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Wilder declares he's next heavyweight champion


Jerimiah Short, Dispatch Sports Correspondent



An Olympic bronze medalist will compete next month in Columbus. 


Deontay "Bronze Bomber" Wilder, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound heavyweight, will fight in the main event at 7 p.m. March 6 at the Trotter Convention Center. 


Wilder, 23, who has achieved success as a boxer despite being fairly new to the sport, began his athletic career as a basketball player. His hope was to play for the University of Alabama. 


But after his daughter, Naieya, was born with spina bifida, a developmental birth defect that results in an incompletely formed spinal cord, Wilder decided to give boxing a try. 


"He didn''t come in the gym with an attitude," said Jay Deas, a veteran coach who works with Wilder. "He came in and said, ''What do I need to do to be great? That''s all I wanted to hear." 


Wilder was a quick study to the sport, as with all the other sports -- football, basketball, baseball, and track and field -- he played at Tuscaloosa Central High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. 


"Each sport had their way of getting a person conditioned for different things," Wilder said. "I think just being an athlete prepared me. A lot of people are blessed with talent and waste it. I never looked for trouble, but trouble always found me, and I was always good with my hands. People say fighting don''t solve anything, but, in my case, sometimes it does." 


Wilder participated in his first Golden Gloves amateur boxing competition a month after he picked up the gloves and was successful. He won the Golden Gloves Championship in 2007 with minimal experience. 


The United States Olympic committee noticed his talents and invited him to try out for the Olympics in Beijing, China, and Wilder earned a spot on the U.S. team. 


Wilder was the only U.S. boxer to medal in Beijing. 


"Once you have been in the Olympics, you''re used to getting interviewed and having cameras in your face and people wanting to take your picture," Wilder said. "I got used to big crowds. I love a crowd and love to perform." 


Wilder decided to turn pro after the Olympics and took on the management team of Shelly Finkel and Deas. His team decided to bring in former Olympic gold medalist Mark Breland to train Wilder. He also has former champion Oscar De La Hoya and his Golden Boy Promotions behind him. 


"I always wore their stuff," Wilder said. "I didn''t know how it was going to go after the Olympics, or who was going to want to get me with my experience. I put everything in God''s hands. I got a No. 1  promoter and good managers.." 


Wilder is 1-0 as a professional after a second-round knockout of Ethan Cox on the undercard of the Jermaine Taylor-Jeff Lacy main event Nov. 15, 2008. 


Wilder''s win was so impressive his highlights were shown during the HBO telecast of the main event. 


The victory takes Wilder to his second professional bout, where he will face Shannon Gray in his first main event. 


"Only thing I want to say is I''m next heavyweight champ of the world," Wilder said. 


Wilder very well might be the next heavyweight champ of the world. Finkel is grooming Wilder to be the next heavyweight champ after his other clients the Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, retire in a few years. The thinking is Wilder will be more polished by then and will be ready to be the new face of heavyweight boxing. 


Golden Boy Promotions gave Wilder permission to fight in a smaller setting like Columbus. Alabama does not have a boxing commission, so Columbus was a prime candidate for the fight, especially after it received a $10,000 grant to promote the fight. 


"We told Golden Boy we were in a unique position where they did not have to fly Deontay out to the West Coast to fight," Deas said. "He could fight locally and build a fanbase around here." 


The undercard will feature local fighters Billy Cunningham, Shannon Miller, and Demetris "Big Worm" Nichols. 


Tickets are available at Miller''s Gym, with prices ranging from $25 to $30. 


For more information, call 662-364-3443.



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