If you’re not a fan of the sport of boxing, you may not have heard of Deontay Wilder. The title of “World Heavyweight Champion” doesn’t occupy the same rarefied air it did during the 20th Century with greats like Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, and Mike Tyson. Thanks a lot Dana White. In December 2018, Deontay, aka “The Bronze Bomber” and pride of Tuscaloosa Alabama, was undefeated in over ten years of professional boxing with a record of 42-0 and the reigning World Boxing Council Heavyweight Champion.
That is, until he met Tyson Fury. A six foot nine, two hundred seventy pound giant hailing from Manchester England, who also happened to also hold the title of World Heavyweight Champion from another sanctioning body. Their first bout in December 2018 ended in an epic, yet controversial draw. The rematch in 2020 saw Wilder get pummeled for seven rounds before his corner threw in the towel to end the fight. What struck me most about the rematch was Deontay’s post-fight interview. I highly encourage you to watch for yourself. In the moments after his first professional defeat and the loss of his title, with a camera in his face and still standing in the ring, Deontay:
· Acknowledged that the best man won.
· Admitted he did not quit, nor did he want his corner to throw in the towel. He wanted to “go out on his shield” like the ancient warriors of Sparta.
· Mentioned distractions and things going on outside the ring, but made no excuses for his defeat and promised to come back stronger.
· Expressed gratitude for the fans and wished them safe travels home.
Even the Heavyweight Champion of the World, whose one job is to be the baddest person on the planet, has things going on outside of work and has bad days. Sound familiar? We all do. I do, you do, and every adult and child we work with does! If that is the norm rather than the exception, how do we support and respond to each other knowing that is the case for all of us? While the challenges we face aren’t 6’9” and 273 pounds, we can still choose to respond with grace, humility, empathy, and gratitude. Like a champion!
*Deontay did come back stronger for his third bout with Tyson Fury in 2021, but suffered an 11th round technical knockout. He has not fought since, but announced last week he would return to the ring in October 2022. We’re rooting for you Champ!