Deontay Wilder watched the Alabama football team win a national title on Monday night. The Tuscaloosa native doesn’t expect his title contest to be as close as the Crimson Tide’s 45-40 win over Clemson.
Wilder defends his WBC heavyweight title against Artur Szpilka on Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The bout will be televised on Showtime.
“I’m from Tuscaloosa just like the Alabama Crimson Tide and they call Tuscaloosa ‘Home of the Champions,’ ” Wilder said. “There’s no better place to be a champion and I’m very proud of the national champs.”
Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) won the title last January, a few weeks after Alabama lost in the national semifinals to Ohio State.
“This time, they came through, and I must come through and bring my crown home,” Wilder said. “The city is going to be on fire.”
Szpilka (20-1, 15 KOs) was not the first option to face Wilder in Brooklyn. Attempts were made for Wilder to fight Alexander Povetkin and when that match didn’t come off, top contender Vyacheslav Glazkov entered the picture as a potential challenger. But when Tyson Fury upset IBF champ Wladimir Klitschko in November, Glazkov became Fury’s mandatory IBF challenger. The IBF then stripped Fury for accepting a rematch with Klitschko rather than fighting Glazkov. Now, Glazkov will meet Charles Martin for the vacant IBF title in Saturday night’s co-feature.
That left Wilder to face Szpilka.
“I’m happy that Szpilka got this opportunity,” Wilder said. “I’m sure he’s excited and overwhelmed. Most fighters don’t get this kind of chance. At the end of the day though, he’s never faced a fighter like me. My accuracy and my power is the best out there. Artur Szpilka is in for a world of pain.”
Wilder, at 6-6 and 230 pounds, is one of the hardest punchers in the sport. His 97.1 knockout percentage is tops among heavyweight champions in boxing history. But Wilder also has a left jab that can dominate a fight.
“People love knockouts,” Wilder’s co-trainer Mark Breland said. “He can box, he can punch with both hands. My thing is to keep him a boxer. If you knock him out, you knock him out. If you don’t, a win is a win.”
Wilder, who has made two successful title defenses, is fighting in New York for the first time as a pro. It will be the first time a heavyweight title will be contested in Brooklyn since May 11, 1900, when James J. Jeffries knocked out James J. Corbett in Coney Island.
“I’m just happy to be here in New York,” Wilder said. “There’s so much great history, especially in the heavyweight division, in this city, so I’m really happy about the opportunity. It’s the media capital of the word and I get to fight at Barclays Center. Barclays Center needs a face and I’m looking to make it a home away from home.”