THERE is no love lost between WBC Heavyweight World Champion Bermane “B. Ware” Stiverne and unbeaten No. 1 contender Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder, who didn’t mince words while participating in often tense, trash-talking-filled volatile final press conference Thursday for the “Return to Glory: Bermane Stiverne vs. Deontay Wilder” fight card taking place this Saturday, Jan. 17, live on SHOWTIME (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The hard-hitting Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs), of Las Vegas, defends his title against the unbeaten knockout specialist Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Ala.,- in two days, but if they had their way they’d fight tonight.
The event is co-promoted by Don King Productions and Golden Boy Promotions and will featurecrowd-pleasing WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion Leo “Terremoto” Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 KOs) putting his title and unbeaten record on the line in a 12-round bout against Jesus “Estrella” Ruiz (33-5-5, 22 KOs).
Promising world-ranked undefeated junior welterweight Amir “Young Master” Imam (15-0, 13 KOs) will face hard-hitting Fidel “The Atrisco Kid” Maldonado Jr. (19-2, 16 KOs) in a 10-round fight for the WBC Continental America’s 140-pound title that will open the SHOWTIME telecast.
Below is what the fighters, promoters and trainers had to say today at the David Copperfield Theatre:
BERMANE STIVERNE, WBC Heavyweight Champion
“It’s going to be a real fight, a fight like you’ve never seen before. I’m no cab driver, I’m no one-hit wonder, this is the real deal. This belt here isn’t going anywhere. This green belt is staying right here in this green hotel.
“Everyone who has supported me, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve seen plenty of guys like Wilder, even guys who talk more than him.
“I don’t worry about how I go in the ring, I worry about how I get out of the ring.
“There’s something about Deontay ….I’m gonna keep his record clean, because he isn’t getting past four rounds.
“This is a real fight and this belt is staying right here in my home town. You’re going to get hurt, the worst thing you did was have me take you seriously, and I’m taking you seriously.
“This is going to be a terrific fight. After this fight you will never ever hear about Deontay Wilder.”
DEONTAY WILDER, Unbeaten No. 1 WBC Mandatory Contender
“You are all in for a treat. I’ve never been so ready to whoop a man. There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of stuff on social media. But through all that, it’s been real. I don’t play games. It doesn’t get any realer than this. We risk our lives every time in that ring.
“If you only knew the whooping I’m going to put on this boy, you all want the first American champ, but this is for me. I am not scared to walk with my head held high because I am ready for any test.
“This is the most exciting heavyweight bout in years. This is the awakening of the heavyweight division and there’s nowhere else to have it than at MGM Grand.
“This is the number one spot to have boxing and I’ve just been waiting for this for so long. The training, the heartache, the pain and the suffering has been a long journey.
“Many people wrote me off early in my career. People say I’m not supposed to be here. People still write me off and I thank them for that. Because when they write me off I still go to another level and push forward.
“People don’t know what it took me to get here. Nothing has been given to me and I appreciate every little thing I have. This made me who I am in life.
“I knew it was going to take hard work to get that belt and I’m ready for that test. This is my time; I don’t think my opponent understands purpose because this is my time.
“When I do the unexpected, I don’t want you all to degrade this man, Stiverne. I don’t want anyone to make excuses for my victory. Stick by your word. Let this be a test for me and watch me pass my test. I guarantee I will do it.
“I know everyone has been speaking for you, Bermane, but they can’t fight for you. They can only make it worse for you. They have made it worse for you. You don’t understand what type of man you’re about to get in the ring with.
“You’ve only been champion for a short period of time but you walk around like it’s been a long time. You’re only a tourist to that belt.”
LEO SANTA CRUZ, WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion
“I’m 100 percent ready. I’ve been training for this fight like all of my fights. I’ve been training really hard.
“It’s not going to be an easy fight, he’s a tough fighter. A lot of guys have tried to take the belt away from me and none of them have. I know he’s hungry for the title but I’m not going to let that happen.
“I want my opponent to come ready and leave it all in the ring. I want to steal the show and be the fight of the night.”
JESUS RUIZ, Super Bantamweight Contender
“I want to thank everybody who helped me get this opportunity and I promise not to let you down.
“There’s a lot of naysayers out there and a lot of people who don’t know anything about me. Come Saturday I’ll have to show the world who I am. I’m not here to collect a paycheck or take a dive, I’m here to win a world title. I’m going to give everything I have on Saturday to bring that title back to Mexico.
“I’m expecting Leo Santa Cruz to come here in great shape because this is going to be a great fight. I’m going to lay it all out on the line and I promise to bring that title back to Mexico.”
AMIR IMAM, Undefeated Super Lightweight Contender
“I’m ready to put on a show for you all. I want to thank my whole team. I don’t think you know what you got yourself into, Fidel. You’re going to be the one laying on the mat come Saturday night. You’re scared and I can see it in your face.”
