After dousing a toy reptile with tiny red boxing gloves in lighter fluid, Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder set the toy ablaze on his YouTube channel, proclaiming it was a symbol of what was to come of his opponent Johann “Reptile” Duhaupas.
“My grandma didn’t like reptiles,” Wilder said as he drowned the plastic lizard, “She used cut they heads off. But me, I’m going to burn him.”
And then he dropped a flaming mop head on the Godzilla-like replica, preaching his patented “Bomb Squad!” catch-phrase as the plastic idol engulfed with flames and the champion proudly walked away as if he had already dropped and stopped his opponent.
This Saturday night NBC will host its first heavyweight championship fight in nearly 30 years between WBC champion Wilder and challenger Duhaupas.
The last heavyweight championship fight shown on the primetime network was between the great and underappreciated Larry Holmes, who faced Carl “The Truth” Williams in 1985. Since then heavyweight title fights have been displayed on premium cable, pay-per-view or ESPN channels only. Hindsight tells us that Holmes was one of the underrated champions of his time, a contrast to Wilder, who some see as an overrated talent of his time.
“His (Wilder’s) rise has actually almost been meteoric,” Promoter Lou DiBella said in a conference call. “Despite his late start in the sport, after only a couple of years, he went on to represent the U.S. in the 2008 Olympic Games where he won a Bronze medal. He’s the last American male boxer to medal in the Olympics.”
Wilder’s Olympic medal has been a first-class ticket for a bullet train towards the WBC title, stopping only to wreak havoc on whatever overmatched opponents were set in front of him. Wilder (34-0, 33 KO’s) stands six-foot-seven but weighed-in a lean 229 pounds for his last fight with Eric Molina in June. His physique is trim and tight, and his reach stretches 83 inches.
“I couldn’t have a better opponent to be defending my title against,” Wilder said about Duhaupas. “I think he’s the best type of opponent for me. He’s tough, he comes to fight, he’s got a great record, he’s never been stopped, he got the height and the weight. Do I have to say more?”
Duhaupas (32-2, 20 KO’s) is an eleven year veteran of the professional ranks and has won various fringe titles like the South American and European Union heavyweight titles among others. He is a seasoned vet who is used to fighting on the road in places like Russia, Switzerland, and Germany. He is not concerned about making his debut in America across from Alabama’s local hero Wilder.
“Once I am in the ring I forget everything about where I am,” Duhaupas said. “I just focus on the fight and the opponent, and it will be a normal fight for me.”
Duhaupas said that he has been studying Wilder’s style, watching videos to develop “special things” to use in his fight against the Bronze Bomber. Wilder showed a glimpse of vulnerability in his previous fight against Molina. He won by knockout in the ninth but was susceptible to a left hook that clipped his chin in the third. It could be a small window of opportunity for a wily fighter to expose in the future. The Reptile, however, has not revealed any flaws he may see in Wilder’s game.
“I want to keep all my secrets for me,” Duhaupas said. “I think we’re preparing the fight the best we can do.”
As titleholder in the heavyweight division Wilder stressed that he wants to bring excitement back to what was once the glamorous division of the sport. He plans on being the face of boxing and even went as far as to say it has always been his plan to replace Floyd Mayweather in the wake of “Money’s” retirement.
“We’re bringing it back,” Wilder said about himself and fellow heavyweight fighters. “Floyd has done a marvelous job with his career and stuff like that but now it’s my turn; now it’s time for the big guys to rule the division like they once were, and I’m the man for the job.”
One way of making the division more exciting could be to unify the heavyweight crown. Wilder’s prize possession, the green WBC belt, is one of four major sanctioning body titles. The other three are the property of Wladimir Klitschko, who has his own title defence to make in October against Tyson Fury. Despite their scheduled appearances, both champions rarely part-take in an interview without being asked about the other.
Klitschko mildly criticized Wilder’s opposition recently, and when word got back to Wilder, the Bronze Bomber said he laughed it off.
“I almost laughed all day about it,” Wilder said. “Because for him to make that statement basically is for him to criticize his own self, or talk bad about himself because if he’s talking about opponents or whatever, he’s been doing the same thing for over a decade. He’s fighting guys we don’t know names of or how to pronounce where they came from.”
Wilder said he fully expects to fight Klitschko in the future but is not looking past Duhaupas. Duhaupas was picked because he has never been stopped and because Wilder believes the Frenchman will be aiming to make history by becoming the first heavyweight champion of the world from his country.
“At this point in time it’s all about Duhaupas,” Wilder said. “Everything else is in the future. Right now this is the present. . . I can’t look past nobody else. We’ll have to see what’s in the future, but right now I’m worried about what’s in the present.”