NEW YORK (AP) — Deontay Wilder still has big plans and a bigger right hand, just like when he was heavyweight champion.
He wants to be that again, though he doesn’t have much time. Wilder turns 37 next week and said he only intends to fight until he’s 40.
“I only want three years left up in this business,” Wilder said, “and I’m ready to fight the best and I’m willing, able and ready to do whatever I’ve got to do to make it back to the top.”
His climb starts Saturday when he returns from consecutive losses to Tyson Fury to fight Robert Helenius at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Should Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs) win, another title shot could come quickly. The fearsome power he displayed during his five-year reign as WBC champion — and even during the back-and-forth second defeat to Fury after he’d lost the belt — always makes him a fighter worth watching.
“When I’m in the arena, or when I’m in a fight, you know I keep people on the edge of their seats because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Wilder said. “But when it happens baby, bam, good night.”
That hasn’t happened in almost three years. Fury took the title in a rout in February 2020 and got up from two knockdowns to retain it by knocking Wilder out in the 11th round of their third fight a year ago.
A victory over Helenius (31-3, 20 KOs) in the Fox Sports pay-per-view would not only be Wilder’s first since stopping Luis Ortiz in November 2019, but could put him in the running to face three-division champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Yet he doesn’t sound motivated by titles, having defended his 10 times.
“This phase of my career is having fun,” Wilder said. “I’m soaking in my happiness and peace and it’s all about fun.”
A title would be a big deal to Helenius, the 6-foot-6 Finnish fighter who had the look of a journeyman for much of his career before a pair of knockout victories over Adam Kownacki, the latter on the undercard of Fury-Wilder III.
“I’ve been struggling to get here a long time and I’ve been doing everything in my power to win this fight, so I’m going to be my best,” Helenius said.
The two have sparred before and are friendly, leaving the buildup to this bout without the harsh words that Wilder usually spouted before recent fights. The tough talk has fallen to former super middleweight champions Caleb Plant and Anthony Dirrell, who top the undercard for the promotion.
Perhaps Wilder was humbled by his defeats and no longer brags as big as he hits. Or, maybe, nearing the end of a career that has earned him a fortune and a statue back home in Alabama, he lacks the inner rage of an up-and-comer.
“My fire is still lit, I can say that,” Wilder said. “I’ve been so successful in this business, especially financially, where I don’t need this no more, you know what I mean, and it’s a great feeling to be on the other side of the grass.”
He’s ended all four of his fights in Brooklyn by knockout and is expected to win Saturday, though Helenius won as an underdog at Barclays Center in the first fight against Kownacki.
“I wouldn’t be here if I wouldn’t believe in myself, so I think I would have found an easier job to do if I wouldn’t believe in myself,” Helenius said.
Wilder is trying not to look past him, though he knows big names are ahead if he wins. Perhaps it’s Usyk or former champion Andy Ruiz Jr., or maybe even a long-discussed fight with Anthony Joshua, which Wilder said he would want to stage in Africa.
“We’ll see what happens,” Wilder said. “The excitement is back, I’m back, and long live the heavyweight division.”
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