Deontay Wilder of his ‘prophecy’: ‘All of this was meant to be’
Deontay Wilder had a number of inspirations and motivation entering last Saturday’s fight with Bermane Stiverne, whom he unanimously decisioned for the WBC belt, becoming America’s first heavyweight titleholder since Shannon Briggs in 2007.
As a teenager, Wilder’s grandmother, a church-going minister named Evelyn Loggins, told him he was “special,” “anointed” and “ordained.” A year after his daughter, Naieya, was born on March 20, 2005 with the congenital disorder spina bifida and told she might never walk, Wilder promised her he would one day become a boxing champion.
It was about three years ago when late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward called Wilder “No. 1ÔÇªamong the American heavyweights,” adding, “The best heavyweight prospect for winning the heavyweight title is Deontay Wilder” during an interview with RingTV.com.
The former trainer of RING/IBF/WBA/WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko, Steward died at the age of 68 in October 2012 and Loggins at age 76 in 2010.
Adding even more symbolism to the situation that not only was Wilder-Stiverne scheduled for Jan. 17, marking the 73rd birthday of Muhammad Ali, but that the fight represented the first heavyweight title fight at the MGM since Evander Holyfield won back-to-back bouts over Mike Tyson by 11th round knockout in November of 1996 and by third round disqualification in the “bite fight” of June 1997.
“With what my grandmother and Emanuel Steward said and with what I told my daughter and Muhammad Ali’s birthday, I definitely felt like all of this was meant to be,” said Wilder, 29, whose children are Naieya, 9, as well as a son, Dereon, 3, and another daughter, Ava, 4.
“If you just add up all the pieces of the puzzle, every piece fit perfectly. It’s like a prophecy. Everything came together at the right time in my life. It’s something that makes you scratch your head. When I look back at everything and at that moment, it’s surreal. It’s not something that comes when you want it but it comes right on time. So here I am; I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.”
TRAINER JAY DEAS: WILDER TRAINED FOR ‘EVERY POSSIBILITY’
On Sunday, Wilder revealed that he had fractured his right hand during “the third or fourth round” and that he also fought with an injured left eye suffered during a Friday training exercise.
“We actually have a drill on Friday’s where Deontay will box half of a round with one eye closed and the other round with the other eye closed. We box another round as if his left hand was broken and then a round as if his right hand was broken,” said Wilder’s co-manager Jay Deas.
“So there it was never a situation that freaked him out or panicked him because we trained for it. We always try to look at every possibility and to mimic it in camp. So Deontay never panicked or thought about anything other than winning the title. That’s a testament to his mental toughness for this fight.”
WILDER ON THE VALUE OF TRAINER MARK BRELAND
Wilder credits the mentoring of trainer Mark Breland, a 51-year-old Olympic gold medalist in 1984, who twice earned welterweight title belts.
“It’s very beneficial because Mark is a guy who is not just in a situation where he’s a trainer who is giving me instructions and yet has never been in the ring. Mark is a two-time world champion, so he’s been in there in live situations,” said Wilder of Breland, his co-trainer with Deas and Russ Anber.
“Mark is a guy who understands a little better. So when we work on the jab and throwing it a little better from many different angles and many different ways, I’m a fast learner and I soak up everything. So Mark has been definitely beneficial for me as far as teaching me various scenarios in the ring.”
‘A BEAST, BRINGING THE HEAVYWEIGHT DIVISION BACK’
A 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, Wilder also carried the weight of his native Tuscaloosa, Ala., on his shoulders.
Wilder had hoped he would be joined in celebration by the University of Alabama but the Crimson Tide lost to Ohio State, 42-35, in the Jan. 3 semifinals of the inaugural College Football Playoff. Ohio State, in turn, lost the title game to Oregon.
Next to the 15-time NCAA champion Crimson Tide, Wilder is perhaps the most popular entity in the city of Tuscaloosa and maintains a close relationship with the university’s football coach, Nick Saban.
“They’re saying things like, ‘Deontay’s a beast, bringing the heavyweight division back.’ So I’ve been getting a lot of positivity from all over. A lot of people are saying that I proved them wrong and that they’re my new fans,” said Wilder.
“They’re saying that it was an exciting fight and that I gave a great performance. A lot of people didn’t believe that I could do what I did. That brought new fans my way, so there have been a lot of positives as a result of the fight. I think that I answered a lot of questions and gained a of of respect from the fans on Saturday night; that’s for sure.”