Can anyone confirm whether there’s a possibility Deontay Wilder may have suffered a bump to the head of late? However outlandish that theory might initially seem, it is one we have to work on after the heavyweight addressed the circumstances of his loss to Tyson Fury in Las Vegas on Saturday night in an interview best euphemised as misjudged.
According to Wilder, whose team threw in the towel in the seventh round, he has an entirely understandable excuse. “He didn’t hurt me at all,” this ran. “But the simple fact is that my uniform was too heavy for me.” The reference is to Wilder’s ring-walk costume, which was a typically ornate affair, this time worn for Black History Month – and which, according to Wilder, weighed well over 40 pounds what with “the helmet and all the batteries”. He’d only tried it on for the first time the night before. “I didn’t have no legs from the beginning of the fight,” he reflected. “In the third round, my legs were just shot all the way through … I knew I didn’t have the legs because of my uniform.”
So there you go. In some ways, it’s a story as old as troubled kingship itself. Uneasy is the head that wears the 40lb multi-battery-operated Black History Month costume, and all that.
In other ways it’s a puzzle that Deontay’s gone for this line of mitigation. When David Haye claimed his 2011 defeat by Wladimir Klitschko was down to a broken little toe, he was widely pilloried, despite standing on a table to display the toe in question for the news cameras. Wilder may or may not have been aware of this pillorying when he produced his own whys-and-wherefores.
Then again, there is still time for him to reveal a broken little toe’s part in his downfall on Saturday night, and thus unify the biggest excuses in boxing. Arguably that would also involve some kind of rehash of Mike Tyson’s 10th-round KO by Buster Douglas in Tokyo in 1990. That, you might recall, was credited by Tyson to the excesses of his sexual diet. Or as Mike put it: “I was fucking them Japanese girls like I was eating grapes.”
Other results have been ascribed by the disappointed parties to grooming products – unguents, pomades and so on. In 2012 Alexander Povetkin accounted for his disappointing (yet fortunate) points victory against Marco Huck with the explanation his eyes were watering because of the stench of whatever olfactory kryptonite his opponent had covered himself in, while Kermit Cintrón only achieved a somewhat questionable draw against Sergio Martínez in 2009 because he was made “dizzy” by the quantity of hair gel and mousse worn by Martínez.
Back to Wilder, though, who has more detail on the fatal costume. “I wanted my tribute to be great for Black History Month,” he explained. “I wanted it to be good and I guess I put that before anything.” Before a £60m heavyweight boxing match? It is certainly not for any of us to downplay the importance of Black History Month and any related tribute. But a heavyweight boxing match is one of the things it’s unwise to put said tribute before. Other such things may include an oncoming freight train, an advancing tsunami, the onset of blitzkrieg in the Ardennes in May 1940, or a simple 20,000-strong cavalry charge. Those are some of the things your outfit has to play second fiddle to. Anything else is going to end up being a false economy.
Furthermore, given that his team threw in the towel on Saturday, is it wise for Wilder to blame an outfit at all? Wilting under the weight of one’s own clothes is a distinctly Monty Burns vibe. The essential weakness of Springfield’s local mogul has been shown in many ways down the years. There’s one time he tries to crush an ant under his shoe, only for the insect to resist, push back and eventually topple him over, prompting Burns to howl “Take my wallet and leave me alone!” at his vanquisher. On another occasion, a sponge is placed on Mr Burns’s stomach in the bath, causing him to plunge beneath the surface and nearly drown. These and other incidents may be an acceptable look for an evil town tycoon. Whether it is an optimal one for a heavyweight boxer feels more debatable.
Either way, other experts are dialling in, such as Melissa Anglesea, the creative director of the label that designed Fury’s ring-walk costume. Melissa, who acts as if she analyses the impact of Black History Month costumes on prizefighters all day long, says of Wilder’s look that “a three-stone costume makes absolutely no ounce of difference”.
For his part, the victorious Fury conserved his energy by declining to use his legs at all when being borne to the ring on a throne – technically known as the Mariah Carey approach. Mariah, a Proper Celebrity, is frequently wheeled to the stage on which she is appearing. Indeed, for her own Las Vegas appearances in 2017, she spent a significant part of the actual concert being borne aloft by six male dancers on a chaise longue, from which supine position she can still somehow hit her five-octave range. It’s a look that says to one’s fans: “You don’t mind if I don’t get up, do you?”
You wouldn’t catch Mariah approaching any Vegas arena exceeding her baggage allowance – indeed, as someone who famously doesn’t “do” stairs and has an assistant to put her straw into her mouth, it’s very noble of her to hold her own microphone at all. As for Wilder, he’s still insisting he’ll trigger the rematch with Fury. So in the spirit of artistes learning from other artistes, perhaps he could take tips from Mariah when that event comes to pass?