As we near the return of world title heavyweight action in the United States, WBC titleholder Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) and unbeaten knockout specialist Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs) are deep in training camp for their championship showdown on Showtime.
Read below for what the fighters have to say about how training is going, what their place in heavyweight history is and what the fans can expect to see on Jan. 17 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas:
Where have you been training? Who have you been training with? How has training been going?
Bermane Stiverne: I am in Vegas training at the Mayweather Gym. I have had many sparring partners, seven total and they have been alternating since it has been a very long camp. I began training camp in August because we didn’t even know when this fight was going to happen so we had to be ready for any time and we did better than ever. It has been a long, long training camp and I am in the best shape I have ever been in.
I plan to go in the ring between 238 and 242 pounds. We thought about going lower but I am a super heavyweight and that is the weight where I am best.
Deontay Wilder: Camp has been great. It’s been a long hard road but we’re here now. I had my whole team which was excellent — Jay Deas, Mark Breland, Russ Anber, Cuz Hill and my strength coach Peter Khoury, so it couldn’t have been any better.
How do you feel about fighting on the big stage as the main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena?
BS: Fighting at the MGM Grand is a dream come true. I have been dreaming of becoming a champion my whole life. When I think of the MGM I think of all the history and I want to write a new chapter.
DW: I’m super excited about fighting on the big stage. The bigger the better! The more attention and people watching, the more I like it. We’ve been working towards this for a long time, and I am glad we have gotten to this level.
If you could meet any heavyweight champ who would it be? Is there a heavyweight that you would say you emulate?
BS: Muhammad – he was the greatest, he called himself “The Greatest” before he even knew he was The Greatest. He worked hard every single day to fulfill it and that is what I do. No corners cut.
DW: I’ve never patterned myself after any other heavyweight, but if I could meet one from the past it would be Joe Louis. He’s part of my nickname. He was the ‘Brown Bomber’ and since I’m from Alabama like he was and I won the Bronze medal at the Olympics, I’m the ‘Bronze Bomber.’
How do you feel about being in the biggest heavyweight title fight in the United States in a decade?
BS: The Heavyweight Champion is what it’s all about. It’s the King of the Jungle. It is the Champion of all the Champions. I am happy to bring it back. Boxing is alive and well.
DW: It’s time for the heavyweight division to be important again and I’m the guy to do it, so I can’t wait.
Which heavyweights inspired you or did you admire on your climb to this point?
BS: Iron Mike Tyson and James Toney – I really admire the way they fought. I loved Iron Mike’s explosiveness and speed and his fast hands. Tyson could hurt you with any punch at any angle and that is my forte. When I hit somebody, I see it in their eyes and their legs and I feel their pain.
DW: My daughter is my inspiration. I always admired guys like Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes though.
Is there any extra motivation fighting for the WBC title that has been held by so many of the greatest including Muhammad Ali?
BS: The WBC heavyweight belt has been held by many great champions. It’s the biggest prize out there.
DW: A lot of great champions have held the WBC title belt, so it’s the big one and I’m honored and excited to be fighting for it.
How important is it for you to represent your home country in this fight? Do you feel any additional pressure because of it?
BS: I am blessed to have been born in Haiti and lived in Quebec, Canada and now Las Vegas and I like to think of myself as an inspiration to kids in Haiti that have suffered so much – just like me. I want them to know that if they work hard they can achieve their dreams.
DW: Like I said, I am honored and excited. A lot of greats have held the belt and I am ready to make history and be one of the greats. Representing the U.S. in a heavyweight fight, bringing it back home, it’s an honor.
What do you think of your opponent, does anything he does concern you?
BS: I think Wilder is a clown. Wilder thinks this is the WWE. He acts like it’s the WWE. This is for real. It is going to hurt very bad.
DW: I have no thoughts about Bermane Stiverne. I’m just ready to fight and leave it all out in the ring.
What should the fans expect on Jan. 17? Do you have a prediction?
BS: On Jan. 17 I will hurt Wilder and I will knock him out and it will be a lasting image in peoples’ minds for a very long time.
DW: Fans should expect a great night of boxing and everyone will see January 17. Be there or tune in on TV if you can’t. You don’t want to miss it!