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Is An 'Empire' Worth The Risk?

Deontay Wilder, left, is the current WBC heavyweight champion and won a bronze medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. (Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
Deontay Wilder, left, is the current WBC heavyweight champion and won a bronze medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. (Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
This article is more than 7 years old.

WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder told Only A Game this week that he never wanted to be a boxer.

"I remember being 12 years old, and I looked in the sky and I said, ‘God, I don’t want to fight no more. I’m tired of fighting. I know what I want to do in my life, and fighting’s not going to get me there.'"

Listen to Deontay Wilder's story about why he chose a career in boxing.

Now you’ve become acquainted — or at least a little acquainted — with Deontay Wilder, and I know him a little, too, because he was willing to fit into his training a visit to radio studio in Alabama.

And I like him. So I wish him well. But I’m not confident that my wishes will count for much.

Deontay Wilder has been exceptionally successful. His record as a professional is 35-0, and he’s won 34 of those fights via knockout. This means that through a combination of talent, training and the careful choosing of opponents critical to the advancement of any boxer, Deontay Wilder has built a reputation as the sort of fighter people will pay to see.

But boxing has never been kind to the fighters, even the ones fans pay to see. It has never been fair.

The sport has always been riddled with corruption, much of it perpetrated by promoters who shamelessly contend that they have only the best interests of the fighters in mind.

Deontay Wilder, like the most talented and fortunate fighters, has made money in the ring, so it can be argued that he’s better off than he’d have been if he’d continued to work at IHOP, or Red Lobster, or on an assembly line. But at what cost?

When we spoke, Wilder’s ambition was apparent. He said he wanted to build an “empire” — his word — for his children to enjoy. But assuming it works out that way, will Deontay Wilder be able to witness and share in that triumph?

After winning his bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, Wilder nicknamed himself “The Bronze Bomber,” partly as homage to fellow Alabaman Joe Louis, known to some as “The Brown Bomber.”

Louis ruled the heavyweight division when there was only one champion. Today, Deontay Wilder holds one of the half-dozen heavyweight titles sponsored by the various committees bickering over the right to name the real champ.

Wilder is 30 years old. He’s been boxing professionally since late 2008. Perhaps over the next little while he’ll knock out so many contenders and pretenders that he’ll be unanimously acclaimed as the sort of champion Joe Louis was. Perhaps then he’ll retire with his “empire,” as well as synapses, intact, thus avoiding the sad and addled end Joe Louis found.

If so, Deontay Wilder will have achieved something more rare than a championship in the workplace he’s chosen. I hope it works out that way. I like him.

This segment aired on January 9, 2016.


Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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