After losing his trilogy bout to Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder's future in boxing seemed unsure. At the unveiling of a bronze statue of the fighter in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Wednesday, Wilder made it clear that he still intends to return to the ring.
"I can't stop right here," Wilder said at the statue's unveiling. "I must continue my journey. I have to, I have to."
Wilder made his professional debut in November 2008 and quickly established himself as the best and most exciting American heavyweight of his generation. Wilder won his first 40 fights, all but one by knockout, showing himself to be one of the biggest punchers in the history of the sport.
The lone decision win in those first 40 fights came against Bermane Stiverne in a bout where Wilder won the WBC championship in 2015. He would go on to defend the title a total of 10 times.
The emotional moment when Deontay Wilder revealed the statue of himself created by Caleb O'Connor.— City of Tuscaloosa 🏃 (@tuscaloosacity) May 25, 2022
The statue will be permanently located outside of @VisitTuscaloosa, representing the @BronzeBomber in Tuscaloosa for perpetuity. 👊💯 Make sure to come by and see it for yourself! pic.twitter.com/YkfMD0C7pi
In December 2018, in Wilder's 41st fight, Wilder fought Fury for the first time with the two men going to a split draw in a fight many thought Fury won after picking himself up off the canvas after a brutal knockdown in the bout's final round. Two fights later, in February 2020, Wilder faced off with Fury for a second time, losing by TKO in Round 7 in a lopsided fight.
Wilder faced criticism after the fight for giving a laundry list of excuses for his performance, ranging from allegations Fury was on performance-enhancing drugs, to accusations that Fury's gloves were tampered with to claims that his own elaborate ring gear caused him to fatigue before the first bell even sounded.
Fury would win the October 2021 rematch as well, knocking Wilder out in Round 11 of a fight where Wilder was badly hurt early in the fight. Rather than fade as he had in the rematch, Wilder stormed back and dropped Fury twice in the fourth round. The bout was one of the best of the year, and despite the loss, Wilder showed grit and determination, redeeming himself in the eyes of many boxing fans.
At 36, Wilder still packs the biggest punch in the sport. Fury has stated he is retired and Wilder is one win away from being put right back in the championship mix along with Anthony Joshua and three-belt heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who are expected to rematch this summer.