By: Max Padrid
I read an article recently that beautifully articulated an idea I had never been able to put into writing. Hamilton Nolan over at Deadspin described the common testosterone-laden, male boxing fan so accurately that I felt the need to expand. Nolan claims that men who have no experience boxing will accessorize the sport the same way men with little means will buy clothing and jewelry they can’t afford. It’s about façade. It’s about creating an image that represents what you wish you were. Without a full digression, this is the essence of the social media age. Basically, dudes who don’t have the stones to get in a ring and fight will attend these matches and broadcast their attendance to feel like they are a part of the fight itself. It’s a very strange dynamic that doesn’t make a lot of sense but is almost impossible to argue with.
So what’s that got to do with Deontay Wilder? In short: everything. It’s important that I preface this by saying I am a huge Deontay Wilder fan. I enjoy both his talent and his antics but, most importantly, I genuinely admire his authenticity and “this is me” attitude. Fighting, whether it be boxing for sport or an unfortunate street encounter, has a tendency to expose people’s true character and ability to operate under incredible duress. It’s tough to create a more vulnerable scenario than one where someone is under attack. Most people cower and run, which is how humans are conditioned to react, while a select few choose to stand and fight. Nonetheless, all people who agree to fight professionally somehow fall into the latter category. However, getting back to the man of the hour, what makes the Bronze Bomber so magnetic is that under the most vulnerable and stressful environment, his personality doesn’t waiver. The loud, brash, charismatic 6’7 man from Alabama is exactly the same in the ring as he is during his press tours when he threatens to literally punch his fist through his opponents head.
Floyd Mayweather was one of the first professional sports figures to flaunt excess. He certainly wasn’t the first professional athlete to be exceedingly wealthy, but he used his wealth to create buzz and augment pay-per-view sales, a tactic that had never really been done before. Mohammad Ali was loud and boisterous and clever, but Floyd, as detestable a human being as he is, made it cool to have so much extra wealth that he could shamelessly waste it on camera. However, what’s interesting about Floyd is that as obnoxious as he was for the cameras and no matter how loud and outrageous he was leading up the fights, the person that showed up and performed in the ring was about as calculated, thoughtful, and at times humble, as any fighter in recent history. My point is, salesman Floyd and Fighter Floyd were two fundamentally different human beings and, unfortunately, he shepherded in the Adrien Broner generation of fighters who aren’t able to tell the difference. Everyone now wants to wear head-to-toe Gucci and own 37 cars before they’ve made their first million dollars and, oh by the way, winning fights seems to fall down the priority line. As talented as Floyd was, his fights really were never as exciting as the lead up and his personality in the ring was never really that interesting.
So here we are with Deontay Wilder. The man whose power and skills are so dangerous that it’s possible his opponent might die at any moment. He is outrageous and loud and creative. You can hear “BOMMMMB SQUAAAAADDDD!!!” from different zip codes after hearing him talk about punching people through their actual skulls. But what I, and so many others, love about the Bomber, is that that’s exactly who he is when he gets in the ring. He doesn’t put up a façade to sell tickets. There’s only one version of this guy and it’s truly an exciting one. He came from what the politically correct population will refer to as “humble beginnings” and you get the sense as a fan that he’s never really changed. I’m sure he has a nicer house and a few nicer cars, but Wilder isn’t on camera selling that as a reason why you should watch him. He’s not obnoxious to the point where you pay to tune in just to see him possibly lose. There’s uniqueness to him in the sport of boxing that has continued to draw people like me in over the years as he has ascended to the apex of the apex division.
In an era where teenagers with makeup tutorials cultivate followings of millions of kids who want to paint their faces to create a better Instagram photo, naturally, it’s tough not to root for a guy who is unabashedly himself under all circumstances. I was rooting for Deontay Wilder to win on Saturday against Dominick Brazeale and to do so in spectacular fashion. Not just because I like watching him fight and I wish him continued success, but because I am so entertained by who he is outside the ring and I know exactly what I’m getting inside of it. Fortunately, I got what I wished for.