LOS ANGELES — Deontay Wilder, the 6-7, 227-pound heavyweight boxer, grinned as climbed behind the wheel of a fire truck.
Soon after, he put on a mustard-yellow fireman’s jacket and marveled at its weight.
Then someone handed him a fireman’s ax and Wilder mugged for the cameras.
“I’d like to be a fireman,’’ he said, but that’s not how Wilder, at 33, potentially will come to the rescue.
Boxing needs him more. Much more.
With a 40-0 record, 39 knockouts and the WBC world championship belt, Wilder is in position to help revive — maybe even electrify — the languishing sport. So earlier this week, he was at the Los Angeles City Fire Department Fire Station 3, not only to pay tribute to men who had fought the deadly wild fires in California, but also to promote his upcoming fight.
It could be a doozy.
Wilder, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., will face England’s 6-9 Tyson Fury (27-0) Saturday night at The Forum, and the fight figures to be highly entertaining if it came match the press conference Wednesday at the Westin St. Bonaventure Hotel & Suites.
The press conference devolved into an on-stage melee, with Wilder and Fury taunting each other and Fury taking off his sport coat and dress shirt as if ready to rumble.
More than a championship belt will on the line Saturday. The relevance of boxing also is at stake, and things have rarely looked so dispiriting. The most recognized fighter, Floyd Mayweather, is technically retired — but the lack of big-name boxers creates a void that must be filled.
So Manny Pacquiao shows up here last week to promote his next fight and is peppered with questions about a possible rematch with Mayweather. Canelo Alvarez meets with reporters two weeks ago to discuss his next fight and fields questions about a rematch with Mayweather. UFC’s Khabib Nurmagomedov beats Conor McGregor in October and soon after Khabib is calling for a fight with you-know-who.
But Mayweather unretiring again is not the answer for boxing.
At 41, he’s well past his prime, and the sport always has been at its best with an American heavyweight champion on top, whether that champion be Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson or a host of other greats to whom Wilder might never measure up.
In 2008, Wilder won a bronze medal at the Summer Olympics. In 2015, Wilder became the first American heavyweight champion in nine years. But you're hardly alone if you didn't know much about him.
Wilder still needs a signature victory and that could come Saturday against Fury, who in 2015 dethroned Wladimir Klitschko.
Critics will note that Fury, 30, returned to the ring in June after about a 2½-year layoff he took while battling drug, alcohol and mental health problems. But Wilder can’t be blamed. As Wilder told reporters at the fire station this week, he did his best to arrange a fight with England’s Anthony Joshua, the unified heavyweight champion.
Wilder said Joshua turned down a $50 million guarantee and so here Wilder is fighting Fury with his own pre-fight sound and fury.
“The baddest man on the planet is here, baby,’’ Wilder crowed.
And: “For those waiting to see the next thing in boxing, here I am, baby!’’
And: “This is my coming-out party!’’
Almost two hours after arriving at the fire station, something finally quieted Wilder. The intercom inside the fire department kitchen, where Wilder was conducting an interview, blasted details of an engine call for a nearby structural fire.
Half a dozen firefighters hustled through the kitchen toward the truck. Wilder headed outside to watch.
“Good luck,’’ he said as the truck pulled away.
On behalf of boxing, Deontay, good luck to you.
Contributing: Martin Rogers
Source: Read Full Article