Deontay Wilder carries a mink-lined briefcase he describes as a “palace” to house the WBC heavyweight championship belt that he affectionately has nicknamed “Sophia.” And just to make sure he doesn’t lose the belt, he also had it tattooed to his body.
So, imagine how determined Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) is to prevent Polish challenger Artur Szpilka (20-1, 15 KOs) from making off with his most prized possession Saturday night at Barclays Center in the first heavyweight title bout staged in Brooklyn in more than 115 years since James Jeffries knocked out James Corbett in the 23rd round on May 11, 1900 in Coney Island.
The card actually features two heavyweight title fights. Charles Martin (22-0-1, 20 KOs) is fighting Ukrainian Vyacheslav Glazkov (21-0-1, 13 KOs) for the vacant IBF title. At Friday’s weigh-in, Wilder came in at 228¾ pounds to 233¼ for Szpilka, and Martin was 249½ to Glazkov’s 218.
If Wilder has his way, this is just the beginning of a year in which he hopes to begin expanding the “palace” to accommodate a few other heavyweight belts.
“There’s many more belts that I want,” Wilder said. “I want all the belts. It’s going to be a tough path to fulfill, but I’m that man. When people say ‘heavyweight champion of the world,’ I want them to recognize only one man.
“I’m determined. In 2016, I’m not playing with nobody. I’m very confident of what I’m capable of doing in 2016.”
Tyson Fury actually holds the linear heavyweight title following his November upset of longtime heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Since that bout, the IBF belt was declared vacant when Fury opted for a rematch with Klitschko at a date to be determined.
So, if Wilder can handle Szpilka’s brawling style, he could fight the winner of Martin-Glazkov or face No. 1 WBC contender Alexander Povetkin, who asked the governing body for more time to prepare for Wilder. Down the line, Wilder can chase the winner of Fury-Klitschko.
Although he got a late start in boxing, the 30-year-old Wilder said he’s nearing the 10,000-hour mark in the gym and has the experience to develop into a quality heavyweight. He anticipates a hard — and maybe even a little bit dirty — fight against Szpilka, but Wilder said, “I still have so much that hasn’t been displayed. I can box. I can go to the body. You’ve seen the speed and the uppercuts. I feel like I’m the most athletic heavyweight in the division, period.”
Notes & quotes: The undercard includes a match between Long Island-based Polish heavyweight Adam Kownacki (12-0, 10 KOs), who trains in Bellmore with Keith Trimble, against Danny Kelly (9-1-1, 8 KOs) in an eight-round bout . . . The card may be seen as a free preview on Showtime or streamed for free on Showtime’s YouTube channel.