If you attempted to reach Deontay Wilder this week and were unsuccessful in doing so, it’s because the hulking heavyweight was busy rounding off the edges of the manufactured personality he would try out for the build-up to his fight with Dominic Breazeale (20-2, 18 KO) on Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Showtime.
We’ve seen the trial run for most of Wilder’s (41-0-1, 40 KO) public identities. There’s the aw-shucks country boy and caring father. There’s the bespectacled scholar and the pensive philosopher. This week he tried out his new character: prospective serial killer.
If you happened to stay off the internet this week, first of all, congratulations on a life well lived, but secondly here is what Wilder told a pool of reporters about his hopes for the fight with Breazeale:
“His life is on the line for this fight, and I do mean his life. I’m still trying to get me a body on my record. This is the only sport where you can kill a man and get paid for it at the same time. It’s legal, so why not use my right to do so?”
A shitty Travis Bickle impersonation if there ever was one.
The problem with this isn’t what was said, or even the reaction to it. The problem is that there was a reaction at all. This isn’t the first time a professional prizefighter has expressed a desire to murder his (or her, #MeToo) opponent. Hell, it’s not even the first time Wilder has done it. Yet, the amount of “Is this who we really are?” thinkpieces and soundbites shit out by members of the boxing media greatly outnumbered any nuanced discussion of the fight itself.
And therein lies the problem.
The fight with Breazeale was a backup plan to the backup plan after the big names of the heavyweight division spent the first quarter of 2019 playing a contractual game of keep away with one another. Bereft of any actual substance or intrigue, Wilder was left to fabricate this latest personality in an attempt to sell a fight no one really wanted, and the public at large played their role as pearl-clutching reactionaries to the hilt.
It’s all just become so exhausting.
It’s like the old poker saying goes: If you can’t spot the sucker at the table in the first 30 minutes, chances are he’s excused himself to go take what Wilder says seriously.
When the A-side fighter has to reach down into his Carrot Top trunk of psychological props and pull out contrived, thinly fleshed out murder threats just to get eyes on the ring, chances are the fight itself is of little consequence.
Oh yeah, the fight!
The brevity of the festivities may have been surprising but the outcome itself was wholly predictable. For all of Wilder’s manufactured bluster outside of the ring, his punching power inside it is as authentic as it comes.
Walking to the ring in what can only be described as a gay Skeletor costume, Wilder had the air of a man looking to make a statement. His attempt to do it with words earlier in the week had backfired like an ’84 Chevette so he’d have to rely on his fists to make it for him.
I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but in the time it took you to read this far you could’ve watched a replay of Wilder/Breazeale three times.
Both fighters came out throwing sloppy jabs and clumsy left hooks. Not exactly Pernell Whitaker, these two. For both guys, it’s all about getting in the best possible position to throw the straight right and hope it hits a soft, squishy target.
Midway through the round, Wilder’s connected first. As Breazeale stumbled to the corner, Wilder pounced on him with all the precision of a virgin on prom night. Breazeale backed him off with a couple of looping hooks and the fight returned to the center of the ring where Wilder would dial in the coordinates on his Etch-a-sketch as he prepared to detonate the bomb strapped to his fist.
At two minutes and seven seconds, he found a home for his right hand on the side of Breazeale’s temple. Boom. Done.
Breazeale would rise to his feet and attempt to defy the effects of the tilt-a-whirl ride his brain was now on, but he was officially counted out at 2:17 of round one. Another highlight reel knockout for Deontay Wilder, and another bewildered opponent being attended to by doctors across the ring.
Wilder predictably explained after the fight that the comments made about his murderous fantasies were done to sell the fight, though the WBC has promised to investigate the matter further.
Spoiler alert: They will not.
Deontay Wilder may lack any semblance of a genuine personality outside the ring, and could rightfully be described as a one trick pony inside it, but my goodness, what a trick it is.
Hopefully next time out he’ll perform it for a less suggestible audience.
(Dominic Breazeale, left; Deontay Wilder, right. Photo via)