Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boxing [Print without images]

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Wilder-Firtha set for Oct. 26

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Heavyweight hopeful Deontay Wilder, the last American man to win an Olympic boxing medal for the United States when he claimed bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games, will be back in action on Oct. 26.

Wilder (29-0, 29 KOs) will take on Nicolai Firtha (21-10-1, 8 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round bout at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer said.

Deontay Wilder
American heavyweight Deontay Wilder will put his 29-0 record on the line Oct. 26 against Nicolai Firtha.

"Nicolai Firtha is a veteran who has gone the distance with a lot of tough fighters," Wilder said, "but I'm more confident and more ready than ever, so I'm expecting another knockout win. I want to make a statement with this fight."

Wilder-Firtha will be part of a Showtime broadcast headlined by 48-year-old light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs) of Philadelphia defending his belt for the first time when he faces mandatory challenger Karo Murat (25-1-1, 15 KOs) of Germany, with middleweight titlist Peter Quillin (29-0, 21 KOs) of New York making his second defense when he takes on Gabriel Rosado (21-6, 13 KOs) of Philadelphia in the co-feature.

"I'm excited to have those three guys on the same card," Schaefer said. "You have Deontay Wilder, the best young heavyweight, to go along with Peter Quillin, a world champion and one of the best at middleweight, and then the legend himself, Bernard Hopkins. You have a little bit of everything on the card."

Wilder, 27, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., who packs massive power in his right hand, has yet to be pushed past the fourth round. "The Bronze Bomber" is coming off spectacular first-round knockouts in his last two fights, which came against name opponents, albeit faded ones.

The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Wilder -- who gained valuable experience as a sparring partner for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko last year -- needed just 70 seconds to smash 2000 British Olympic gold medalist and former world title challenger Audley Harrison in April, and he followed that by beating former world titleholder Sergei Liakhovich in such brutal fashion that Liakhovich was literally convulsing on the canvas after getting knocked to the mat.

Nicknamed "The Stone Man," Firtha, 34, of Akron, Ohio, is 3-3 in his last six bouts. During that stretch Firtha has lost a lopsided 10-round decision to Alexander Povetkin, the 2004 Russian Olympic gold medalist who went on to win a world title, was stopped in the fifth round by British contender Tyson Fury and dropped a near-shutout decision to American fringe contender Johnathon Banks.

"Wilder hits hard, there's no question about that, but we've never seen what happens when he gets hit back," Firtha said. "I'm going to hit him on Oct. 26 and I plan on taking his zero away."

Wilder's critics have pointed to a seemingly never-ending stream of low-level opponents, but Schaefer defended the selection of Firtha as an opponent.

"Firtha is supposedly an exciting guy," he said. "My matchmaker [Eric Gomez] is telling me this will be a good fight and I take his word for it. We are positioning Deontay to fight for a world title, and we are not going to let anyone tell us what to do. There is a plan. My goal is to have Deontay fight for the heavyweight championship of the world and there are reasons why we do what we do. We have an experienced team and we know what we are doing."