After a public spat on social media last month with former heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, current WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder believes the generation of old should change their ways and support the new era.
Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs), who enters his toughest test to date on March 3 against fellow unbeaten Luis Ortiz in Brooklyn, New York, (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) originally found himself in hot water when he told TMZ in late January that he would've "kicked the hell outta" Tyson had they met in their primes in 1986.
The comments triggered a response from the 52-year-old Lewis on Twitter, sticking up for Tyson, whom he knocked out in their 2002 superfight.
I just heard @BronzeBomber said he would destroy a young @MikeTyson. My thoughts are that it’s easy to talk until u actually get in the ring. I like Wilder but he’s never been in there with someone that ferocious who truly wants to break his ribs with every punch. I don’t see it!— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) January 27, 2018
My best advice to the entire crop of young heavyweight champs is to focus on being the best of YOUR era! Out of respect and reality. It’s unprovable. Of course ppl asked, but I found no need to speculate or compare myself to my idol Ali or any other of the past greats.— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) January 27, 2018
Tyson, 51, could only laugh about it last week when he tweeted out a link to his podcast, mentioning how Wilder "talks so much s---."
Asked about it Monday, Wilder set the record straight during an extensive interview on the CBS Sports "In This Corner" Podcast, which runs next week.
"These past champions, what they should be doing is motivating the up-and-coming guys," Wilder said. "They don't need to motivate me because I'm self-motivated. They don't need to give me convincing. But these other guys coming up, they should start a trend. Instead of hating on these guys coming for the top or worry about their legacy getting run over for what they did in their era, that era is gone! This is the new era over here!
"They should be praising the new guys like the other countries, where every other former champion is behind their people. But in America, it's different. Nobody wants to see nobody become bigger than the one before them. Nobody's legacy is going to be passed."
Wilder said he has no issues personally with Lewis and Tyson and wasn't surprised to see fighters protecting their own former opponents.
"Those guys are subject to their own opinion," Wilder said. "I don't get upset when guys come and clap back and say certain things. I don't get upset when Lennox Lewis want to defend one of his era brothers. Although Lennox fought Tyson way past his prime, I don't find offense for that and it doesn't bother me."
Although Wilder respects the legends that came before him, he believes in himself enough to "never say another man can knock me out." But he does suggest a double standard was in play considering former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury's recent comments about his namesake Mike Tyson.
"Tyson Fury, he did the opposite of me and said Tyson would beat him. And Tyson came out and said, 'Man, you need to have confidence,'" Wilder said. "What? Isn't that what I just did? But I got criticized. It don't make no sense, but it's because it's me, which is OK."
Wilder ultimately believes some legends hung on too long late in their careers in ways that were detrimental to their legacies, which he thinks has caused sensitivity.
"If you have done it right in your time, in your era, and left the game in the right time, you don't have to worry about your legacy being passed and stomped on because people will always remember what you have done," Wilder said. "If you stayed in the game too late and continue to do whatever, people are going to remember the last thing you did and that is going to be on your legend and how people will look at you."