By Stan J. Griffin
Since claiming the title of WBC heavyweight boxing champion in January with a one-sided romp over Bermane Stiverne, 29-year-old Tuscaloosa native Deontay Wilder has predictably had to deal with a host of demands for his time, whether it be from the media or just various appearances around the state.
The "Bronze Bomber" has had to juggle these obligations while also trying to remain in total boxing condition and fully recuperate from a fractured hand suffered in the Stiverne fight.
Now, however, it is time to get back to serious business for Wilder (33-0 with 32 knockouts) - which means the task of defending his title for the first time.
Fortunately for the Druid City's boxing sensation, he will get the opportunity for that first title defense extremely close to home.
Wilder is set to battle 33-year-old Raymonville, Texas, fighter Eric Molina (23-2 with 17 knockouts) on June 13 inside the 8,500-seat Bartow Arena on the UAB campus.
The fight will be shown on Showtime and is tentatively scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.
Wilder, in a recent conversation at his home training base, Skyy Gym in Northport, noted that he is very much ready for his much-anticipated first official fight as world champion.
“I feel good and I am ready to get it on, and it’s been a long time coming to be able to do what we’ve been planning to do, and I am ready,” he said. “Everything feels good, with the hand, body and soul. The more people talk about (the upcoming fight), the more excited I get about it.”
The pride of Central High School said he feels elated about being able to fight in front of his home supporters, the first title bout ever to be held in Wilder’s home state.
“It means a lot, not just for Birmingham, but the state of Alabama,” said Wilder. “We had a goal and a vision to do a lot of great things (with fighting in-state being one of those priorities), and before all of this became realistic to us, we set up a plan and it feels good that everything works out as planned. Even though my title says heavyweight champion of the world, my heart still feels like a contender. It keeps me on humble ground and keeps me very hungry. I know there’s another step to this (that being his hopeful unification of the title belts in the future) and I am looking forward to it.”
He said he has much respect for his upcoming opponent.
“He has a good record, and he’s blessed with the opportunity, so hopefully he’ll take advantage of it and give my people a great show,” said Wilder. “I am definitely going to show up.”
Wilder’s manager-trainer Jay Deas said preparations leading up to the June 13 event in the Magic City have gone well.
“We are excited and I think the preparation has been going really well and camp has gone really well,” he said. “(Wilder has) been healthy and his hand is great. We have had really good sparring partners. Right now we have the 2003, 2004 and 2005 national champions come in at the same time and that wasn’t by design. We just kind of figured it out once they were here.”
Deas noted the distractions and demands that both he and the champion fighter have encountered since Wilder’s heavyweight title win in Las Vegas earlier this year.
“It’s more than you think it’s going to be, and you have to manage it and that’s the main thing,” he said. “He gets 25 to 50 requests for his time a day, but most people understand that he can’t be everywhere. I try to tell people that it’s probably a lot like what Nick Saban goes through. (Wilder) is focused anyway, and he’s self-motivated and self-focused. Our main thing is just to make sure that the work is done and that the camp goes well. We’re in that tunnel pretty far now, so we can just begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Photo: Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME