Deontay Wilder about his eight children, fighting racism in the US and how he will beat KO Tyson Fury in Las Vegas
The most important moment in Deontay Wilder’s life had nothing to do with boxing or becoming the world’s heavyweight champion, justifiably proud even though he is of that achievement.
It came when he was asked to make a very personal and deeply painful choice as a poor teenager who was about to become a father. Wilder and his then girlfriend Helen Duncan were told that his first child would be born with spina bifida.
“It was very scary to know that I had a child along the way,” he says. “It was even worse that this little creature would come into the world with a defect. I was so young and held my whole world in my hands. Suddenly I was faced with this enormous responsibility for a life that would require my enormous care and attention.
Deontay Wilder opens for Sportsmail about life as a father for eight children by four women
Wilder reveals why the comfort of home in Alabama is the perfect environment for craftsmanship
The Bronze Bomber also explains how he will eliminate Tyson Fury in Las Vegas next Saturday
“The doctors told us she would never walk. Told us she might never have the natural learning ability of a child. They offered us the opportunity to end. This was the most important decision of my life. To keep her or not to keep her. Thank goodness I’m right. We just felt that she had the right to live. “
Vindication comes with every improving day of Naieya’s life and her 6ft 7-in-34-year-old father, whose company eliminates all other giants of the price ring, glows with love and pleasure as his daughter approaches her 15th birthday, on March 20.
“Doctors can do all that studying and gain all that knowledge,” says Wilder. “But what they cannot explain is a miracle, the miracle that is our Naieya. She is not walking alone, she is running. Not only does she go to school, she is one of the smartest girls in her class. So smart, so intelligent.
Wilder’s youngest daughter, Naieya, was born with a spinal disorder called spina bifida
15-year-old Naieya defies doctors’ prognosis and flourishes academically and in sports
“The experience with her matured me early. When I saw her overcome so many times, I was inspired to do the same. Even before she was born, she taught me how important it is to always make the right decisions. She is such a bright spark that illuminates my life, just like all my children with their different characters and personalities. I love them all. “All eight. Through four different mothers, including the latest addition to Telli Swift, the fiancé will soon be his second wife.
We are talking about a cubby hole of a room in a corner of his run-down gym, which occupies two of a few largely abandoned lock-up storage units, tucked away in a small clearing in the woods on the outskirts of Tuscaloosa. Rain hammers on the tin roof and old buckets catch the drops around the ring.
Here Wilder escapes family life and trains to become the Bronze Bomber. He will be happy when he has finished eliminating Tyson Fury, who he defeated twice in their drawn first fight 14 months ago.
Wilder is desperate to prove himself as the best heavyweight of his generation by beating Fury
He explains: ‘Yes, I want to prove that I am the best heavyweight of this generation. Perhaps the best ever, because when I knock out Tyson, in my 11th straight world heavyweight title fight it will be Muhammad Ali’s record. This is now the biggest fight of my life. “
But talking quickly returns to his family. ‘My best days are having all the children at home with me. Sometimes with all their mothers. Even a few of my mothers-in-law. I love them too. I have a big, beautiful family. “
The preparation for a large family came from the eldest of eight brothers and sisters. Just like the pursuit of greatness. He remembers: ‘The house was always full. Some nights when everyone was home and two of my sisters brought their children, there was no bed for me and I had to sleep outside in the back of our old car. As the oldest, I was given the majority of the tasks, and I took care of the others. “
Wilder wanted to become an NFL player before boxing in his teens
The 34-year-old stayed during his career in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama, whose legendary college football team champion, the Crimson Tide, which Wilder dreamed of playing for. Poor high school grades partly contributed to that ambition and he had to go to a tough community school “where they fooled my old, discarded clothing and worn shoes, so I went boxing.”
There was also a more urgent need to increase family income. “We always had trouble making ends meet,” he says. ‘Life from pay check to pay check. So I got a job as a server at the local IHOP. “
That is an abbreviation for the fast food chain of the International House Of Pancakes and Wilder adds: ‘I used to make pretty good tips. I have always kept my station spotless. At first people thought I should be a basketball or football player and talked to me about sport. Then they wouldn’t sit at a table other than mine and they would tell me very personal things about their lives.
