Deontay Wilder looks forward to second homecoming
Undefeated heavyweight Deontay Wilder’s choice of Frenchman Johann Duhaupas as his opponent on Sept. 26 in Birmingham, Alabama, has been met with almost universal disapproval from media and fans, as evidenced by comments on this website.
Many hoped the WBC titleholder would face No. 1 contender Alexander Povetkin. Instead, Wilder’s second defense – the first being a ninth-round knockout of Eric Molina in June, also in Birmingham – will be against what is perceived as another unchallenging adversary. Duhaupas (32-2, 20 knockouts) is ranked No. 12.
But much like the kickoff media conference for Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Andre Berto, a presser Thursday to formally announce the Wilder-Duhaupas fight focused on the setting rather than the opponent.
“My hometown fans give me the momentum and the energy to continue to be great at what I do,” Wilder said. “At the last fight, the energy was electrifying in there. It was so loud. People were so hyped and you could feel the wind from people’s voices traveling around when they shouted my name. And that’s one of the things when you have a fighter fighting at home. You have so much love and support.”
It was heartfelt testimony, regardless of its relevance. Birmingham mayor William Bell went with a more hyperbolic sales pitch: “People from all over the country are already calling for hotel rooms. Can they get in early? This is exciting for our city,” he said. “People were talking about the first fight, and not just around the country. They were talking about it around the world.”
Wilder (34-0, 33 KOs), who will face Duhaupas on a PBC on NBC card that will also feature a battle between junior welterweights Omar Figueroa and Antonio DeMarco, spoke as if the knockout had already occurred.
“(Duhaupas has) never been knocked out until now,” Wilder said. “That’s always the ultimate goal when I’m in there with my opponent, to take them down. That’s how my name has gotten out there, through knockouts, and I want to keep that legacy going.”
Wilder gained the title with a 12-round unanimous decision in January over Bermane Stiverne, the only fighter to go the distance with the Alabaman. Many hailed it as the introduction of a new facet in the KO-artist’s game. In his Friday mailbag, RingTV.com’s editor, Doug Fischer, offered a different possibility: that Wilder’s handlers had seen his inability to stop Stiverne and his tougher-than-expected win over Molina as lingering rawness and decided to pull back and marinate a bit longer with softer opposition before going after someone like Povetkin.
Duhaupas, who attended the presser in the form of a video statement, was dutifully confident.
“I’m excited to be making my U.S. debut and fighting for a heavyweight world title in the same night. This is the biggest opportunity of my career and I’m going to take advantage of it,” he said. “Deontay is a huge competitor but I’m coming into this fight prepared to make things very difficult for him.
“I plan on bringing the title back home to France.”