Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) is talking a dangerous game ahead of his world heavyweight title defense against Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday night.
There's plenty of bad blood between the two boxers, who are set to fight for Wilder's WBC world title at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. It goes back a couple of years and has simmered since, but Wilder has escalated things to an irresponsible level. Here's what he had to say on Tuesday, per The Ring's Ryan Songalia:
Boxing is a dangerous, bloody sport. There's a huge amount of risk every time a fighter steps into the ring. Wilder has hurt dozens of people in his career, with 39 knockouts in 41 fights. His threats may be promotional bluster, but if something tragic were to happen in the ring or afterward, one has to wonder what he would say then.
Wilder vs. Breazeale Fight Info
When: Saturday, May 18 | main card begins 9 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
Live stream: Showtime Anytime
Odds (via Caesars): Wilder -850 (bet $850 to win $100), Breazeale +575 (bet $100 to win $575)
According to Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole, the animosity between Wilder and Breazeale stems from a confrontation in a hotel lobby in Birmingham, Alabama, in February 2017, after the pair had won their respective bouts. Per Iole, the two blame each other for the incident, and that's all it takes in a sport in which egos more than match the sizes of the fighters involved.
Breazeale is getting a second crack at a world title after losing to then-IBF champion Anthony Joshua by seventh-round stoppage in June 2016. A former college football quarterback for Northern Colorado, the 33-year-old is getting his big chances at a later age than most, but he's no less hungry.
Wilder, 33, is a knockout artist of the highest order. The Alabama native has cut down just about everyone in his path, with his only blemish being a draw against lineal champion Tyson Fury in December. Even then, the Bronze Bomber scored a vicious 12th-round knockdown that nearly won him the fight. What he lacks in technique, he makes up for with jaw-dropping power. He's also careful to limit the damage he takes.
Everything about Wilder, from his comments to his imposing size (6'7", 83-inch reach) to his KO record, seems set up to strike fear in Breazeale. The contender isn't having any of it, calling Wilder a "paperweight champion" and questioning the skill level of Wilder's competition, per Iole. Harsh words, though they pale in comparison to Wilder's.
Virgil Hunter, Breazeale's trainer for Saturday's bout, thinks Wilder has gone too far with his death threats. "He needs to really ask himself if that's what I'm all about," he said, per BBC Sport. "Is this the legacy I want to leave?"
English boxer Curtis Woodhouse has also spoken out against Wilder's rhetoric:
There are recent examples of boxers dying or coming close to death because of bouts involving fighters with far less raw power than Wilder. Longtime light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson had to be put into a medically induced coma when his brain swelled up after a knockout loss to Oleksandr Gvozdyk in December.
German boxer Eduard Gutknecht is unable to walk or talk because of a brain injury suffered during a 2016 fight against George Groves.
Wilder will likely get the win on Saturday night. That's all he should want. A victory sets him up for more title fights and bigger paydays. He doesn't need anything else.
Prediction: Wilder by middle-round KO.