By Marc Livitz: The Iron Curtain has long since fallen and although the Cold War is a thing of the past, there are few pairings within the sporting world that draw as much ire and attention as a faceoff between The United States and Russia. More than three and a half decades have flown by since "The Miracle on Ice" shocked the masses and even the memories of the Soviet Union’s blatant gift win over the Americans in basketball at the 1972 Munich Olympics can still raise the respective tempers of some. Next weekend at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, undefeated WBC heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder will find himself in a 21st Century version of the villain’s lair when he clashes with Russian slugger, Alexander Povetkin.
Wilder, (36-0, 35 KO’s) is openly embracing the chance to do what no other American heavyweight has done, which is to claim a victory over a home fighter in the former U.S.S.R. The 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medalist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama has blazed a trail through the American heavyweight ranks since he turned professional not long after returning home from China. He last showcased his astounding 97% knockout record at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York with a ninth round stoppage win over Artur Szpilka in January, nearly one year to the day after he captured the WBC title in his lone professional bout that didn’t end in a knockout.
His hard fought, twelve round unanimous decision win over Bermane Stiverne more than proved that he had the skill and talent to go the distance if need be and he is prepared to do so on May 21st, provided a knockout doesn’t come first. Wilder is in no way taking his challenge with not only Povetkin but against a possibly hostile foreign crowd lightly. His opponent from Checkhov, Russia holds but one defeat on his fighting ledger, a lopsided October, 2013 decision loss to then champion, Wladimir Klitschko.
The kind and cordial champion from the land of the Crimson Tide took time out from his training camp in Sheffield, England to discuss his views and expectations for his upcoming bout with Povetkin (30-1, 22 KO’s) to take part in an international media conference call on Wednesday afternoon.
Selected Highlights (some edited for brevity) Listed Below:
Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Promotions: "Deontay has been in Sheffield training to get adjusted to European time and he’ll be headed to Moscow shortly. Camp has been great and he has the perfect attitude. We’ll be looking like "Rocky" versus Drago in Povetkin over there. He’s never been as fired up for a fight and so, we’ll be prepared for whatever’s in front of him in the ring. We’re anticipating that this will be televised on Showtime as well. I’m confident that once we get to Moscow that communication will be a bit more open than it has been so far. The WBC has been great about getting everything in line and getting all of the logistics in order.”
Opening Statements, Deontay Wilder: "I am super excited about coming to Moscow to defend my title. Every time I have a big stage is an even bigger moment. I’ll be the first American ever to defend his title in Russia . The heavyweight division is definitely back and well and I look forward to building my legacy in Russia . My goal is to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Nothing will stop me from becoming who I intend to be. I’m ready. I was ready a week ago. The waiting is always the hard part, especially when you’re emotionally, physically and spiritually ready. I’m looking forward to everyone tuning in.”
Wilder’s Initial Thoughts on Fighting in Moscow: "Let’s go, let’s pack our bags and go. I know that everything’s not going to go our way. This brings more pressure on him. He’ll be fighting in front of his President and his country. Ali didn’t even do anything like this. I’m looking to set the tone for the up and coming guys. Being the heavyweight champion of the world means defending my title all over the world. My mind is focused on this fight. My job is go over there, get in the ring and whip his ass."
His Thoughts on Povetkin: "I don’t much about him and I haven’t scouted him too much. As a person, I think he’s a great guy. In the ring, we’ll see what type of guy he is. Styles make fights and it doesn’t matter how he’s done in other fights. It doesn’t matter because I’m able to adjust. It will be an exciting fight while it lasts.”
"He has the amateur experience and you can’t look past that. Most of all, he has heart and he’s determined. He’s facing a guy who’s known for breaking people and putting them in the hospital. I’m coming to Russia as if I’m Russian myself. I adapt not only to the fighter, but the crowd also.”
On Facing a Pro-Povetkin Crowd and Possible Unfriendly Ring Tactics: “Not everyone is going to cheer for you, but that’s okay. I like it. I love being the one everyone is going to hate. I’ve always had to prove people wrong. This is just another life lesson. I have to prove some more people wrong. I am just so excited for this fight. I’ve fought in Russia before and I know how to handle myself. When you are in that ring, it’s all about you. It doesn’t matter how much money gets put into the promotion or around the fighter.”
“I am prepared for anything that comes my way. I’m not worried about the clinching and the grappling. It’s time now for me to bring something completely new to the table. I not only want to be a great heavyweight, but a fan’s heavyweight, too. The best is yet to come. I’m not even in my prime yet and that’s scary.”
Deontay’s Hopes of Unifying the Heavyweight Divison: "I don’t think that will be impossible. It’s confusing enough with all the different belts. It’s confusing to fans and it’s sometimes confusing to me. We need one belt and one face and that’s Deontay Wilder. I don’t believe in fighting just once or twice a year. I like fighting four times a year if possible. You line ‘em up and I take ‘em down. You know the rest."
“This is the heavyweight division. We speak to the public through knockouts. I’m always looking for the knockout. That’s why I’m the most exciting heavyweight in the world. We know the knockout is coming, we just don’t know when. You have to be on the edge of your seat.”
Predictions and Final Thoughts: "I’m no Ali. I’m not good at predictions. I’m just looking forward to a great fight.”
“I’m definitely that chosen one. I really believe what I say and when I speak, people listen. You have to travel out of your element to see how good you really are. I can’t just fight at home. I like to get out of my comfort zone to see how well I perform outside of home.”
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May 11, 2016