E.A. Sports Today

In his element

WBC heavyweight champion Wilder soaking in the Talladega experience, says ‘epic’ fight with Joshua ‘will definitely happen;’ ‘It’s in the bag,’ Wilder says

WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder visits with the media before driving the pace car at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday. On the cover, Wilder and Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn cross paths in the interview room.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLADEGA – There was a new DW in the Talladega infield media center Sunday. WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, wearing his supreme cheetah boxer’s robe, was in the house and “in my element right now” – fast cars, talking to people, talking boxing, enjoying the weather.

“No matter what happens, I’m going to be happy today,” he said. “Although my title says ‘the heavyweight champion of the world,’ at the end of the day I’m just Deontay Wilder, a person who loves to talk to people and interact with them and learn new things.”

The undefeated Tuscaloosa native has been known to go fast — in the ring and on the road. He says he’s gotten his Lamborghini close to 200; that’d fit in right well around here with the laps they were turning in Cup practice the other day.

He’s the honorary pace car driver for Sunday’s Geico 500 and spent an entertaining half hour talking boxing, the probability of an “epic” big payday unification fight with Anthony Joshua happening and his new-found appreciation for racing.

There was a lot to digest. Here are the highlights:

Q: How do you feel about driving the car?

DW: I’m so excited. Like I said before I can’t stop smiling. I’m like a kid at the candy store right now. This is a new sport that I’m learning about and I’m very interested … I think I needed this too because it’s been a stressful year for me with a lot of agendas that have to be accomplished. This is like a time out for me, a take a little breather, get a little vacation in to see some stuff. I can’t stop smiling for some reason.

Q: Have you followed NASCAR much over the years? (Spoiler alert: it didn’t take long for the conversation to dive into boxing)

DW: Not too much. I watch it on TV here on there. I’m always traveling. This year is a huge year for me. We’re almost on the verge of unifying the division. With that being said, it takes a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of dedication and just mindset and focus to be able to compete at the level I’m competing on. Sometimes it takes sacrifices as well too and I’ve taken a lot of them. But today is not about that stuff, it’s what’s going on today and I’m looking forward to it. I can not wait.

Q: You’re 40-0, closing in on the all-time heavyweight boxing record of 49-0 set years ago by Rocky Marciano. Can you catch the Rock?

DW: That’s definitely the goal (and) because he’s a heavyweight as well, too. Forty-nine and oh, he had like 43 KOs – that was back in, what, 1947? That was a great accomplishment in itself for him to 49-0 with the KO ratio he had with it, but I’m definitely looking to come back that.

I’m 40-0 with 39 KOs. Every man who has stepped in the ring with me I’ve knocked them out. No one in the history of boxing has ever done it like I’ve done it and in the devastating fashion I do it in. When you see 49-0 from a heavyweight, one of the best to do it, these are the moments I look at that those who have come before me set that platform and already to set goals for guys like me to come up and pass and do it.

I’m definitely looking to pass that record and solidify my spot in this heavyweight division and being from Alabama also is a pride and joy to be able to say a guy from Alabama is accomplishing and doing so many great things in the sport of boxing.

Q: Is this Anthony Joshua fight going to happen or what?

DW: You had to ask. This fight will definitely happen. When you put $50 million on the table, I think it’s hard to say no to that no matter what the terms and conditions are. My team are some of the best guys in the business. My team has put on some great cards. It will definitely get made. It’s just a matter of time.

With the magnitude of this fight it takes time. Right now I think a lot of negotiations and different things that are going on are a part of the build up of it to host it, but when the fight happens it will be an epic one and at the end of that fight there will be one champion, one face, one name and his name will be Deontay Wilder.

Q: Did you see the Jarrell Miller fight (with Johann Duhaupas) last night because he seems to think he’s going to get Joshua next, too. (Wilder stopped Duhaupas in the 11th round at the BJCC in 2015)

DW: I did see that fight. What’d you think about it? Tell the truth … He’s a tough Frenchman. When people ask me whose the toughest guy I ever faced, I always say his name, and I say his name for the reasons of last night. He’s a tough Frenchman. I don’t agree with him taking so many punches because this is a dangerous sport and your head is not meant to be hit in the first place, but I understand his bravery and the passion for it and his heart to get in there.

“I felt the fight was OK. I think Miller, this is a guy like 304 pounds, but he moved pretty good to be at that weight and that’s the only thing I don’t agree with with his weight. It looks like it makes him slow, but I think if he keeps winning he’s going to be a perfect contender for me in the future.

Q: Do you still feel confident you’ll get Joshua next and how legit is that 50-million offer?

DW: It’s in the bag. I definitely get him before (Miller). If Joshua’s team was smart enough, they’ll take this soon because we’re not going to be waiting. The offer is on the table. Fifty million, a 50-50 split upwards, so he can make even more money than that. That’s going tobe the highest up-front money than any heavyweight fighter has ever gotten in their career. That’s a lot of money to turn down and I know he’s not Dave Chappelle, so it’s going to happen.

Q: Did you meet any drivers in the garage and who maybe you follow a little or would like to meet?

DW: I met some of the guys. I’m at the point where I ask a lot of questions. I’ve been talking to some of the guys out there and they’ve been very helpful. I understand when it’s time to put up, it’s time to put up, when it’s time to get in the element of your sport it’s time and those guys look very focused, they look like they’re ready to go and I love being in the atmosphere of it, but they also took their time for me and I’ve learned a lot. This is going to allow me to keep up with the sport even more because now I’m one-on-one with it and I understand certain things about it now to allow me to keep up with it. I think it’s going to be better in person than watching it on TV. Just like hockey.

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