FIDEL MALDONADO, JR., Super Lightweight Contender
“I know I’m not underestimating this fight but come Saturday we’ll see how it is when he’s out on the floor.”
DON KING, Hall Of Fame Promoter
“The fact of the matter is, the heavyweight title has not been the world championship. It’s been the German championship.
“Now, the heavyweight title is back here with Bermane Stiverne and it’s great to be able to present it in the world’s capital of boxing, Las Vegas. To be at the great MGM Grand is a delight.
“Deontay is a tremendous fighter with a perfect record of 32 fights and 32 knockouts. Bermane has 21 knockouts so it’s going to be a heck of a fight.
“We want the fans to know that we are bringing boxing back to the people. That’s what really counts. The enthusiasm and passion of a promotion leads to people asking ‘when is the next one?’ That’s what we’re aiming to do here.
“This is going to be a great fight so don’t blink. Don’t go up and get any water or anything because this fight is going to be super sensational.”
BERNARD HOPKINS, Future Hall Of Famer and Golden Boy Promotions Partner
“I’m proud that Don King has been a part of my history. What I constantly hear is, ‘is boxing in a good position?’ I feel like more businesspeople coming to boxing and making the best fights is great. Don King has laid the foundation for that. If we all think one way, we have to think about what is best for boxing.
“We know that the drought in the heavyweight division has gone on long enough and I believe that this Saturday, whoever wins this is going to be talked about. I don’t see this going 12 rounds. This is good for boxing.
“I’m here in Las Vegas, on my 50th birthday, I get to be here sharing it with Don King and all of you in this sport that I passionately love so much. This is about a sport that gave me a second chance in life. I put the challenge out to everyone in the sport, let’s do what is right for the people who buy our sport.
“I’m proud to sacrifice this time that I could be with my family to be here for this fight and be here for this sport that has done so much for me.”
ROBERT GASPARRI, COO of Golden Boy Promotions
“Golden Boy Promotions is thrilled to be promoting this great card alongside legendary boxing promoter Don King. On behalf of Oscar De La Hoya and everyone at Golden Boy Promotions, I would like to thank the MGM Grand, Corona, Mexico Tourism and all the fighters that are working extremely hard to make this a successful event.
“Golden Boy wants to make the best matches and work with all the promoters, and Saturday night is no exception. This is a heavyweight title fight in America with the potential of having the first American heavyweight champion in a decade.”
RICHARD STURM, President and COO MGM Resorts Entertainment and Sports
“The 2015 Las Vegas boxing calendar kicks off Saturday night with the most anticipated heavyweight fight in the United States in a decade. We are confident that the sports fans watching will enjoy this fight card.”
STEPHEN ESPINOZA, Executive General Manager and Vice President, SHOWTIME Sports
“I can’t think of a better fight to kick off this year than Stiverne vs. Wilder. It’s the most significant heavyweight fight in the U.S. in at least a decade. It’s the biggest heavyweight title fight here at the MGM Grand since Tyson-Holyfield II in 1997.
“When we talk about a Return to Glory, there’s no more history than here at the MGM and in the heavyweight division.
“We’re very proud to have this fight on SHOWTIME and we’re very proud to be in business with these two young men. They’re both intelligent and articulate people who are great representatives for our sport. We’re proud to have these men on SHOWTIME and we’re proud to call them SHOWTIME fighters.
“This is a high quality card of boxing and a high quality card of young men, top to bottom.”
JAY DEAS, Wilder’s Trainer and Manager
“This is going to be a tremendous fight. Not a lot of people think about Alabama and boxing, but if you know boxing you know that Joe Louis was born in Alabama, Evander Holyfield was born in Alabama, Ernie Shavers was born in Alabama. Those guys left Alabama to get their careers going, but Deontay stayed and he’s looking to bring Alabama to the party come Saturday night.
“We know Stiverne is a great champion, we know he’s at his peak and we know that he’s at his best and that’s how it ought to be. It’s a great fight between two great heavyweights.”
STACY MCKINLEY, Imam’s Trainer
“Amir Imam is a young version of Bernard Hopkins. You have fighters out there throwing punchers like rock em’ sock em’ robots. I took a look at this kid Imam and I knew I had to go drop everything and train him.
“Imam trains every day, all he does is train. Even when he’s walking through the mall he’s shadow boxing. He wants to be one of the greatest that’s ever lived.
“This is a young man who has the skills of Ray Robinson, the defense of Joe Gans. He also has the skills of Harry Armstrong. You put that together and there’s nothing left, that’s how he became the ‘Young Master.’
“You’re looking at the future of boxing, he’s going to be the future face of boxing. Boxing needs a superstar. Imam can fight any style and that’s why he’s The Master.”