Wilder LOVES His Belt



Wilder LOVES His Belt

By Michael Woods

It was the Deontay Wilder show on Thursday in NYC at the final presser to tout his Saturday clash at Barclays Center, against ex soccer hooligan Artur Szpilka.

The Alabaman is a work in progress, as a boxer, and as a sports-entertainer as well. He held the attention of the assembled media at Edison Ballroom well in a lengthy stint on the dais and yes, he is being ushered to the scene on a pillow of fresh air.

Wilder (seen in Ed Diller photo) has a personality, refreshingly.

He's got a fun goofball side, as when he told us that he has a name for his WBC heavyweight belt. “Sophia…don't forget her name,” he said, as he caressed her, I mean, it, with a lover's touch. “I took her from the dungeon, now she's in a palace, a castle, and she's happy.”

Goofball and refreshing.

The 6-7 hitter said we will see a new version of him Saturday, on this Lou Dibella show, someone closer to his ceiling, putting together outside and inside fighting, varied shot selection, speed, power–all the elements which, he believes, will keep him and Sophia together in long term relationship.

NYFIGHTS chatted at length with the man who bought this fight to his platform, Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza. The cable chief said that he thinks Szpilka is a good test, isn't afraid and will give a solid account of himself. “He truly believes he sees flaws in Wilder,” he told me. “It's two guys coming to fight who aren't scared of each other.”

Most expect Wilder to be too long and strong for the Pole. If that is so, could Espinoza offer a hint as to what would be next for Wilder? A logical path would be for him to fight whoever wins the IBF title clash between Russian Czar Glazkov and St Louis native Prince Charles Martin. Czar, having fought over 300 amateur bouts, has the experience edge, while Martin owns the size and strength edge. Beyond that, a rematch between Wladimir Klitschko, seeking to show himself and fight nation he's not over the hill, and brash trash talker Tyson Fury will play out in May or June. Maybe Wilder gets the winner…or maybe WBC No 1 ranked Alexander Povetkin gets next after Szpilka. Espinoza said the Team Fury ask to fight Wilder previously was too high but “we have open lines of communication.” Same with Team Povetkin; all parties with dogs in the hunt are for now playing amicably enough, he said. Indeed; Fury is in town today and will attend the show to scout Wilder…and Szpilka. As will Povetkin..

Espinoza also said he'd like to show the Carl Frampton/Scott Quigg fight Feb 27 on Sho, and that this year, subscribers will see more UK tangles. Viewers can also check out on Sho the forthcoming Jorge Linares scrap with Dejan Zlaticanin, the exec said. Same for a Leo Santa Cruz/Kiko Martinez tiff. A Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter fight gets announced any day, as well.

Fights running on Showtime from Barclays Center could unfold in April, May and June, Espinoza said. Danny Jacobs will be in that mix, maybe rematching with Peter Quillin. Chats were had with BJ Saunders' people he said but they said no thanks, for right now. Again, the lines of talk are open.

Quillin has indicated he wants to prove his December KO1 stoppage loss was an aberration so maybe we get a sequel, Espinoza said. “We will make sure he's safe and sound, but he says he wants it.”

Also, expect Sho to acknowledge other big events, and program away from ratings sapping college and pro football and the like. The boxing schedule doesn't have to be a year-round endless loop, he told me.

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Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.