Deontay Wilder has a reminder for the heavyweight division.
“I’ve always wanted to be the unified undisputed heavyweight champion of the world,” Wilder said. “That’s my mission, and I won’t rest or retire until I accomplish that.”
Wilder wants to regain his WBC heavyweight crown from England’s Tyson Fury in their third bout on Oct. 9 to set up a unification match with newly crowned southpaw Oleksandr Usyk, who dominated and dethroned IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champion Anthony Joshua on Saturday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
A 2012 Ukrainian gold medalist at the London Olympics, Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) rocked the 6-foot-6 Joshua in the third, fourth, seventh and final rounds to win by scores of 117-112, 116-112, 115-113. Joshua is 2-2 (1 KO) in his past four bouts, with the loss to the 6-foot-3 Usyk being a first in his native England.
Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) battles Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on ESPN+/Fox joint pay-per-view, having fought “The Gypsy King” to a draw in a December 2018 defense of his crown before being dethroned in their February 2020 rematch via two-knockdown, seventh-round TKO.
Deontay Wilder (standing) dropped Tyson Fury once each in the ninth and 12th round of their first fight in December 2018 to retain his WBC heavyweight title via split-decision draw only to be floored in the third and fifth round of his seventh-round TKO loss to “The Gypsy King” in February 2020. (Ester Lin/Showtime)
Wilder-Fury was made immediately after Wilder-Joshua negotiations failed in June 2018. “The Bronze Bomber” still believes “AJ” and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, were avoiding him and spoke exclusively to Zenger News on Saturday night within an hour after Usyk-Joshua.
“My goal is to unify the heavyweight division [by] beating Tyson Fury and [going after Oleksandr] Usyk,” said Wilder, a 6-foot-7 power puncher who turns 36 on Oct. 22. “The one thing about Usyk is he has a warrior’s heart, the warrior’s mindset and the willingness to face me. We’ve seen where many other guys [Joshua] didn’t have that heart to do so, because if they did, it would already have been done.”
Usyk won his third heavyweight bout in 23 months, having vanquished Chazz Witherspoon by seventh-round TKO in October 2019 and journeyman Dereck Chisora by unanimous decision in October 2020 to join four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and David Haye as the only cruiserweights to rise in weight and capture heavyweight crowns.
Usyk is the third Ukrainian heavyweight champion, joining the Klitschko brothers, former IBF/WBA/WBO titleholder Wladimir, 45, and ex-WBC champ Vitali, 50, who reigned simultaneously for two years, five months and 13 days between 2008 and 2012.
A former undisputed cruiserweight titleholder, “The Cat” became the sixth southpaw to reign at heavyweight following three-time champion Michael Moorer, two-time champ Chris Byrd, South Africa’s Corrie Sanders, Russia’s Sultan Ibragimov and Uzbekistan’s Ruslan Chagaev.
“I love when someone calls me out, because I love challenges,” Usyk said during the post-fight press conference. “But as long as we have the rematch clause in our contract, Anthony Joshua is our next opponent.”
Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) lost via a four-knockdown, seventh-round TKO at New York City’s Madison Square Garden to Andy Ruiz in June 2019, ending a reign that began in April 2016 via two-knockdown second-round knockout of southpaw Charles Martin for the IBF title.
“AJ” regained his crowns from Ruiz in December 2019 by unanimous decision, and defended them in December by ninth-round knockout of Kubrat Pulev before facing Usyk.
Joshua’s reign included an 11th-round TKO of former champion Wladimir Klitschko in April 2017, a unanimous decision in March 2018 that dethroned previously unbeaten Joseph Parker as WBO champion, and a seventh-round TKO of former titleholder Alexander Povetkin before his loss to Ruiz.
Wilder’s trainer, Malik Scott, has sparred Usyk on many occasions.
