By: Jesse Donathan
“In a one-on-one setting, Hamed’s arrogance is oddly charming, like a small boy wearing his father’s clothes,” writes Timothy W. Smith on the then WBO featherweight champion “Prince” Naseem Hamed in his December 17, 1997 NYTimes article titled, “BOXING; He’s a Champion of Self-Promotion.” In the cut throat industry of pugilism, it’s going to take a little more than fast hands and a pretty face to make it to the top. A degree of self-promotion is necessary in order to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. Hamed was arrogant, brash and believable. All ingredients necessary to become a master self-promotor. And if the fact this article exists is any indication, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs), like Hamed before him, is a champion of self-promotion too.
If you’re in tune with the world of combat sports, it’s been hard to miss Wilder in the news lately. And as they say in the world of promotion, even bad publicity is good publicity. According to foxnews.com reporter Ryan Gaydos in his May 16, 2019 article titled, ”Deontay Wilder promotes upcoming bout by talking about opponent’s death in ring: ‘If he dies, he dies’,” the WBC heavyweight champion of the world recently stated, “This is the only sport where you can kill a man and get paid for it at the same time. It’s legal. So why not use my right to do so?”
Gaydos would later go on to write that, “In a separate interview with USA Today, Wilder continued to up the ante with his talk. “If he dies, he dies,” Wilder said of Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs). “This is boxing. This is not a gentleman’s sport. This is a gladiator’s sport. And with bad blood, we know I possess the power.”
“If he dies, he dies,” if you think you’ve heard that line somewhere else before it’s because you have. They’re the immortal words of Ivan Drago, the Russian menace from Rocky IV. And they’re as chilling now as they were then. But stepping away from the current media frenzy, for those of us paying attention, these sentiments from Deontay Wilder are nothing new.
In an August 18, 2018 “SecondsOut” YouTube video titled, “Deontay Wilder on KILLING & CRIPPLING Fighters!,” Radio Rahim interviewed “The Bronze Bomber” about his previous statements along the very same lines to this latest controversy. And yet again, on November 2, 2017 Radio Rahim interviewed the WBC champion in his YouTube video titled, “DEONTAY WILDER: I Want a [DEAD] BODY on My Record! Gonna KILL Bermane Stiverne in Ring,” where Wilder echoed similar sentiments against then opponent Stiverne in what looks to be a fairly consistent promotional story line and angle from the WBC champion. Interestingly enough, Bermane Stiverne survived his encounter with Wilder, and god willing, so will Dominic Breazeale too.
But that doesn’t mean the bad blood between the two fighters isn’t very real. According to a February 27, 2017 badlefthook.com article titled, “Deontay Wilder and Dominic Breazeale involved in hotel fight,” the two heavyweight fighters have a violent history with one another. Author Scott Crist would go on to write that Wilder and Breazeale, “were involved in a large scale hotel lobby fight, according to TMZ, who have cell phone video of the scrap, not that there’s really a lot to see.”
As reported by badlefthook.com, Breazeale discussed the incident on social media, stating, “I want to address the fact that Deontay Wilder and a mob of about 20 people unprovokedly attacked my team and my family in the lobby last night. My coach and I were blindsided by sucker punches and my team was assaulted as well all in front of my wife and kids.” Breazeale would go on to write, “This cowardly attack has no place in boxing and believe me will not go unpunished.”
Searching for more information, according to a May 15, 2019 cbssports.com article titled, “Deontay Wilder on Dominic Breazeale: ‘His life is on the line for this fight and I do mean his life’,” author Brian Campbell reported that, “The hotel skirmish between the heavyweights, which occurred after Wilder’s 2017 win over Gerald Washington in Birmingham, began, according to Breazeale, when he was verbally accosted in the crowd by Wilder’s brother for being so vocal in giving instructions to his friend Washington.”
To be fair, not that there is an excuse for unsanctioned violence outside the ring or cage, but details about the exact vocal instructions Breazeale was alleged to have been making were not given. Though it would be interesting to get a copy of the transcript because perhaps Dominic was advising Washington to do more than just circle and work the jab against Wilder? Which is complete speculation on my part, though likely a pretty good guess. “Vocal in giving instructions,” could literally mean anything and leaves one to the devices of their own imagination to fill in the blanks. Whatever those instructions were, evidently, they carried enough weight to get Wilders undivided attention.
According to Campbell, “After the fight, word got back to Wilder about the words exchanged and he approached Breazeale, who had his wife and kids in tow, and berated him with harsh words demanding an apology.” Cbssports.com would go on to write that, “Breazeale then accused Wilder’s brother of punching him in the back of the head from behind to trigger a melee that was broken up.”
Knowing that there are always two sides to a story, according to an “MWRECKTV” YouTube video interview with Wilder titled, “Deontay Wilder On Breazeale Beef He Lied & Said I Had 20 G00NS W/ Me When I Ran Down On Him,” the WBC champion denied he had a large entourage with him during the hotel confrontation and stated that Dominic Breazeale even tried to sue him as a result of the incident. “He went on the pursuit of trying to sue me and get money from me. To let you know that he is a broke mother (expletive) and he needs money.”
Wilder would go on to state, “But he is going to get the opportunity this time.” Apologizing for his language, and explaining he is a realist that speaks from the heart, “I may tell you like I feel, but you will know when my work is in the ring; you will know how I was feeling.” Which is just another way of saying that not only does Wilder talk the talk, but he plans to walk the walk too.
Threatening to kill opponents in the ring is nothing new in boxing, though there is a dark history associated with such talk that looms over the sport like a dark cloud. The legendary welterweight champion Emile Griffith notoriously threatened to kill Benny “Kid” Paret in the lead up to their third and final fight on March 24th, 1962 in Madison Square Garden after Paret reportedly uttered a homophobic slur to Griffith. Paret would slip into a coma as a result of the cumulative damage received from Griffith in the fight and unfortunately later passed away ten days later in an area hospital as a result.
Wilder and Breazeale fight Saturday night, May 18, 2019 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. According to the bleacherreport.com, the odds are reported to be -850 for Wilder and +575 for Breazeale. The fight will be aired on ShowTime for those of us not fortunate enough to be ringside, and considering the promotional dream in the leadup to the fight it is sure to be one that doesn’t disappoint when the final bell rings. Will Breazeale survive the hammers of Thor Wilder is sure to bring or will Breazeale punish the WBC champ as he has promised to do? Tune in to find out.