BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Deontay Wilder isn’t shy when it comes to his ambitions, or anything else for that matter.
The WBC heavyweight champion makes his first title defense Saturday night against Eric Molina at Bartow Arena on the UAB campus an hour from his hometown. Wilder is hoping it will be far from his last, unabashedly talking of his designs on unseating Wladimir Klitschko as the world’s top heavyweight; bringing that division back to prominence; and turning his college football-loving state into a boxing hotbed, too.
First things first.
“I’ve done worked too hard to get where I am, to just defend it one time and give it up,” Wilder said. “I set forth to be the undisputed heavyweight champ of the world. Many people may say they just want to be the heavyweight champ.
“I want all the belts. I’m greedy like that. I want it all. I don’t just want chicken, I want some mashed potatoes and greens.”
The gregarious Tuscaloosa native won his first 32 fights by knockout within the first four rounds before becoming the first American heavyweight to claim a piece of the title since Shannon Briggs in 2006. Wilder won a unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17, with Molina (23-2, 17 knockouts) on the undercard.
There hasn’t been a title fight in any weight class in Alabama, though the state has produced champions Evander Holyfield and Joe Louis. This one features a 6-foot-7 Wilder versus the 6-5 Texan Molina, who has won his last five fights, including three knockouts.
Wilder, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, is happy to put on a show. He and members of Molina’s camp exchanged trash talk during the prefight news conference Thursday, which also included Molina’s flamboyant promoter Don King.
“When I knock him out I’m going to tell him, ‘Welcome to Alabama,'” Wilder yelled during the feisty exchange. “You’re going to leave with a bloody mouth, nose and a black eye. Congratulations.”
Then he settled back into his calmer persona, acknowledging that’s just part of the promotion and entertainment side of boxing.
Wilder has made no secret of his designs on an eventual fight with Klitschko and wants to fight twice more in 2015. Trainer Jay Deas has tried to smother talk of future matchups this week.
“We’ve got a tough fight in front of us,” Deas said. “Eric Molina’s a big, strong, tough guy. Anybody who’s talking about Klitschko, talking about (Alexander) Povetki, talking about Tyson Fury, you may as well be talking Chinese to us, because there is none of that without Eric Molina. Eric Molina is the task at hand. He’s the guy in front of Deontay Wilder Saturday night. That’s the fight that we’re talking about.”
The 33-year-old Molina has worked for the past four years with former heavyweight Oliver McCall, who knocked out Lennox Lewis in 1997. This would be a similarly large upset.
“He’s prepped me for the moment to shock the world, like he did to Lennox Lewis,” Molina said. “I’ve dreamed about it. I’ve thought about it, way before this fight even happened, before I knew I was fighting the champion. I dreamed about it. I didn’t know who I was going to knock out, but I dreamed about it. Thought about it. It seemed so real to me in my mind.
“When we signed to fight Wilder, it just came all together in my mind. This is what I dreamed about. The whole world, everybody, has written me off.”
Molina lost in his pro debut and again to Chris Arreola in 2012, both on first-round knockouts.
Wilder has knocked out 18 opponents in the opening round. Molina said those numbers don’t change his approach.
“This fight, I’m the most confident I’ve ever been, and I’m not just saying that,” he said. “I’m confident. I know what I can do. I know that I can hurt somebody. I know that I’ve hurt many people, so I’m not questioning that coming into this fight. I can hurt this guy. I’m confident. I’m relaxed, and I’m focused. I’m ready to fight.”
Wilder, meanwhile, showcased his stamina and boxing abilities against Stiverne after being known mainly for his power and quick knockouts.
He’s adamant that trying to impress a home crowd and making his first title defense don’t faze him.
“I don’t get nervous,” Wilder said. “I don’t get butterflies, because I love this. This is when I’m my happiest. I get silly. I may dance. I may sing. This is all Deontay. This is me. I’m just a silly guy.”
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