“It’s a chess match when you box him. He’s a brainiac, a scientist and a master boxer,” said Scott, a 6-foot-5 former contender Wilder stopped in 96 seconds in 2014. “But Deontay is preparing for Tyson Fury. In terms of speed, strength and physicality on the inside, my prediction is Fury gets knocked out by Deontay inside of five rounds. But with the kind of condition Deontay’s in, he can win a 12-round decision.”
Wilder was ringside at London’s Wembley Stadium as Joshua made his third defense against a 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko, rising from the canvas in the sixth round and scoring fifth- and final-round knockdowns. Fury had already dethroned a 39-year-old Klitschko by unanimous decision in November 2015.
“Joshua beat Klitschko when Klitschko had no belts and was coming off a 17-month layoff and the loss to Tyson,” Wilder said.
“Looking at the Ruiz fight and the fact that [other than his fight with Martin] Joshua doesn’t have much experience with southpaws, I don’t think Joshua has any excuses for losing to Usyk.”
Wilder won the crown via unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17, 2015, becoming America’s first heavyweight champion since Shannon Briggs in 2007.
“The Bronze Bomber” entered the first fight with Fury following a three-knockdown first-round knockout of Stiverne in November 2017 and a two-knockdown, 10th-round TKO of previously unbeaten southpaw Luis Ortiz in March 2018.
Leading up to his rematch with Fury, Wilder scored a first-round knockout of Dominic Breazeale in May 2019, and a come-from-behind, one-knockdown seventh-round knockout of Ortiz that November.
Wilder dropped Fury once each in the ninth and 12th rounds of their first fight only to be floored in the third and fifth of his loss to “The Gypsy King,” who has said Usyk “ain’t on the list of big fights people are interested in.”
“There’s a little more pressure going into the rematch, but I’ve had the weight of the world on my shoulders since the Olympics,” said Wilder, whose 2008 Olympic bronze was America’s first medal of any sort since Andre Ward’s gold in 2004.
“After that, I had the burden of it being up to me to bring the excitement back to America as far as having a champion in the heavyweight division. But when you’re the true king, you understand your purpose, and you know what’s in store for you.”
Beating Fury could bring Wilder to Usyk, who is 10-0 (4 KOs) since winning the cruiserweight title and rising to heavyweight. Usyk went 7-0 (3 KOs) as cruiserweight titleholder, including 5-0 (2 KOs) against reigning or former champions.
Usyk won the cruiserweight crown in September 2016 by dethroning previously unbeaten left-handed WBO titleholder Krzysztof Glowacki of Poland, who slipped to 26-1 (16 KOs) following his unanimous decision loss.
On the way to winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament, Usyk stopped former titleholder Marco Huck in the 10th round in September 2017. In 2018, Usyk won decisions over previously unbeaten fighters Mairis Breidis of Latvia and Murat Gassiev of Russia, the latter in the tournament final.
Briedis lost his WBC crown to Usyk by majority decision in January of 2018, falling to 23-1 (18 KOs). Gassiev lost his IBF/WBA crowns in July, slipping to 26-1 (19 KOs) as Usyk became undisputed IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO champion.
Usyk also decisioned previously unbeaten Michael Hunter of Las Vegas in April 2017. Hunter has since gone 8-0-1 (6 KOs) in heavyweight bouts, improving to 20-1-1 (14 KOs).
In November 2018, Usyk came from behind to win his sixth defense and final cruiserweight fight, dropping and stopping former titleholder Tony Bellew for an eighth-round TKO in Manchester, England. Bellew was coming off back-to-back 11th- and fifth-round TKOs of former heavyweight titleholder Haye in March 2017 and May 2018.
“A victory over Fury puts me in position to accomplish my mission. It’s payback in blood. Oct. 9, I will get my revenge. It’s an eye for an eye,” said Wilder. “The bigger picture for me is that I’ve always wanted to be the heavyweight king, achieving my goal of having one face and one name, and that’s Deontay Wilder, unified, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.”
Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Matthew B. Hall
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