Deontay Wilder faces first heavyweight title defense against Eric Molina

WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder to defend title against Eric Molina on Saturday in Alabama

Deontay Wilder will make his first defense of the World Boxing Championship heavyweight title on Saturday when he takes on Eric Molina in his home state of Alabama.

Wilder (33-0, 32 knockouts) is the first American to hold a heavyweight title since 2007, when Shannon Briggs lost the World Boxing Organization title to Sultan Ibragimov in his first title defense.

The hard-punching 29-year-old won the WBC title by unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne in Las Vegas on Jan. 17. Molina (23-2, 17 knockouts) fought the same card, defeating Raphael Zumbano Love by TKO in the eighth round.

"I remember just a few months ago watching Deontay get ready for the biggest fight of his life," Molina told ESPN. "I thought to myself, 'Someday, that’ll be me.' I stared with envy not knowing that a few months later I'd get my turn."

Now, Alabama will host its first-ever world heavyweight title fight, which will air on Showtime at 6 p.m.

"It's definitely a blessing to be able to fight in my state," the 6-foot-9, 229-pound Wilder said. "When we set the goal to be heavyweight champion of the world, that was one of the goals we set, to bring it to Alabama. Just to change it up and give Alabama some spice besides football, and to finally get the opportunity to have a major fight in the state of Alabama."

Despite his short tenure as a champion, Wilder has already engaged in talks of a heavyweight unification bout with Wladimir Klitschko (64-3, 53 knockouts), his former sparring partner.

"That is my main goal," Wilder told the Wall Street Journal. "Honestly, I don't really feel like a champion yet. I still feel hungry. I still feel like a contender."

Wilder said a bout with Klitschko is still at least two fights away, but the road there begins with Molina.

Follow Matt Wilhalme on Twitter @mattwilhalme

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World