What a difference a one-punch knockout makes. After making impressively short work of Dominic Breazeale on Saturday to retain the WBC heavyweight title, Deontay Wilder sharply shifted from talk about a getting “a body” on his record to proclamations of “love” for his opponent.
Wilder may well have expelled all his bad intentions in that single, vicious right hand, which dropped Breazeale just over two minutes into the fight. The display of power had Breazeale complaining that he was counted out too soon, while boxing fans clamored for Wilder to take on Anthony Joshua in a heavyweight unification bout.
After the fight ended, Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) embraced Breazeale (20-2) and they shared a few words. Asked in the ring what he said to his opponent, Wilder replied: “I just told Breazeale — I told him I love him, and, of course, I want to see him go home to his family.
“I know we say some things that we mean sometimes, but then when you get into a fight and you settle your differences as men … this is what this sport is all about. And you can come the next man and hug him and kiss him and say, ‘Thank you so much,’ instead of other things — I wish the world was like that."
That was a far cry from what Wilder previously said about Breazeale, with whom he briefly tangled in an Alabama hotel in 2017 after each fought a different opponent on the same card that evening.
“His life is on the line for this fight, and I do mean his life,” Wilder said of Breazeale in the run-up to Saturday’s fight at Barclays Center. “I’m still trying to get me a body on my record.”
“This is the only sport where you can kill a man and get paid for it at the same time,” the 33-year-old added. “It’s legal, so why not use my right to do so?”
Breazeale dismissed those comments, and others of a similar nature from Wilder, as just “some crazy stuff,” saying, “I don’t think he means it.” But the talk of wanting “a body on my record” was too much for World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman, who said in a statement posted to Twitter that while Wilder “is not the person he portrays in such comments,” they were “regrettable and completely against the spirit of our sport.”
“His metaphors are against the WBC code of ethics and will be addressed in a hearing,” Sulaiman wrote in the tweet.
Sulaiman, though, may have been pleased by Wilder’s performance Saturday, which could well vault the WBC champion to new heights of notoriety. That, in turn, could increase expected revenue from a fight with Joshua, the undefeated WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion, to the point where his camp and that of Wilder may finally work past the structural differences over such an encounter that have thus far gotten in the way.
Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs), who gave Breazeale his only other defeat in 2016, is set to take on Andy Ruiz Jr. (32-1, 21 KOs) on June 1 at Madison Square Garden. If Joshua can’t come to an agreement with Wilder soon after that, Wilder may look for a possible rematch with Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs), who fought him to a draw in December.
“The rematch will happen, like all these other fights will happen,” Wilder said Saturday. “The great thing is all these fights are in discussion. The big fights will happen.”
Breazeale promised to be “back [to] go for the heavyweight title again,” and he claimed he should have been allowed to extend Saturday’s fight.
“I think the ref stopped it a little early, because I could hear him saying ‘seven’ and ‘eight’, but that’s boxing,” Breazeale said. “He did his job and kept us safe for our next fight.
“I got on my feet and had my legs under me. It’s the heavyweight division, so there’s going to big shots from guys with power,” he continued. “This was a situation where he landed the big right hand before I did. I thought I was going to come on in the later rounds.”
Said Wilder: “Everything just came out of me tonight. I know it’s been a big buildup to this fight, there’s been a lot of animosity, a lot of chaos, a lot of hatred against each other. It was a lot of words that were said, and it just came out tonight. This is what makes boxing so great.”