’s no pressure at all.”

A 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and the last American male to medal in Olympic boxing, Wilder was called “the best heavyweight prospect for winning the heavyweight title” by Steward, the former trainer of RING/IBF/WBA/WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko.

“That meant a lot to me because being a legendary trainer like him and to see the champions now,that he’s had over the years and to know that what he saw within Klitschko, he saw that same vision in me as a younger fighter. So that means a lot,” said Wilder, who served as a sparring partner for Wladimir Klitschko two years ago.

“I have been through a lot of things but so it’s almost as if I’ve got to keep it going for those reasons. I’ve got to prove to everybody that Emanuel was right all along. I have to prove it for those who have been believing in me. There are so many people depending on it. But there are also those who don’t believe in me and I’m also the type of person that I love to prove people wrong. So when I do hold that belt up, my phrase is going to be, ‘I don’t want to have to tell you I told you so but I told you so.’ I want to keep his memory alive.”

Wilder thought often of the then-ailing Steward when he celebrated his 27th birthday in Austria in October 2012. There, Wilder served as the primary sparring partner for Klitschko in advance of his unanimous decision victory over Mariusz Wach that November.

“I took a lot away from that experience. I was excited when they wanted me to come to that camp. I would have done that camp for free. This was a champion and I knew that I could learn a lot from that camp, so I gave it my all. I’m not the kind of guy who gets scared. I said to myself, ‘What I learn works, I’ll keep it and what I learn don’t work, I’ll throw it away.’ After the second time we sparred, I became the top man. I shined and they made me the No. 1 sparring partner, ” said Wilder.

“I must have done 50-plus rounds with him. I took a whole lot from it and I feel like if I can do what I did there, then nobody has a chance against me. He’s been on top for a long time and he’s the best in the division and if you can hang in there with him, you can hang with anybody. That was a confidence builder. Not only did I get paid my original amount for that camp but I got a bonus. Wlad learned from me and I learned from him. That’s why he says that if we ever get into the ring together, it’s going to be a great fight.”

Wilder will be making his debut at the MGM but his third appearance in Las Vegas. Wilder scored a 33-second win over Ty Cobb at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on April 2, 2010, followed by a third-round stoppage of Alvaro Morales at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in his next fight on April 30, 2010.

“It’s not my Las Vegas debut as a pro. I fought two times but this is the first time that I’ve fought at the MGM, for sure. I’m excited about being at the MGM Grand. There are so many champions that have fought at the MGM Grand,” said Wilder.

“But I’m getting the opportunity to be a headliner my first time there and for my first title shot. So that makes me feel like the heavyweight division is going in the right direction and certainly in the direction that I want it to go as far as bringing boxing back.”

In victory, Wilder would become America’s first heavyweight titleholder since 2007, when Shannon Briggs lost a unanimous decision to Sultan Ibragimov, giving up the WBO strap he had won from Sergei Liakhovich seven months earlier.
A resident of Tuscaloosa, Ala., who starred as a high-school wide receiver and defensive end in football and at power forward in basketball, Wilder longed to be an athlete at the University of Alabama.

 

But Wilder said the early responsibilities of fatherhood, in part, derailed those plans, most notably the medical expenses for his now 9-year-old daughter, Naieya, who was born with the congenital disorder spina bifida.

“I had a little girl who was about to be born and she was born with spina bifida,” said Wilder, who also has a son, Dereon, 3, and another daughter, Ava, 4. “So I had a best friend in college and I told him that I should start boxing. I thought that it was a great idea because, in the streets, I always got into fights.

Next to the 15-time NCAA champion University of Alabama football team, Wilder is among the most popular entities in Tuscaloosa and maintains a close relationship with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.

“I spoke to their team in 2009. [Nick Saban] asked me to do that. I used to go to all of his Nick Noon luncheons, so Nick is a great guy, man. Nick talks about me. His wife talks highly about me. He looks at me and he sees the work ethic that I have as far as the hard work and that’s why I like him so much…The reason I like him is that he’s a hard worker and he wants the best.”
Wilder said that he will watch from his training camp in Las Vegas as the No. 1 Crimson Tide take on No. 4 Ohio State in the inaugural NCAA playoffs, hoping to gain inspiration fro in advance of facing Stiverne, 36, whom he has guaranteed will not last four rounds.
Stiverne is coming off a sixth-round technical knockout over Chris Arreola in May that earned the belt which had been vacated when Vitali Klitschko retired to pursue a political career in Ukraine. The win also made Stiverne the first heavyweight titleholder of Haitian descent.

 

Stiverne-Arreola was a rematch of an earlier bout in April 2013, during which Stiverne floored Arreola in the third round of a unanimous decision victory. Stiverne is 12-0-1 with nine stoppages since being knocked out in the fourth round by Demetrice King in July 2007.

Wilder is coming off a fourth-round knockout of Jason Gavern, whom he dropped in the third and final rounds. Prior to Gavern, Wilder became Stiverne’s mandatory challenger with a 96-second knockout of Malik Scott in a WBC eliminator bout in March.

“Like I’ve said, I don’t feel no pressure at all for the simple fact that even when I was young, I was a kid who always stayed calm. So as a man now and being older, that is normal to me,” said Wilder.
“Even though I’m coming from a small city and stuff like that and even though I’ve ventured out to different places, it’s always felt like I adapt. I’m like a chameleon. I adapt to any environment or to whatever the situation is. So I feel like I’m destined to do this.”