“They clung to me for some reason. It became as if I still had a large family. My mother gave me my social skills. She loved to talk to people and just like her I am happy to meet people. I don’t think I’m better than anyone, because I’m the world champion and I have millions in the bank. I am a people person and I do not let anyone take the real life away from me. No one.’
Wilder says he uses his fame to raise awareness of racism in South America
Wilder believes that the police are not doing enough to punish people found guilty of racism
Certainly not against the racists against whom Wilder, like almost all African-Americans here in the deep south, is still fighting.
“The battle continues,” says Wilder. ‘It is still alive, just as real as in the day of the’ Million Man March ‘. It is terrible that it is now more public. What used to happen in the dark now continues in the light. We can see videos of racist remarks and actions so far, although the evidence is clear, those people are not found guilty.
‘I’m black and famous, so I use my platform to bring things out. When those moments come I give everything to it. I have not changed over the years because of my success. Same walk. The same conversation. Some people may not like it, but they must respect it.
“Other people don’t know what black people have to endure. They don’t have to live with hate every day. They don’t see the eyes of prejudice staring into the face. As they say, walk in my shoes. Then you may understand what I have experienced. What it feels like to be called a certain word or to witness brutality by the police.
Wilder has admitted that he could ‘lash out’ and use violence to help someone in difficulty
“If I see a bad situation, my size and presence are usually enough to stop it. But I often wonder what I would do if a terrible act against someone who is vulnerable is continued. I know what damage I am capable of. But I cannot promise that I would become deaf and walk away. I cannot promise that I would not help that person. I can’t promise I would never play. “
Tuscaloosa is the place where the first black girl admitted to a segregated southern university, Autherine Lucy, was denied access until American marshals forced the famous governor of Alabama, George Wallace, to give up the blocking of the main entrance. Now it’s Wilder’s retreat from such dark realities – there’s a sign on his gym wall that says “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“I love this place,” he explains. ‘Everyone talks about how they like to come home. But it is all the better if you come to the place where you have always been home. Where you were born. “
That brings him back to Fury, who has suddenly changed his trainer from the defensive Ben Davison to the attacking cousin of the great Emanuel Steward, Javan “SugarHill” Steward.
The heavy weight says that he would never change his trainer like Fury has done several times
To which Wilder says: ‘I would not change my trainer (Jay Deas) more than where I live. Why would I want to move to New York, Los Angeles or Miami when I have a rest here?
“I’m a house boy. I like being surrounded by family, but I also like to be home alone sometimes. Meditate. Training my brain to solve problems, which is just as important to me as training my body. “That remarkably slender body for a heavyweight with which he can throw those knockout punches at irresistible speed.
Fury insists on knocking out for a second round in Las Vegas next Saturday for fear of being robbed a second time, as he sees it. That draw, achieved by him somehow semi-aware of a final round flattening, enabled Wilder to retain his WBC title.
Wilder says that Fury is “crazy” when he tries to come forward next Saturday and trade with him
He says: ‘If Tyson comes to me, he is really crazy. People say I can’t box on the back foot, but most of my knockouts have been inflicted after I’ve been on the back foot. “
The structure has been more respectful so far and Wilder says: ‘That is how it should be. We have shared our energy in the ring and Tyson has felt the wrath of my power. The myth of that power is always in the mind of all my enemies. They always wonder: what happens to me when he hits me?
“If I had been beaten unconscious like I had beaten Tyson unconscious in our first fight, I would certainly think of that. I know it concerns him and his family. I have seen videos of those who say they do not want him to do this again. The fact that you do not see people does not mean that we do not look. We have our spies all over the world. My CIA. Even the birds talk. “
Wilder talks a lot about energy, but he saves it for his big fights in the ring and against racist abuse outside. Talking about the third man in the heavyweight championship world championships, Anthony Joshua, is forbidden in this camp because Wilder is convinced that the Brit will never take the risk of fighting him.
Yet I press him to summarize his thoughts about Joshua in one word. He says, “Coward.” And a word for Fury, please. He pauses, gives me a copy of a signed children’s comic book about his life, and then smiles as he says, “Amen.”
Wilder is convinced that the punches with which he hit Fury are in the back of the Gypsy King