(BEIJING, CHINA) – Heavyweight Deontay Wilder (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) has been handed a heavy burden at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. As the lone remaining American competitor in the competition, Wilder will carry the flag for his eight teammates as he takes the ring for his semifinal bout with 2007 World Champion Clemente Russo on Friday at the Workers Indoor Arena. Yet the broad shoulders of the 6-7 Wilder are used to carrying heavy loads.
He has continuously faced challenges that most said he couldn’t overcome, particularly since the birth of his three-year-old daughter, Naieya. Born with Spina Bifida, Naiyea serves as a daily inspiration to her Olympic father. Wilder loves watching her conquer obstacles that doctors told him were impossible with her trademark, “I did it Daddy.” Daddy needs only too more victories to enjoy his own “I did it” moment, and anyone who knows the former basketball and football player wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the top of the medal stand.
Wilder’s fairy tale ride began at the Olympic Trials when he earned a berth on the 2008 Olympic Team with less than 25 bouts of experience. He went on to qualify his spot internationally with three heart-stopping comeback victories at the second Americas Qualifier in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The towering heavyweight with the thunderous right hand continued his winning streak with stoppage victories at both the USA Boxing Olympic Invitational and USA vs. Dominican Republic Dual.
His success has continued in Beijing and he advanced to the semifinal round with a tiebreaker victory in true Wilder fashion, pulling out a 10-10 tiebreaker win on his 23-22 accepted score edge. Yet he is currently finishing a three-day break before the defining match-up with Russo with a spot in the gold medal bout on the line.
Wilder is attempting to maintain his normal training schedule, and has enjoyed the support of two-time Olympian and 2007 World Champion Rau’shee Warren as he prepares for his next bout. Despite his first round loss, Warren has stayed to cheer on his teammates, fulfilling his role of Team Captain to its fullest.
The 22-year-old heavyweight will take part in one final training session on Thursday before his Friday bout. Wilder is the first American heavyweight since Nate Jones in 1996 to medal at the Olympic Games and could become the first U.S. heavyweight since Ray Mercer in 1988 to win Olympic gold.
His semifinal contest is scheduled to begin at 3:45 p.m. Beijing time, and will be the first meeting between Wilder and Russo. Wilder is guaranteed at least a bronze medal as boxing awards two bronzes.