TWO days before the first-ever world title fight in the state of Alabama, undefeated WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder and challenger Eric Molina participated in a tense final press conference Thursday at Embassy Suites in Birmingham.
The hard-hitting Wilder (33-0, 32 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will be making the first defense of the heavyweight title he won impressively from Bermane Stiverne in January, when he meets Molina (23-2, 17 KOs), of Lyford, Texas, this Saturday, June 13, live on Showtime in the US and Sky Sports in the UK.
In the co-feature undefeated Jose “The Sniper” Pedraza (19-0, 12 KOs), of Cidra, Puerto Rico, will be opposed by Andrey Klimov (19-1, 9 KOs), of Klimovski, Russia, in a 12-rounder for the vacant IBF Junior Lightweight World Championship.
Undefeated world-ranked contenders Ivan “El Terrible” Redkach and Dejan “El Dinamita” Zlaticanin will square off in a 12-round eliminator. The winner between Redkach (18-0, 1 ND, 14 KOs), of Los Angeles, and Zlaticanin (16-0, 9 KOs), of Montenegro, becomes the mandatory challenger to Jorge Linares, the WBC 135-pound world champion.
Top 10-ranked super welterweight Julian “J Rock” Williams (19-0-1, 11 KOS, 1 ND), of Philadelphia, will be opposed by Armenia’s Armen Ovsepyan (14-4, 11 KOs), of Glendale, Calif., in an eight-round bout. Time permitting, hard-hitting light heavyweights Ahmed Elbiali (10-0, 9 KOs, 1-1 WSB), of Miami, Fla, and Donta Woods (8-4, 7 KOs), of Atlanta, will collide in a four/six-round swing match.
Below is what the fighters and Hall of Fame promoter Don King had to say today:
DEONTAY WILDER, Heavyweight world Champion:
“I’m thankful to everybody who has put together this great event. This is a dream come true for me. When I made my dream to become undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, I wanted to do something to change the Alabama sports landscape.
“People wanted me to rush my career, even I did at some points, but I’m a man who believes in timing and that there’s a moment when things should happen. We have to wait for our time.
“This is my destiny. Once I had my precious daughter she changed my life forever and she became my motivation to get here. She’s the reason I go hard in the gym, she’s the reason I carry myself the way I do.
“I worked too hard to get to this position. We’re not planning on this being the end.
“It’s a privilege to make history with the first world title fight in Alabama, in any division. I’ve been about making history my entire career since the amateurs.
“I love to fight, I love this sport. They say you have to eat, sleep and breathe it and I do. I’m never out of shape. This is my life.
“Everybody knows that Deontay Wilder gets the job done. I worked too hard to get here to just give up the belt. I want all the belts, I’m greedy like that.
“We respect Eric Molina and what he’s trying to do. It’s a great opportunity for him. I was once where he was, in my last fight.”
ERIC MOLINA, Heavyweight Contender:
“I want to thank all the people of Alabama, who have made me feel right at home this week. My training team has been incredible.
“I’ve had Oliver McCall in my camp for four years, and he’s prepped me for my moment to shock the world, just like he did against Lennox Lewis.
“I’ve dreamed about that moment, I’ve thought about it since even before I got this fight. I was going to knock someone out and become heavyweight champion of the world. It seemed so real to me in my mind, and when we signed the fight it all came together.
“Everybody has written me off. I’ve never been undefeated and I’ve always been the underdog.
“When my dream becomes a reality on Saturday, I’ll come right back here and give Wilder the rematch.”
JOSE PEDRAZA, Undefeated Junior Lightweight Contender:
“I’m very happy about this opportunity. I’m not worried about the big stage because I’ve been on the big stage before. I’ve been in the big fights before and I just want to make the most of this opportunity.
“It’s been a long camp this time but other than that there has been nothing different in training. It’s been the same great preparations as all my other fights.
“I have a different level of skills than Klimov. I’m fast and I can do it all. Right and left handed, you’ll see all my skills on Saturday.
“This means a lot to me and to the people of Puerto Rico. They want another champion and I’m going to be next. This is the most important fight of my career and I’m going to give it my all in there.
“Whoever says they don’t get butterflies before a big fight is lying, but I’ve been on this stage before so I know how to control them. One that bell rings I’m going for it.”
ANDREY KLIMOV, Junior Lightweight Contender:
“I’ve been fighting in the U.S. for five years. I turned pro a little late but I always knew that I had the chance to be a world champion.
“Coming in as an underdog is nothing new to me. It’s happened over and over. I’m going to be there to fight, I’ll never give up.
“The loss was a learning experience. It was my first time under the real bright lights. I took the fight because I wanted to prove something. I was upset because I knew I could do better.
“People are going to talk about me differently after I win this world title. I’ve worked together great with my team. All the bumps in the road have gotten us to here.
“Pedraza was a great amateur and a very good fighter. Everyone at this level is a good fighter. If you look at who we fought, my level of competition has been much higher.”
JULIAN WILLIAMS, Undefeated Junior Middleweight Contender:
“We had a very tough training camp. It seems like Ovsepyan comes forward a lot and throws a lot of punches. I’m going to just keep it simple, use the jab and work punches off of that.
“I haven’t thought about any other opponents besides Ovsepyan for the past three or four weeks because he’s the guy that I’m fighting, he’s the guy that’s gloved up. Nobody else will be in that ring besides him on Saturday night, so he is who I am worried about.
“I definitely tailor my training camp based on the opponent I will be fighting. I get certain guys to come in and spar with me that have similar fighting styles and body types as my opponent. I try to get the closest thing to my opponent in my sparring partners so that I can get a good feel for what the fight will be like.”
ARMEN OVSEPYAN, Junior Middleweight Contender:
“I’m feeling prepared, boxed over 60 rounds for this fight and I’m definitely ready to go.
“I’m a fighter; I take hard fights, that’s what real fighters do.
“He’s very well-regarded but we’ll see how he likes it when I put a lot of pressure on him from the start. We both have two hands, I can win this fight.
“It’s going to be the best fight of the night, whether we need to go the distance or if we get the knockout early.”
IVAN REDKACH, Undefeated Lightweight Contender:
“I’m excited for this; I’m never scared of the big moment. June 13 is going to be the most important date of my career.
“I’ve been in camp for four months and feel 120 percent that I’m ready to fight.
“My opponent always tries to go forward and is very strong. He’s always trying to throw, sometimes weird punches from bottom to side to top.
“I have harder fights ahead of me but we’ll see after this one if this is my toughest test so far.
“I’m very happy for this chance to fight on Showtime, my teammates have prepared me very well for this and I’m excited.”
DEJAN ZLATICANIN, Lightweight Contender:
“I’m not a novice, I’ve been around and I know how to fight. I’m strong and I’m not afraid to come forward. I know Ivan is the same way, so you know it’s going to be a great fight.
“In my mind, I’ve already seen Ivan knocked out. I’ve seen it happen and I’m going to see it again on Saturday.
“I’m going to come to work hard. I come from a small country in Montenegro and I’m not here to give anything away, I’m taking full advantage.”
DON KING, Hall Of Fame Promoter:
“We’re going to have a terrific fight here in Alabama on Saturday night.
“Deontay Wilder has proven to be a tremendous fighter and he last proved it on January 17. I’m certain that Wilder doesn’t mean to transfer the belt like Bermane Stiverne did.
“Texans have an out of the box way of thinking, they just take what they want. You’re going to have an unstoppable force against the unmovable object. Only one will win.”