Chalk it up as an epic tale, or an epic fail, as to why Deontay Wilder turned in the worst performance of his professional career Saturday when he lost to Tyson Fury.
The former WBC heavyweight champion said Monday the elaborate $60,000, all-black costume he wore as a tribute for Black History Month while walking to the ring was the reason why he came out flat at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas before losing to Fury in a seventh-round technical knockout.
Wilder claimed the more than 40-pound armory fatigued his legs, which ultimately led to a lethargic showing that resulted in him being knocked down in the third and fifth rounds and taking a beating before his corner threw in the towel to save him from any potential life-threatening injuries.
“He didn’t hurt me at all, but the simple fact is ... that my uniform was way too heavy for me,” Wilder first told Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports. “I didn’t have no legs from the beginning of the fight. In the third round, my legs were just shot all the way through.... A lot of people were telling me, ‘It looked like something was wrong with you.’ Something was, but when you’re in the ring, you have to bluff a lot of things. I tried my best to do so. I knew I didn’t have the legs because of my uniform.”
In addition to the weight, Wilder’s mask entirely covered his mouth and nose, restricting his breathing. It had red LED lights for eyes, reminiscent of the 1968 horror movie “The Devil Rides Out.”
“I was only able to put it on [for the first time] the night before, but I didn’t think it was going to be that heavy,” Wilder said. “I wanted my tribute to be great for Black History Month. I wanted it to be good and I guess I put that before anything.”
Wilder did not attend the post-fight news conference Saturday because he needed seven stitches to close a cut inside his left ear. Wilder and his team declined comment to The Times on Monday, and multiple calls and messages to trainer Jay Deas and the designers of the costume, Cosmo Lombino and Donato Crowley of Cosmos Glamsquad in Los Angeles, were not returned.
Lombino and Crowley have designed each of Wilder’s last four elaborate ring walk costumes, much like they have for boxers Shawn Porter, Claressa Shields and Shaquille O’Neal for his deejaying gigs.
Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) said he will exercise his right to a rematch against Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs). In the third fight, Fury will take 60% of the purse.
Bob Arum of Top Rank told The Times that a third fight would most likely happen in October so that Fox and ESPN can leverage the NFL season in another co-promotion ahead of a mega fight. The bout would be in the United States, with the Raiders’ new stadium a possible location.
Before another fight, Wilder may look to replace his co-trainer Mark Breeland, a 1984 U.S. Olympics gold medal winner and two-time world champion, for throwing in the towel.
“I am upset with Mark for the simple fact that we’ve talked about this many times and it’s not emotional,” Wilder said. “It is not an emotional thing, it’s a principal thing. We’ve talked about this situation many, many years before this even happened. I said as a warrior, as a champion, as a leader, as a ruler, I want to go out on my shield.
“So I told my team to never, ever, no matter what it may look like, to never throw the towel in with me because I’m a special kind. I still had five rounds left. No matter what it looked like, I was still in the fight.”
Wilder, an Olympics bronze medalist, said he was displeased with referee Kenny Bayless’ performance because he did not catch Fury’s rabbit punches.
In the post-fight news conference, Deas said he didn’t think Breeland should have thrown in the towel, even though Wilder was unsteady on his legs and fell to the canvas multiple times in addition to the official knockdowns.
“Deontay is the kind of guy who is a go-out-on-his-shield kind of guy,” Deas said. “He will tell you straight up, ‘Don’t throw the towel in.’ He does not want that. And then you’ve always got to consider also that Deontay is a fearsome puncher. So that’s always a difficult thing because he always has that shot to land a big shot and turn things around. So, that’s what happened there. But Deontay is doing well and he’ll be back. He’ll be all the better for it.”