Olympic boxer Wilder headlines pro bout in Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)
Heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder has fought in Beijing and domestic locales like Chicago and Cincinnati.
Now, the Tuscaloosa native finally gets to fight in his hometown, at the junior college he once attended, a couple of blocks from where he lives. The 6-foot-7 Olympic bronze medalist highlights the first state-sanctioned professional boxing event in Alabama Saturday night at Shelton State Community College.
''I can walk to the ring,'' Wilder said. ''The only thing that's holding me up is the gate. I'm right there. I'm excited. The people are excited.''
The state's first licensed pro fighter, he helped lobby the Legislature to create the Alabama Athletic Commission, using his pull as the only U.S. boxer to medal at the Beijing Olympics.
The short-term result is Saturday night's main event against Deandrey Abron of Youngstown, Ohio. Wilder has won all 14 of his pro bouts by knockout, while Abron is 15-6 with 10 KOs.
They'll fight after five undercard bouts. The night will feature several in-state products and Alabama judges and officials. Wilder & Co. are hoping it's just the beginning.
''It's our turn,'' said Jay Deas, Wilder's coach and president of Skyy Promotions. ''It's our time, and we're excited about that.''
Deas, the state's first licensed promoter, said Friday that ticket sales will be capped at 2,000 and that all 500 on the floor level are sold out. To them, the fight is much bigger than the venue.
''This is huge,'' Deas said at his gym in suburban Tuscaloosa during a recent Wilder workout. ''This is what we've been working on for a long, long time. It's just fantastic that it's finally come to fruition.''
It took awhile. Deas said the state hosted some 50 pro bouts from 1999-2005 using officials from states like Mississippi and Tennessee, while Alabama was one of four states without a commission to sanction fights.
He said after that the other states said they no longer wanted to hold fights where there's no sanctioning body. Deas started lobbying for one in Alabama.
Coincidentally, it was a punch that might have kept the issue from coming to a vote in the Legislature in 2007. That's when Republican Sen. Charles Bishop slugged Democratic leader Lowell Barron on the Senate floor on the final day of the session.
Deas said the commission was next on the agenda.
''When one of them hit the other one, everything shut down,'' he said.
Having an Olympic medalist pushing the agenda didn't hurt in the end. It was important to Wilder to be able to fight at home.
''It's the fact that the only medalist from the United States in boxing in the Beijing Olympics is not from New York, is not from Los Angeles, is not from Chicago. He's from Tuscaloosa, Ala.,'' Deas said. ''For him to be able to fight for his country but he couldn't fight in his home state was frustrating.
''And now that problem's been solved.''
Wilder said this is the first time some family members and friends will get to see him in person.
It's happening in a state where boxers like Joe Louis (Lafayette) and Evander Holyfield (Atmore) have been born.
He is hoping to follow in their footsteps someday. For now, he'll get to one-up them in one regard with his hometown, Alabama-flavored fight.
''Throughout my career, I have been making history right from the start until now,'' Wilder said. ''When it's all said and done I want to be able to have accomplished a lot of things in this sport. I'd say I'm on a good path right now.''
This fight ''means so much to me just for the simple fact that it's the first ever when we've had our legit commission,'' Wilder added. ''When we could say it's ours and not anybody else's.''