I had to excuse myself from a conversation I was having with a couple of golf fans during the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black this week because WBC champion Deontay Wilder was calling my cell phone.
“I have to talk to the heavyweight champ,” I told them as I stepped away. Wilder then told me how he plans to put a hurting on challenger Dominic Breazeale when they meet at Barclays Center on Saturday night for Wilder’s title.
“When you have somebody that inspires the feeling that makes you want to hurt him it goes to another level,” Wilder told The Post. “That’s what it has come to because he’s such a compulsive liar. He doesn’t want to admit his wrongdoing. He started this and I’m going to finish it.”
Showtime will provide the telecast, which also includes Gary Russell Jr. defending his WBC featherweight crown against former champion Kiko Martinez.
Wilder offered a few more nuggets before ending the conversation, but as I returned to my golf friends, one wanted to know: “Who is the heavyweight champion?”
Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) will be making the ninth defense of his title, but is still seeking the validation and recognition that should come with holding the coveted heavyweight crown. “Who is the heavyweight champ?” is a question many hoped might be resolved this year, but it remains a three-headed monster of Alabama native Wilder, the WBC champion; Anthony Joshua of the United Kingdom, who holds the IBF, WBO and WBA belts; and Tyson Fury of the UK, the lineal champion.
It was hoped at least of two of three would be fighting each other by this summer. But after Wilder makes a mandatory defense against Breazeale, Joshua will make his United States debut as champion when he defends his belts against Andy Ruiz Jr. on June 1 at Madison Square Garden, while Fury returns to the ring on June 15 when he takes on Tom Schwarz of Germany in a non-title bout in Las Vegas.
With Joshua aligned with DAZN, the live streaming network, and Fury having signed with Top Rank and ESPN, it’s uncertain when an agreement will be reached for those considered champions to fight each other.
Wilder hopes boxing fans will be patient.
“I think the heavyweight division is in a great position,” Wilder said. “It’s more exciting than it’s ever been. That’s all a heavyweight can ask for. All the fights people want to see will happen in time. But continue to enjoy all the fights that are going on now.”
Wilder had initially hoped for a rematch against Fury after the two fought to a draw last December at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Wilder dropped Fury twice during the fight, including in the 12th round when Fury looked like he was finished.
But somehow Fury got up and survived, earning the controversial draw. It’s all left everyone asking, “Who is the heavyweight champion.”
In the meantime, Wilder-Breazeale should be entertaining. There has been bad blood between the two camps dating back to last year when they tussled in a hotel lobby in Birmingham, Ala. Breazeale sued, claiming he was assaulted by Wilder’s brother. The case was eventually dismissed, but the personal beef continues.
“I want to hurt Breazeale so bad,” Wilder said. “I’m going to keep my composure until that time comes Saturday night.”
Breazeale, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team and 20-1 with 18 KOs as a pro, is getting his second chance at a heavyweight title. He was stopped by Joshua in the seventh round of their championship bout at the O2 Arena in London in 2016. He has won three bouts since then and isn’t afraid of Wilder’s words or power.
“Getting that WBC belt is everything to me,” Breazeale said. “This is my Super Bowl. Wilder doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into.”