Deontay Leshun Wilder is an American professional boxer. He held the WBC heavyweight title from 2015 to February 2020, and in doing so became the first American world heavyweight champion in nine years, which was the longest period of time in boxing history without an American heavyweight champion. As of February 2020, he is ranked as the world’s second-best active heavyweight by BoxRec, third by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and fourth by The Ring magazine.
Wilder started boxing in October 2005, when he entered Skyy Boxing Gym in Northport, Alabama, and began training under Jay Deas. Wilder was 20 at that time. By 2007, he upset the favorites to win both the National Golden Gloves and the US championships at 201 lb. At the Golden Gloves, he defeated highly touted cadet world champion Isiah Thomas, a southpaw from Detroit, and David Thompson, of Brooklyn, in the finals.
Wilder made his professional debut at the age of 23 on November 15, 2008, at the Vanderbilt University Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee. He faced Ethan Cox, winning by second-round technical knockout after knocking Cox down three times. Wilder fought seven times in 2009, winning all the fights in round one. By October 2012, Wilder racked up a 25-fight win streak, winning all by knockout and all within four rounds.
Rise up the ranks
On April 3, 2013, Golden Boy Promotions announced that Wilder would fight former European heavyweight champion and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, his UK debut, on April 27. Harrison was coming into this fight looking to rebuild after winning the prizefighter heavyweight tournament two months earlier. The card, which was being shown live on Showtime in USA, was headlined by Amir Khan’s return in the UK against Julio Díaz. Harrison stated that he would retire if he lost.
WBC heavyweight champion
Wilder vs. Stiverne: On January 17, 2015, billed as Return to Glory, Wilder fought Stiverne at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for the WBC heavyweight title. Wilder became the first American heavyweight world champion since Hasim Rahman by defeating Stiverne by a unanimous decision after twelve rounds. The judges scored it 118–109, 119–108, and 120–107. Stiverne landed 110 of 327 punches with Wilder landing 227 of 621 punches.
Wilder vs. Molina: On May 8, 2015, Wilder announced that he would make his first defense in his home state of Alabama, which would be the first heavyweight title fight held in the state. Wilder last fought in Alabama in 2012. Showtime confirmed they would televise the bout live on June 13 at Bartow Arena, Birmingham, Alabama.
Wilder vs. Duhaupas: In August 2015, it was announced that Wilder would make his second defense against WBC 12 Johann Duhaupas on September 26 at the Legacy Arena, Alabama. In front of a hometown crowd of 8,471 in attendance, Wilder beat Duhaupas by TKO in the eleventh round. Duhaupas, who was battered and bloodied, claimed he still had plenty of fight left when referee Jack Reiss waved off his brave challenge. Duhaupas had never been stopped before in his career inside the distance.
Wilder vs. Szpilka: In December 2015, Showtime confirmed that terms had been agreed for Wilder to defend his WBC title against Polish boxer Artur Szpilka on January 16, 2016, at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York, where the winner would be scheduled to fight WBC mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin. A crowd of 12,668 mostly pro-Polish fans was announced.
Wilder’s first child, a daughter with ex-girlfriend Helen Duncan, was born in 2005 with spina bifida. Wilder also has two other daughters and one son with Jessica Scales-Wilder, whom he married in 2009 and later divorced Wilder is currently engaged to and has a child with Telli Swift and has been featured on the reality television show, WAGS Atlanta.
Wilder graduated from Tuscaloosa Central High School in 2004 and dreamed of playing football or basketball for his hometown Alabama Crimson Tide, but the birth of his oldest daughter and poor grades caused him to attend nearby Shelton State Community College and to focus on a boxing career. Wilder later revealed that during this time, he struggled with depression and had briefly contemplated suicide via gunshot.