BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
As the escalator carried passengers to baggage claim Sunday at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport, he seemed to enjoy that brief moment when he didn't have to walk, didn't have to use a muscle. Deontay Wilder drew a deep breath and closed his eyes, enjoying his twenty second ride. It was then that new WBC heavyweight champion of the world grinned before a welcoming crowd, forgetting about the aches and pains that came from the most challenging night of his life. The Bronze Bomber was back home, far from the mayhem of Las Vegas and the fight that took place sixteen hours earlier.
He's only 29 years old, but with the left side of his face swollen, his ribs aching and his right hand the size of a softball, he stood tall and content as I approached. My first question to Deontay Wilder, "How are you feeling?", was answered quickly. "Great", said Wilder, even if that answer may have been a bit of a stretch. As Wilder's body ached, his personality and contentment shined through the interview as he continued to remind himself that years after driving a Budweiser delivery truck, he is indeed a world heavyweight champ.
The fight really wasn't close on Saturday night. While Wilder had never gone past four rounds in his 32 fights, Bermane Stiverne, a Haitian with a steel chin and an iron will, gave Wilder all he could handle. Still, it was clear that Wilder is the athlete, the boxer, the technician, while Stiverne is the tough guy. The Bronze Bomber proved Saturday that he can not only brawl, but box: While Wilder ruled on most cards, Stiverne did have his moments going to the body, and I asked Wilder about that on Sunday. "Stiverne is tough," said Wilder, "but I'm the better athlete, and I proved it."
What's the future hold or Wilder? It appears to be very bright, as he has rallied patriotic pride by becoming the first American heavyweight champion since 2006 and the first undefeated American heavyweight champion in twenty years. Wilder says he would love to win all of those heavyweight title belts by beating Tyson Fury and then Wladimir Klitschko. If the latter fight ever takes place, watch out, as America's boxing family could be as united and excited as when Rocky faced Drago.
On Sunday, Deontay Wilder stood patient among fans seeking his autograph, yet may have been privately wondering, "I just want to go to bed".
The swollen face? It's certainly expected after a boxer goes 12 rounds against a very tough guy. His right hand? Broken.
Even the new champ's pride would not allow credit to Stiverne. I asked him about his cheek and eye and Wilder told me that before the fight he may have contracted an eye infection, causing some swelling. And get this: Wilder tells me that he may have indeed fought Stiverne with one eye working at 100 percent. Winning a heavyweight championship with one eye working? Imagine what this man may do with two eyes at one-hundred percent? Until his next fight, here's hoping that Deontay Wilder received a bit of a reprieve from that friendly airport escalator, and that he can now hibernate for a few days back in his home town of Tuscaloosa.