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Wilder’s first title defense set with Molina in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Deontay Wilder is staying close to home for his first defense of the WBC heavyweight title.

Wilder will fight Texan Eric Molina on June 13 at UAB’s Bartow Arena, about an hour from his Tuscaloosa hometown. It will be the first title fight held in Alabama, a state that has produced past champions Evander Holyfield (Atmore) and Joe Louis (Lafayette).

The 12-round bout was announced on Friday and will be televised by Showtime.

“This is the first championship boxing event ever in the state of Alabama, and I love making history,” Wilder said in a news conference at the arena. “I love putting on for my people, my family. I can’t wait. It’s going to be a great fight. I’ve got a great opponent (who’s) got a great opportunity to become the heavyweight champion of the world himself.

“But I can’t let that happen. As for now, it’s just going to only be an opportunity.

It’s the 6-foot-7 Wilder’s first fight in Alabama since a 2012 bout in Mobile. He has also had four pro fights in his hometown.

Wilder is 33-0 with the only fight that went the distance his unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17 for the WBC crown. He is the first unbeaten American to own a piece of the heavyweight title since Michael Moorer in 1994.

Much of the talk still swirls around a potential fight down the road between Wilder and Wladimir Klitschko to unify the title.

Wilder and Jay Deas, his manager and co-trainer, said that won’t be a distraction from the upcoming fight.

“There’s two kinds of champions, the ones that become champions and they just kind of get complacent, and then the ones that become champions and then just basically it’s like the first bite of a steak when you’re starving,” Deas said.

“That’s the kind of person I think Deontay is. He’s excited about seeing how far he can go with it.”

Deas said Montreal, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Tuscaloosa and Biloxi, Mississippi were among the other cities most interested in hosting the fight.

The 6-5 Molina is 23-2 with 17 knockouts and five straight victories, including three KOs in a row.

The two fighters didn’t wait for weigh-in to begin a little trash-talking while also complimenting each other as boxers.

“I feel that he picked the wrong heavyweight,” Molina said via Skype. “What I’m coming in to Alabama with on June 13 is going to be way more than he could ever expect. What I’m coming with to Alabama, you cannot see in any video. You see a contender in me who has been counted out and who has come back somehow. You see a contender in me that has been down.

“He’s never been down before but he’ll know how it feels to go down.”

Molina said he couldn’t travel for the announcement because he was training.

Wilder took issue with the inference that he hadn’t struggled.

“I can’t allow no man to come in here and take what I’ve earned,” he said, his voice rising. “No matter where you’re from, no matter how hard you may train — and I’m glad you’re training because I don’t want to hear any excuses. You’re not coming to my backyard and about to take anything off from my kids’ plate.

“I’ve worked too hard to get to this position.”

The undercard will include Jose Pedraza (19-0) of Puerto Rico against Russian Andrey Klimov (19-1) for the vacant IBF Junior Lightweight championship.

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