Deontay Wilder was as humble and gracious in defeat as when he made the spontaneous decision 19 months ago to return to the sport.
The former long-reigning WBC heavyweight titlist came to grips with his lopsided defeat to New Zealand’s Joseph Parker this past Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Parker—a former WBO titleholder—outboxed Wilder and limited the long-feared knockout artist to just 39 landed punches over twelve rounds en route to a landslide unanimous decision win by scores of 118-111, 118-110 and 120-108 on the three official scorecards.
“We came up short [Saturday night],” Wilder said in an Instagram reel to his fans after the defeat. “I don’t know what happened, to be honest. My timing was off. I didn’t throw my punches. I didn’t let my hands go like I was supposed to.
“Sometimes, you get like that but… you live to see another fight. You live to see another moment. That’s all that matters.”
Wilder (43-3-1, 42KOs) previously planned to leave behind the sport after his October 2021 knockout defeat to lineal/WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24KOs). Their epic trilogy clash was hailed as the 2021 Fight of the Year, which saw Wilder score two knockdowns but was dropped in rounds three, ten and for good in the eleventh to suffer his second consecutive defeat to the unbeaten Brit.
There was a point where it seemed that Wilder would just end his career on that note, with two consecutive defeats after a five-year title reign that saw ten successful defenses. An unveiling of a statue in his liking in his Tuscaloosa (Alabama) hometown last spring spawned public demand for a return to the sport, which Wilder honored.
His comeback tour was limited to just one round of action, however, since the third Fury fight. Wilder knocked out Robert Helenius with a single right hand at 2:57 of the first round in their WBC semi-final title eliminator last October 15 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Most of his 2023 campaign was spent trying to nail down fights where his targets were unwilling to come to terms. He eventually landed a lucrative deal to appear in the co-main event of Saturday’s ‘Day of Reckoning’ mega event that also featured former two-time unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua (27-3, 24KOs). Hanging in the balance was a March 9 Joshua-Wilder superfight—more than six years in the making—had both won on Saturday.
Joshua stopped Otto Wallin after the fifth round of the evening’s final bout, though moot as it related to future plans given Wilder’s stunningly lopsided defeat.
In the ring, Wilder—who turned 38 in October—congratulated Parker and did not offer any excuses. That same spirit was maintained deeper into the aftermath.
“I’m still full of happiness. I’m still full of joy, still full of smiles,” noted Wilder. “Sorry if I let anyone down. But we’ll be back, though. That’s the thing about it. I thank you so much for the love and support I’ve got in Riyadh and from my fans around the world. This is not the end. I will be back. Love, peace and God bless.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox