Much of Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder’s motivation as a professional boxer is drawn from his admiration for his 7-year-old daughter, Naieya, whose motor skills and learning ability belie the fact that she was born with the congenital disorder spina bifida.
But when the unbeaten Wilder steps into the ring for Saturday night’s clash of 6-foot-7 unbeaten boxers against Kelvin Price, 37, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, he will also do it in honor of the late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel “Manny” Steward.
Before his death in October at the age of 68, Steward had called Wilder “No. 1…among the American heavyweights,” as well as “the best heavyweight prospect for winning the heavyweight title.”
Wilder celebrated his 27th birthday on Oct. 22 in Austria, while spending time as the primary sparring partner for RING, IBF, WBA and WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko — who was trained by Steward — in advance of Klitscko’s unanimous-decision victory over Mariusz Wach last month.
A 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, Wilder’s participation was critical for the 6-6 Klitschko, whose stoppage of 6-7 1/2 Wach marked his 17th-straight win during a run that has included 12 knockouts.
A knockout artist in his own right, Wilder will be after his 26th stoppage in as many wins without a loss opposite Price (13-0, 6 KOs), of Pensacola, Fla., in a bout that will happen on the Showtime-televised undercard to a main event featuring former IBF and WBA junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan against Carlos Molina.
Wilder spoke to RingTV.com following an open workout on Tuesday at Ponce de Leon’s Gym in Los Angeles regarding Price, Steward and his family, including his daughter Ava, 2, son Dereon, 1, and his wife, Jessica Scales Wilder in this Q&A.
Deontay Wilder: Oh, it was great. Real good. Lots of fans. A lot of fans came out and watched me do my thing with other fighters.
So Saturday is really going to be a great show. It’s going to be a really great show, man. I’m fighting for the WBC Continental title.
RingTV.com: How difficult a fight do you believe this will be?
DW: Showtime asked me that, and so did some other reporters. They asked me if this was going to be my toughest fight, and tell I’ll you, I don’t think that this is going to be my toughest opponent.
But I do believe that Kelvin is going to come to fight. He’s going to come to definitely go to war with me, because he has so much on the line on this fight. So do I.
RingTV.com: What do you feel are your advantages?
DW: Well, I do feel that this is going to be the biggest fight that he’s ever been in. This is going to be more of too much pressure for him in his career.
I say that because this is going to be not only the biggest fight that he’s ever been in, but also, the biggest venue that he’s ever been in, and the largest capacity of a crowd that he’s been in front of.
Plus, you’ve got a title belt on the line, so this is the biggest competitive atmosphere that he’s ever been in. He’s not experienced enough to deal with all of those different things that he’s going to have to endure.
Come Saturday, I think that mentally, his mind is going to be in so many different places compared to me.
RingTV.com: How will your past experiences help you?
DW: I’ve been in the big venues, and I’ve been among all of the people, and I’ve been around a lot of different situations.
The only thing I haven’t done is fight for a title, and that’s nothing compare to where I’ve been. Because, many thousands of people have tried to make it to the Olympics, and I did it in a year or a year and a half.
The thing is, I went there and I won a Bronze medal and all of that. So I’m ready for anything, and, plus, I love all of the attention. So mentally and physically, I’m ready.
RingTV.com: How much will Manny Steward be on your mind?
DW: Everything will be a dedication to Manny, man, because he was one of those knowledgeable people that everybody respected, and he’s the one that put Deontay Wilder’s name out there.
Manny is the one who was saying that I’m the best American heavyweight. That really touched me, and that really meant a lot.
Because he’s one of the most respected trainers of all time, and one of the most respected guys in boxing. So for him to publicly say that, I mean, he is the one who put it out there.
I mean, people are still talking about that. So, this is just something that let me know, more and more, that not only my team believes it, but everybody around me believes it.
We’ve got Emanuel Steward, one of the best trainers around and one of the best trainers ever having confidence in me. By him passing on, I’m definitely, 100 percent willing to not let what he said about me go in vain.
I’ve definitely got to get it. I’ve definitely got to become the next American heavyweight champion of the world. It’s already been written for me to do it.
I tell people that all of the time, and I’m going to say it on Saturday night after I win this belt. I’ll be giving God the glory,
RingTV.com: Can you discuss how your daughter, Naieya, has served as motivation?
DW: My daughter’s name is Naieya Wilder, and she’s 7 years old right now and one of the smartest little girls in her class. She was born with Spina Bifida.
A lot of kids that are born with the condition of spina bifida are paralyzed from waist down. You have a hole in your spine, and fluid runs up to your head, and stuff like that.
She has a shunt in her head right now which drains the fluid that builds up to her head. But basically, a lot of kids who have the disorder are in wheelchairs.
The doctors said that she would never be able to walk and to ever have a natural childhood ability to learn. But there are several different cases of spina bifida, and if God has something for you, then it’s for you.
Can’t nobody take that away from you. No doctor. I don’t care how long he’s gone to school to learn his craft, or whatever. God has the last say-so on everything.
RingTV.com: How is Naieya doing?
DW: You can never tell from my daughter that she has anything going on. Not only is she walking, but she’s running, she’s flipping, and there’s no limitations to what she can do.
She’s just like her father, man, just like me. There is no limitation to what she can do. If you tell me I can’t do it, then I’m going to do it. I’ll definitely try to prove you wrong. But all of my kids are my motivation.
RingTV.com: Is there anything else that you want to say?
DW: I just feel like I’ve said enough, and I’ve been talking for four years. But not only is it time, but it’s Showtime, and it’s D-time.
Come Saturday, I’m going to show to people why we have stuck to the game plan coming up. We didn’t let nobody rush me in my career, and now, it’s D-time, you know?
I’m a much more polished fighter. So if you ain’t on the boat now, and you ain’t on the bomb squad, then, you better get on it.
Photo courtesy of Deontay Wilder
Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photo courtesy of Deontay Wilder
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org