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'I want a body on my record': Deontay Wilder's comments are a disgrace, but we the boxing public are to blame

WBC Heavyweight boxing champion Deontay Wilder poses for a portrait at Gleason's Gym
Fighting talk: WBC Heavyweight boxing champion Deontay Wilder poses for a portrait at Gleason's Gym Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

"His life is on the line for this fight and I do mean his life. I am still trying to get me a body on my record. Dominic Breazeale asked for this. This is the only sport where you can kill a man and get paid for it at the same time. It's legal. So why not use my right to do so?”

When you read Deontay Wilder’s comments ahead of his WBC heavyweight title defence against Dominic Breazeale in New York on Saturday, what do you feel? 

Disgust, I would imagine, revulsion at one human being declaring he wants to kill another human being purely because he is allowed to in the name of his sport. 

But then, perhaps these statements elicit nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and a bored yawn. After all, we have heard it all before. Indeed, from Wilder, himself. 

He first said “I want a body on my record” last year and seemed to express grief that his CV did not already contain a corpse. “I thought I had one with Artur Szpilka [the Polish fighter in 2016] because he wasn't breathing when he hit the canvas,” he said. “Someone gotta go.”

Rival: Deontay Wilder with Tyson Fury Credit: PA

If only this were Wilder’s exclusive catchphrase. Alas, history is littered with boxers threatening to rob rivals of existence. Sometimes it is expressed in the fashion of David Haye who, in the build-up to his bout with Wladimir Klitschko, so subtly wore a T-shirt showing the Ukrainian decapitated. At other times, they go a stop short of actual death. 

Last month, Paulie Malignaggi, the former welterweight champion who has worked for Sky Sports and the BBC and, I’m reliably informed, is “much respected”, vowed to place Artem Lobov into a “coma” in their upcoming bare-knuckle match. Which is quite quaint in comparison to the Bronze Bomber. 

Wilder’s words are such a disgrace on so many levels there is no point in employing righteous condemnation, even if it would make one feel virtuous for a while. It is far more humbling to analyse the mechanics behind this outburst and understand why exactly nothing will come of it.

David Haye's Klitschko decapitation shirt Credit: Reuters

Showtime, which is broadcasting the Brooklyn bout, issued a press release containing Wilder’s quotes from Tuesday’s media session, but, holy moly, someone in their marketing division forgot to include the “killing” bits. It was a bad day for Showtime all round as it also slipped its mind to condemn Wilder. 

In truth, Wilder knew what he was doing, so did Showtime and so, too, did Eddie Hearn, the British promoter, who at least tried to keep a straight face when saying “this is bad for boxing”. This is part of selling the fight and boy, does this fight does need selling. Wilder-Breazeale is not even par-per-view in the UK and there are brief skirmishes down the Nag’s Head they charge you for nowadays. 

It is billed as the start of a trilogy of those main heavyweight contenders fighting anybody but each other and other wannabes such as Dillian Whyte attempting to be heard above the hype with their own vile smears. We can also look forward to the authorities doing nothing about it whatsoever. The initials brigade - WBC, WBA, IBF, ETC - are in it for themselves and governing bodies such as the British Board of Boxing Control are so toothless they should be in charge of gurning. 

This brings us on to the people who are truly to blame - you, me and the rest of the watching public. Dig a little deeper into your emotions regarding the Wilder taunts and underneath the repugnance, you may discover the titillation and intrigue that will slowly build into a fever climaxing with that frenzied press of the remote on a Saturday night.

Boxing is a business and if nobody turned up, paid up or tuned in and it was clear the grotesque predictions and insults were to blame they would stop overnight. 

Except one day, one of these idiots like Wilder will promise a tragedy in a ring and, because of chance, that is exactly what will come to pass. “I didn’t mean it!” the baddest man on the planet will cry. And no, no-one else will have meant it either.