Deontay Wilder has opened up about how he turned to boxing to save his daughter, Naieya, after she was diagnosed with spina bifida.
Ahead of his WBC heavyweight title defence against Bermane Stiverne, which he won with a first round knockout over the past weekend, the 32-year-old American fighter described to the Daily Mail how the unplanned pregnancy led him into the sport.
"Naieya came and it was a blessing in disguise because I probably wouldn't be boxing if it weren't for her," said Wilder. "As a parent, you never want to hear your child is going to be born with a disability. We all want a healthy child. All that was just circling through my mind."
Although Wilder had enrolled in community college with the aim of going on to University of Alabama to play basketball or football, the pregnancy forced him to begin considering other options.
Credit: PA Images
Wilder had never lost a fight as a youngster and competing in boxing would mean he did not need to progress through college, so following his daughter's birth he promised the young Naieya that he would become a 'world champion' and 'support her beyond belief'.
"When I started, even one minute tortured me," Wilder said, recalling his first gym sessions after he began training. "I remember sparring, and I was like Bambi. Remember that movie? My legs were shaking like Bambi."
But he was a quick learner. By 2007, he had enough wins as an amateur to earn a spot on the US Beijing Olympic team. He won a bronze medal at the event and is now undefeated in 39 fights since turning pro.
Credit: PA Images
He retained his championship against Bermane Stiverne over the weekend, knocking him to the canvas early on in the first round, before flooring him again and securing a win with a stream of punches.
Following the fight, Wilder 'declared war' on Britain's Anthony Joshua. He said: "I know I am the best. Are you up for the test?
"I've been waiting on that fight for a long time now. I declare war upon you. Do you accept my challenge?"
Featured Image Credit: PA / Deontay Wilder