As soon as Deontay Wilder reaches for gauze and tape to wrap his hands, he transforms into his persona of the Bronze Bomber. When the heavyweight champion of the world laces up the gloves, it is symbolic of war, and he’ll go to any lengths to have an opponent lying on his back.
Wilder (41-0-1, 40 knockouts) will enter the battlefield Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and take on Cuban combatant Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) in a rematch of their close and competitive fight from March 2018 in which the Alabama-born fighter was momentarily reeling before rallying for a 10th-round knockout.
To begin the promotion of his Fox pay-per-view fight, Wilder was at a Hancock Park mansion filming a promotional spot 43 days before the bout. With a punching bag placed in the middle of the Victorian home’s living room, he was placid and at peace, wrapping his hands, fielding questions from the Los Angeles Times moments before pulverizing the bag for show. Then, an overzealous director barged in and interrupted Wilder midsentence as he applied tape.
“Sorry, guys. We have to get these gloves on,” said the middle-aged director. “Box!”
Those 10 words were enough to break Wilder’s temper, transform him into the Bronze Bomber and lead him to a five-minute diatribe that gave everyone in the room a glimpse into his mental state when he’s preparing for battle.
“Ay, I have to wrap my hands right to hit the bag. I’m not going to waste millions of dollars and break my hands because of you. So let me do this with profession. Don’t rush perfection. I’m in camp right now. I’m in the wrong state of mind. I’m in war mode,” said Wilder. “When I’m wrapping my hands and have these gloves on, I’m strapping up. I’m about to punch a man in the face. It’s like having a gun in your hand — you have the power.
“You don’t understand. I am risking my life to go to work every time I’m in that ring for other people’s entertainment. This is like my Last Supper. This is not a game. We go to hospitals after work. I take this seriously. Get in the ring, and I’ll show you how it is. Every time I walk into the ring my mind-set is to kill my opponent in the ring — nothing else. So don’t bother me. Give me my time and space. Let me have my peace. I’ll let you know when I’m ready. That’s the last time I’m seeing you. I don’t want anyone getting on my bad side.”
“All right, sounds good,” the director answers before swiftly scooting away.
Wilder later explained that when he wraps his hands, his whole body transforms, and his mind goes off. It’s a build-up until the cup runneth over, which in this case will be Saturday.
In a sport that’s dealt with an alarming rate of deaths in the ring this year, Wilder does not back off his stance of ending a foe’s life when questioned under cooler circumstances weeks later.
“If I say, ‘I’m going to kill a man,’ they’re going to criticize and crucify me but still be sitting in the front row just to see me do it. They are hypocritical,” said Wilder. “They know what it is, and they love it. We know what we signed up to do, and what the repercussions and consequences are.”
Since July, four boxers — Maxim Dadashev, Patrick Day, Hugo Santillán and Boris Stanchov — have died from injuries sustained in fights.
In May, before scoring a devastating first-round knockout of Dominic Breazeale, Wilder was adamant about legally killing a man with his fists, and wanting to put a body on his record.
“Anybody who fights me has to be perfect for 12 rounds. I only have to be perfect for two seconds.”
“I mean every word that I say,” said Wilder. “I don’t care about other people’s feelings in this sport. When I risk my life for other people’s entertainment, why would I care about their opinions? I’m only verbally saying what I’m going to do. My actions speak louder than my words.”
Whether it’s real thirst for blood, or an act — Wilder is every part Hollywood, recently starring in the CBS show “Magnum P.I.” — the 34-year-old World Boxing Council champion is currently the main actor of the chaotic and unpredictable heavyweight division.
A win against Ortiz leads Wilder on a direct path to Tyson Fury on Feb. 22 to settle the score of their draw from late last year. Should Premier Boxing Champions stablemate and current unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz hold his end of the rematch carousel against Anthony Joshua on Dec. 7, Wilder and Ruiz will undoubtedly face each other in 2020.
“I’m the man in the heavyweight division. I’m the man in boxing — period. None of these guys are doing what I’m doing,” said Wilder. “Every man I’ve faced, I’ve dropped and knocked out. They are all looking at me. They want to be like me and have the swag like me. I’m not worried about no one. I am the man. I have the gift that they all want.
“There’s no other fighter who puts you on the edge of your seat. You can’t go to the bathroom, you can’t look away, you cannot be late, or you’re going to miss the knockout. Anybody who fights me has to be perfect for 12 rounds. I only have to be perfect for two seconds.”
Wilder’s charisma and braggadocio has been backed up by performances his entire career. But before putting away Ortiz, he was rocked in the seventh round and had to survive the scariest 45 seconds of his life. At the time of the stoppage, Wilder was only up 85-84 on the scorecards, and had landed just 11 more punches than Ortiz in the fight (98-87). Wilder’s close encounters carried into the Fury fight nine months later, when Wilder needed two knockdowns to score a draw in a fight of which Fury outpunched him 84 to 71.
Ortiz, 40, has recommitted to training this camp as he looks to fight off fatigue and Father Time. In addition to a powerful record, footage from a recent media workout further proved that Ortiz looks every bit the live underdog who can further throw a wrench into the sport’s glamour division and wreck Wilder’s 10th attempt at defending his WBC title.
“Boxing makes me switch on and off naturally, and thank God I can turn it off,” said Wilder. “Imagine if I was the Bronze Bomber every day — no one would ever like me. The Bronze Bomber doesn’t give a … about your feelings. He wants to rip you to shreds and give people knockouts. Deontay Wilder is a loving father, a motivator who inspires people and a man who loves.
“A lot of guys don’t know how to get into the state of mind of kill mode. I can love you one minute, and whoop your … the next. I always worry about myself. I’m human as well. If I can hit in a certain place, I too can end up the same way [and get killed]. That’s why I’m so aggressive. I’d rather get you before you get me.”