Wilder deserves support from Tuscaloosa and UABy Mark Hammontree | 09/28/2015 9:21am
Tuscaloosa native and bronze medalist Deontay Wilder poses for a photo at his local gym. CW File
Deontay Wilder may just be Alabama’s proudest son. The world heavyweight titleholder defended his WBC belt for the second time in Birmingham, and both before and after this fight, as he has with every other bout, Wilder spread his love three ways: to his children, to God and to his home state of Alabama.
The Bronze Bomber is actually a Tuscaloosa native and an alumnus of Central High School and Shelton State Community College and started boxing at a local gym. When he was scheduling his first WBC title defense in June, his team attempted to have the fight held here on the University’s campus but were essentially told to look elsewhere because of scheduling conflicts.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but if the first American world heavyweight champion in almost ten years wants to hold the first ever world title defense in Alabama in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, I think I would do whatever was necessary to make that happen.
See, Deontay Wilder has been making history, and not only for himself and his family, but for his hometown and for his state–and every step of the way, he has been loud and vocal about his love for Alabama.
But has Alabama reciprocated?
Certainly, he has a large fan base in the state, particularly in Tuscaloosa and in Birmingham. And speaking of the Magic City, Birmingham and UAB officials have been extremely cooperative in helping the Wilder team organize and host his title defenses.
Still, it seems like there is so much more that could be done to recognize and celebrate the historic achievements of this native son, particularly in Tuscaloosa and on campus.
In a year where both Alabama and Auburn are struggling on the football field, there is one Alabama athlete performing at the top of his game, and we all have a front-row seat.
Let’s not forget that Wilder is not required to hold his fights in his home state. In fact it would make a lot more sense from a revenue and media standpoint to hold them somewhere like New York City or Las Vegas. But Wilder’s intentions are clear: he wants to put Alabama on the map, this time for something positive.
He wants to bring national attention to his state, like he did Saturday when NBC broadcasted their first heavyweight title bout in primetime in 30 years. And he wants to bring home all the revenue and tourism associated with these fights.
He wants children growing up in Alabama to have in him a role model of someone who boxes for the right reasons, who cares for his family and his team, who treats opponents with genuine respect and praise, who takes his craft seriously but knows where to place his priorities.
Deontay Wilder wants to give Alabama a reason to hope, to rejoice, to be passionate and to be proud. And in a climate where our state leaders need three special sessions to fill a budget hole they created, cutting services and funding to do it, Alabama needs a figure like Wilder.
And Deontay Wilder deserves our support. He deserves our attention, and he deserves our cooperation and willingness to help him give back to the state he loves. Because what he is doing is nothing short of heroic, and a lot of fun to watch.
Mark Hammontree is a senior majoring in secondary education - language arts. His column runs weekly on Mondays.