Boxers sometimes punch themselves out in the ring. Perhaps the verbal equivalent explains what happened to Deontay Wilder on Tuesday.
Following the loss of his WBC World Heavyweight title and his undefeated record by stoppage to Tyson Fury 16 months ago on February 22, 2020 in Las Vegas, Wilder had plenty to say about the circumstances of his first loss. Loaded gloves. Poisoned water bottle. Illegal punches.
Fast forward to June 15 in Los Angeles. Wilder appears with Fury before the California boxing press corps alongside their respective trainers Sugarhill Steward and Malik Scott to talk up their rematch in Las Vegas on July 24 after Wilder’s legal team gets a ruling enforcing a contract clause.
In the single pre-fight appearance together for the big men, Wilder contributes a single opening statement of 52 words total, taking 26 seconds. Wilder’s statement in its entirety:
“I’d like to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ. I’d like to thank my amazing team. I’d like to thank my amazing legal team as well. Look, enough said. Time to cut off his head. Come July the 24, there will be bloodshed. Get your tickets now. I’ll see you soon.”
Wilder didn’t speak another word. He wouldn’t answer any questions from news conference host Crystina Poncher.
He said nothing to Fury in an epic five minute, 40 second face off. He left the stage and was hustled past the press with a handful of photographers in pursuit like he was Princess Diana.
Swanson Communication later issued a news release with a 173-word statement from Wilder. None of the additional 120 words were spoken to anyone present.
Poncher did her best to prompt Wilder to take off his headphones and answer questions. He smiled and declined. Malik Scott stepped in and did his talking.
As for Fury, the man is a quote-making machine and nothing stops him. He even offered to answer Wilder’s questions for him.
Take it away, Gypsy King.
“Congratulations to Deontay Wilder for finding his Lord and savior Jesus Christ. He said all this last time, decapitation and bloodshed and all that. And we all know what went down.”
“I get paid to beat up on people. Not a bad job, really.”
“It’s his turn again for a good hiding. We’ll see if he wants a fourth rematch after this, a seventh, 72. Who knows, it might go on forever!”
“I look forward to the challenge. I hope he’s going something different than he did last time and he needs to. Let’s just face facts.”
“He shows how weak of a mental person he is, how much of a beating from the last fight has took; emotional, mental, physical effect on his life.”
“I’ve been worried about Deontay Wilder for quite a while, after the defeat that I gave him.”
“I’m going to state here first, stake my claim that he’s going to be the same old Deontay Wilder that we’ve always seen.”
“Deontay Wilder is a one trick pony. He has one punch power, we all know that. I’m going to run him over as if I’m an 18-wheeler and he’s a human being. I guarantee it will not go past where it did before.”
“I don’t believe he’s mentally, physically, or emotionally involved in this fight. I think he’s doing this fight for the wrong reasons. When you do things for the wrong reasons, it always ends up with someone getting heard.”
“If I’m a man to my word, I can run him over quicker than round seven, and I think I do.”
Fury also said he plans to bulk up to 300 pounds for this bout to impose his will on Wilder.
What to make of it? It’s boxing.
It’s not at all a bad fight. But it’s not the fight we anticipated. Still, tickets are selling briskly on their first day of sale coinciding with today’s event, also the first time the California boxing press corps have been allowed to gather since the pandemic started.
It was a subdued crew, not at all the lively bunch that gathered in double the numbers to see the same two men verbally spar in December 2019.
It was a scene sorely in need of some healthy misbehavior. But we get it. We’re emerging into the blazing post-pandemic sunlight.
Upon reflection, the misbehavior we needed came from Wilder. Fury loves nothing more than a verbal tug of war. He wants Wilder to pick up the other end of the rope and play. He knows he can win. Instead, Wilder refused and walked away. You can’t play tug of war by yourself.
Wilder finally wised up after all his grousing on social media reflected poorly on him. Fans and media trashed him for it. They’re trashing him now for NOT saying anything. This is a misguided perspective.
Wilder’s move produced yet another entry in the boxing ‘theater of the unexpected,’ capped by the epic silent face off. Despite verbal pleas from Poncher, publicist Kelly Swanson, and others on the stage, neither man would budge. Security types and personal assistants surrounded the pair, and they still wouldn’t budget. Finally, it was Wilder who walked away. Boxing YouTube is rejoicing tonight with these clickbait riches. TMZ Sports here it comes.
We asked boxing historian Lee Groves if he knew of a longer faceoff. He recalled the nose bumping exercise between Vinny Paz and Greg Haugen. Anyone with a video and a stopwatch?
The advantage of being a boxing writer instead of a YouTuber at moments like these is the ability to observe, interpret, and reflect.
It’s the difference between a photographer and a painter depicting the same scene. It’s the reason boxing writers like the team at NYFights.com still have a place in this universe.