Anthony Joshua is Avoiding Me—I'm The Most Dangerous Man in the World, Says Deontay Wilder

Deontay Wilder lets out a deep, husky chuckle at his anecdote. The Alabama boxer has just woken from his slumber and is recalling how he ended up naming the WBC heavyweight championship belt "Sophia". He won the title from Bermane Stiverne in 2015 and has retained six times since.

After beating Stiverne on points and becoming the first American heavyweight champion since 2006, Wilder looked at the belt slung over his shoulder and was drawn to memories of a movie from his childhood.

"I thought about the WBC belt, which is the most prestigious, well-known belt there is, and when I think about that I think about a woman," Wilder tells Newsweek. "I think, 'Oh, she a bad woman,' and once I start thinking about that 'The Color Purple' came to me, and they had this woman called Sophia."

Sophia Johnson, played by Oprah Winfrey in Steven Spielberg's 1985 big-screen adaptation of Alice Walker's novel, is a strong, proud black woman. Sophia rejects the oppressive culture surrounding a black woman in the South in the 1930s, fighting back against her husband's iron-fist and racial inequality.

"Sophia, Sophia, my name Sophia," Wilder says with a snigger, lost in his memories. "She said, 'All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my uncle, I had to fight my daddy, and I never thought I'd have to fight you too.' Sophia was a tough cookie, so that's the reason the belt is called Sophia."

Deontay Wilder
Deontay Wilder at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn Borough of New York City, November 4. Wilder believes Anthony Joshua is avoiding fighting him. Al Bello/Getty

But, now, Wilder says Sophia has grown "lonely." In his bid to unify the heavyweight division, the 32-year-old wants the WBC belt to be one of five around his waist. That will mean coming face-to-face with Anthony Joshua, the 28-year-old British boxer who beat Wladimir Klitschko in April to become the IBF, IBO and WBA heavyweight champion, before defending the titles against Carlos Takam in October.

Wilder (39-0-0) was ringside at Wembley Stadium earlier this year, working as a pundit for Sky Sports, when Joshua hit the canvas for the first time in his career but got back up to defeat the giant Ukrainian. Yet Wilder insists he learnt very little from the fight.

"Same as anybody else learned," he says. "The main thing from the Klitschko fight is to come back, get knocked down and no matter how the fight could have went, still win it. Klitschko had the fight won even by [score] cards, but he couldn't do it. Joshua got that second wind and he did what he had to do; that's the only thing I take from that."

Joshua and Wilder hold four of the five heavyweight belts, with New Zealand's Joseph Parker currently the WBO champion. A unification bout between Joshua and Wilder is expected to take place in 2018 but the Briton is due to take on Parker first.

Wilder confirmed to Newsweek that he will face former WBA champion Luis Ortiz early next year after talks with Joshua's representatives broke down. He says Joshua's team are avoiding him.

"I'm not going to sit around," Wilder says. "We're not chasing nobody. This is not something that we're begging [for]. I'm ready to go. You wanna unify the division? If that's what you really want to do, I got the other half of this belt and that you must come through. I'm the most dangerous man in the world and I still have the WBC. I know a lot of these guys wish I didn't have this title. These champions don't want to fight me."

Tyson Fury
Anthony Joshua

So why the 38-year-old Cuban Ortiz? "Ortiz is back and that fight will definitely happen. Nowadays, I'm looking for the next big guy. I've got a list of guys I want to take out. Before I retire, I want to take out the whole division, so these guys coming back is good."

Wilder is referring to the news of Tyson Fury's imminent return to the boxing ring after the Briton was given the green light earlier this month to resume his career. Fury accepted a backdated two-year ban after testing positive for a banned steroid in February 2015, but Wilder says he must "get in shape" and "prove himself" before they meet.

"He's got a lot of work to do still, this is the first step of coming back now. The second part is really to get in shape, get healthy so he can come back and compete at the top level. There's still a long way to go for Tyson Fury but I'm glad he's back."

Fury called out both Wilder and Joshua in October but is particularly keen on entering the ring with his countryman. "@anthonyfjoshua where you at boy?" he wrote on Twitter after news of his return broke. Wilder believes the awkward style of Fury could trouble Joshua.

"You've got one guy who is bulky, wise and comes with furies of punches and will, of course, try to knock you out," he says of Joshua. "Nice technique and stuff. You got another guy whose body is not so perfect, but he's awkward. Most of the time, when you're awkward then that's the most dangerous to face. No matter what shape they're in, if you have a guy who's awkward he don't have to be the best of the best. He have to be in some shape but he don't' have to be tip-top because the awkwardness will allow him to do things others can't do, to get away with certain things."

Despite the return of Fury and Joshua's recent domination of the heavyweight division, the undefeated Wilder suggests he is yet to be truly tested by anyone. "This heavyweight division is easy, it's an easy division. I just want someone to prove me wrong. That's why I'm pulling out all these guys: Luis Ortiz, Joshua, Fury, Parker if he's still around. Whoever. And I can't wait to show everybody, all the naysayers, they're going to be very disappointed." Apart from Sophia, of course.