Deontay Wilder: Is race holding him back?Written by Leroy Cleveland
WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) recently told Guardian:
“A lot of people don’t want to pull the race card but let’s be real: I’m a realist, I’m a woke realist, I’m not brainwashed at all."
"I see what’s going on. If I was every other ethnicity, any type of person that’s not a black man, it would be different. If I was any other color but black, it would be different.”
Wilder is a charismatic, outspoken heavyweight with a record of 39-0, 38 Kos and the WBC title. He is exciting to watch yet has failed to break into the mainstream in the U.S.
Would things be different if he were white or Mexican-American?
Answer: No and yes.
The Klitschkos and others
The Klitschkos, although not American, failed mightily to garner mainstream interest in the US despite being dominate heavyweight champions with high knockout percentages.In fact, HBO refused to purchase their cards for a few years.
It's been awhile since mainstream America has embraced a white boxer from the States. That stated, there haven't many white American stars lately.
Did Joe Smith, Jr become a mainstream star after knocking out boxing legend Bernard Hopkins?
Also, America hasn't exactly embraced Europeans stars such as Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, Mikkel Kessler or Carl Froch either.
If Wilder were a white American, he wouldn't see a major uptick in his stock. There would be some, but not a lot.
But what about Canelo?
Perhaps Wilder thinks he should be as popular as Canelo? But let's not forget, Alvarez is Mexican and boxing is still HUGE among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.
So yes, if Wilder were of Mexican descent, he would be a star. After all, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans support fighters of Mexican descent.
But unfortunately, black and white Americans lack the same passion for the sport.
Here's (y)our problem, Deontay
For starters, most black Americans (outside of diehards) know very little about you. You’re not generating interest in the black community the same way Canelo is in the Hispanic community.
Boxing's popularity among blacks has tanked in recent years; But that's not all.
Although you're every bit as impressive a young Mike Tyson on paper, you’re not getting anywhere near the exposure he did because interest in boxing among white Americans, the majority, has dipped as well. The sport was more popular in the States two decades ago so it was a lot easier for an upcoming fighter to generate interest, regardless of skin color.
Back then, fights on HBO and Showtime were mainstream news like the Dallas Cowboys and LA Lakers.
And in the 70s, 80s and 90s, casual fans understood the privilege of watching a master at work. Americans don't understand that today. They want to see a top fighter in highly risky situations right away and all of the time. And if they've never heard of the opponent, they simply call him a bum and lose interest.
'Money May' is a black American and has generated more income than any fighter in combat sports history. Just this year, he earned upwards of $300 Million for a fight.
Has race hurt Floyd, too?
Race is clearly not Wilder's problem. His problem is he's not Mexican, British or Puerto Rican.
Nevertheless, if Wilder were showcased in front of 5 million Americans, he'd generate a lot of fans; although not as many as the Tysons, Holyfields and Foremans. Boxing was hotter back then. However, even today he'd be fairly mainstream and a lot more cherished.
The challenge for Team Wilder is generating enough American interest to produce the level of exposure needed to become a star in a country where boxing is a second tier sport.