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Deontay Wilder: True Grit

By: Sean Crose

He may not have won in the ring this past weekend, and he may not be gracious in defeat – at least not yet – but Deontay Wilder proved on Saturday night in Las Vegas that he possesses a quality the rest of us living in this marshmallow soft era could – and maybe should – emulate:

True Grit.

After knocking down Tyson Fury twice in the fourth round of his third fight with the defending WBC champion, Wilder – who had already been dropped once himself – had essentially given it all he had. Oh, Wilder would still have his moments, but from the time Fury got up from that second knockdown on, the fight belonged to the towering Englishman.

And yet Wilder fought, and fought, and fought. At times he staggered around almost drunkenly. At other times he simply looked like a battered mess. Yet he kept trying to put his man down and out, even as he himself ate punch after punch. Analysts aren’t kidding when they say it was the kind of beating Wilder might never recover from as a boxer. Oh, the physical wounds may heal, but the hidden wounds, the subconscious ones, may keep Wilder from being the destructive force he once was.

Such is the price one pays for going out on one’s sword. There is no doubt Wilder, after having the towel thrown in on his behalf by trainer Mark Breland during his previous match with Fury, wanted no such repeat this time around. Truth be told, he was well within his rights to stay on the canvas after Fury dropped him for the second time in the match during the tenth round, so severe was the beating he was taking.

As Shakespeare might say, however, Wilder was not of that vein. The man continued to move on into the eleventh, blood coming from his mouth, his legs about to give out from under him, the very picture of exhaustion and a very bad beating. Finally, in that eleventh round, Fury put Wilder flat on his face. The referee didn’t bother to count. There’s little doubt that, were he able to, the Alabama native would have gotten to his feet again to absorb more brutality. Fortunately, Wilder was finally, physically, unable to carry on. The body rightly did what the mind was unwilling to.

While it’s true, no one should have to take the kind of thrashing Wilder did on Saturday, the man’s gumption, his willingness to keep pushing on in the face of an indefinite amount of severe physical punishment – before millions of people, no less – is worth noting. For Wilder isn’t a fighter or even a man of his time and place – not philosophically, at least. He’s the product of a no longer fashionable mindset, one where toughing it out is viewed as an adequate reward when a better reward is no longer available. Such thinking went away recently in favor of contentedness and a cultural iPhone centric comfort rut. Yet the spirit of that line of thinking – not so far removed from yesterday – lives on in the former WBC heavyweight titlist.

The guy takes thing to extremes, but Wilder’s overall version of True Grit is one worth admiring – and perhaps even emulating.

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