Deontay Wilder is not a big fan of roller coasters, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying a vacation to Universal Studios in Southern California following the epic trilogy that was his last fight against Tyson Fury.
It was a group outing that featured his fiancée, Telli Swift, eight kids, a nanny and security personnel and a trip that was going to happen no matter the outcome of the bout in October 2021. Despite his reluctance, he hopped on Jurassic World — The Ride with his kids, a ride that features life-size animatronic dinosaurs popping out around various turns.
And he enjoyed it.
“His face looked funny in the pictures,” said Swift to ESPN during a car ride to Wilder’s native Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Wilder couldn’t be blamed if he decided to take more trips with his loved ones instead of spending time trading punches for a living. In fact, Wilder said he was leaning toward retirement — “85 percent” — after everything he accomplished in the sport, including a lengthy reign as the WBC champ. But starting with this weekend’s fight against Robert Helenius, Wilder is determined to maximize his legacy during the final phase of his career.
“I only want to do this until 40,” said Wilder, who turns 37 on Oct. 22. “I feel like I have a little bit more time left that I can provide my service to my greatness. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs) is making his ring return 377 days after the trilogy with Fury. The third fight featured five knockdowns between the men — three by Fury, two by Wilder. But Fury picked up the 11th-round stoppage, giving Wilder two defeats and a draw in one of the most dramatic boxing rivalries of the century.
“With these last three years that I have, I want to be able to say I went against all of them before it’s over with, to add on to my legacy.”
Wilder told ESPN that he was nearly done with the sport until last May, when a bronze statue honoring him was unveiled in Tuscaloosa. He said the outpouring of support and the emotion at the event revealed to him just how much he meant to others.
“I speak how I speak because I speak passion, I speak from my heart,” Wilder said. “Sometimes people can relate to me and resemble certain things that I go through. When people feel you, that brings power.”
That led to a fight against Helenius (31-3, 20 KOs), someone Wilder knows well. The Finnish fighter sparred with Wilder in preparation for all three Fury bouts.
Helenius showed a similar inner resolve when he overcame a knockout loss in 2016 to fringe contender Johann Duhaupas to continue his career. Helenius is coming off back-to-back knockout wins over Adam Kownacki. The 38-year-old knows this is the biggest opportunity of his career.
“That’s why I put my life on the line for this fight and [I’ve been] training my ass off just to be here,” Helenius told ESPN.
Helenius will have to contend with perhaps the most vicious right hand in boxing, one that nearly stopped Fury on two different occasions. And despite the losses, Wilder appeared bolstered by his showing in the trilogy.
“I’m a true king and a true warrior,” Wilder said. “And I’ll go out on my shield any given day because that’s what I believe in.”
That’s how Wilder wants to finish his career, too. At the very least, Wilder will maintain his No. 1 contender status with the WBC if he beats Helenius. Wilder held the WBC world title from 2015 to February 2020, when he lost it to Fury in their second fight, a seventh-round TKO defeat.
Fury’s future in the sport, which has included a series of quasi-retirements, is very uncertain. He is in talks to face Derek Chisora in a trilogy fight in December. Oleksandr Usyk holds the other three major belts. He beat Anthony Joshua in August.
Even without a title, Wilder wants to chase the best fighters in the division with his remaining time in the sport.
“With these last three years that I have, I want to be able to say I went against all of them before it’s over with, to add on to my legacy,” Wilder said. “And once that’s complete, then we will say this era of boxing was an amazing era because we had so many great fighters and so many great champions that fought each other.”