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Former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder has been immortalized by his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The city unveiled a statue of Wilder outside the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports on Wednesday because of his accomplishments in his decorated career, which the grateful fighter announced at the ceremony isn’t over.
Wilder was overwhelmed by the statue, which was created by local artist Caleb O’Connor.
“I love Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It holds a dear place in my heart and it forever will,” The Tuscaloosa News quoted Wilder as saying. “It’s just an amazing feeling, especially for the simple fact, I’m still, well, alive.
“You know, most times things [like this] happen [when] people retire or they die. And they gave me my flowers while I was alive. And that make me feel so happy.”
Tuscaloosa dignitaries heaped praise on their native son.
“Our organization has long supported Deontay Wilder and his journey to becoming a heavyweight champion,” Don Staley of Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports said. “We’re proud of his accomplishments and are thrilled the visitor center will be home to this incredible statue.
“His championship title has put our community, Deontay’s hometown, on the map and his statue will pay tribute to that.”
Said Mayor Walt Maddox: “Today, we’re going to unveil a permanent reminder of what determination looks like, what fierceness looks like, what loyalty looks like, what conviction looks like, and most importantly, what inspiration looks like.
“And in the decades to come thousands upon thousands of people are going to stop at that statue and not just remember what Deontay accomplished. That’s only just a part of it, they themselves will see a beacon of hope.”
Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs) has been the dominant U.S. heavyweight of his era. He was a titleholder from 2015 to 2020 and built a reputation as one of the biggest punchers in the history of the sport.
However, he was stopped by current champion Tyson Fury in his last two fights, which led to speculation that the 36-year-old might retire.
He made it clear on Wednesday that he’s not ready to walk away.
“Not at this moment in time,” he said. “You know, I’ve been highly requested. … So many people were telling me ‘Come back, come back.’ So, I’d say I’m back by popular demand. The business of boxing needs me.”