Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Deontay Wilder won a portion of the heavyweight boxing title Saturday night. I don't follow boxing much anymore but, watched his highlight reel out of curiosity. He's an extremely impressive athlete.
Wilder was playing small college basketball in Alabama when his daughter was born. She had spina bifida, so he dropped out of college to support her. He worked as a truck driver, but also took up boxing, eventually winning the bronze medal as a heavyweight at the 2008 London Olympics.
What I was struck by watching that highlight reel was just how ineffably black he is, in every way.
He expresses himself without inhibition. At the beginning of the Youtube video, he says, "Yo, I'm a fighter, man, I love to do this. I love to crush bones and spill blood, you know. I love to make your eyes swell and your lips gon' quiver, you know, so um, basically he just tried to come in, and um, just intimidate me, but you can't intimidate the bronze bomber, baby."
Granted, Wilder had just finished a fight and was all adrenalized, so his cockiness is partly due to that. And he probably figured that he was just telling the boxing fans what they wanted to hear, a la Mike Tyson, so he's probably not nearly as bloodthirsty as that quote made him sound.
But, you just don't hear whites or Asians talk like that, unless they're trying to sound black.
You also don't meet whites with the given name "Deontay."
After watching the highlight reel, I stumbled across this entertaining interview with Wilder. An excerpt from his monologue-ish interview:
"Boxing is a business. It's a business where you have to entertain, not only in the ring but outside the ring, and I do a damn good job, inside and outside of the ring. I'm natural with it. Some guys have it and some guys don't. I'm blessed to have it, you know, this is no act. Just 'cause the camera's in front of my face, this is nothing, I'm still the same silly dude, whether I'm in the camera, whether I'm not, you know. I have to tell people don't fall in love with me, because they love to be around me, if you're around me, you're gonna fall in love with me, like, I love this guy. Positive energy. [Wilder then makes a few negative comments about his opponent.] You know, I have the total package. I'm a friendly guy, a people person, a lovable guy, a loving father, you know what I mean. I got it all, man, and I just feel like I'm just made to do it, it's just my time, you know."
The thing is, Wilder's right: boxing is a business, he is entertaining, and he is a natural. He does exude a sort of positive energy when interviewed, and it probably is his time. Still, you just never hear a white guy be that uninhibitedly, unself-consciously self-confident.
Even at 6' 7", Wilder is lightning quick; you just never see a white guy that tall move with that kind of speed.
Then there's his build:
He has huge, convex deltoids, and skinny calf muscles; his deltoids actually look thicker than his calves, a ratio you'll never see on white guys.
Wilder is remarkably lean, far more so than just about any white athlete.
His arms are long: his wingspan is five inches longer than his height (whites generally have a wingspan equal to their height).
And, if you watched that highlight reel, you'll see that the way Wilder moves is also quintessentially black: The brief, semi-threatening crouch over his opponents after he knocks them down. The little stomping/dancing motion immediately after a couple of the fight stoppages. The showboating stutter steps. The bolo punch. The dramatic way he raises his right hand after scoring a knockdown.
These are all things you almost never see white boxers do.
There's no moral judgment here; only marvelment at our astonishing diversity.