The heavyweight champion raised eyebrows with a bold outfit ahead of his fight with Tyson Fury
The story behind Deontay Wilder's gold mask
The ring walk is an essential part of what makes boxing so thrilling. It is a piece of pure theatre before the brutality of the fight – a brief chance to grandstand and posture, to get inside the head of your opponent, without having to worry about incoming fire.
Some boxers turn the spectacle into a show all of its own. British featherweight Naseem Hamed once arrived at the ring on a flying carpet; Chris Eubank, never knowingly understated, preferred a Harley-Davidson; and more recently, heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has taken to being raised above the crowd on a podium surrounded by flamethrowers.
Others adopt a more low-key approach. Mike Tyson would often make his way to the ring with nothing more than a ripped towel thrown over his shoulders. The message: time for business.
It’s fair to say that current WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder belongs in the former camp. On Saturday night at the Staples Center in Las Vegas, Wilder arrived for his fight with the undefeated Tyson Fury – which the judges surprisingly scored as a draw – wearing a gold crown with five-inch spikes, a sparkling gold mask covering all but his eyes, and a long feather cape. Clearly he’d been raiding the Game of Thrones dressing-up box. Either that or Cruella de Vil has launched a fashion label.
Wilder often wears a mask. At the weigh-in on Friday, the 33-year-old wore a black, skull-like thing with metal spikes protruding from the chin. Think Bane from The Dark Knight Rises with a touch of added kink. And for previous ring walks, there have been intricately-decorated gold masks that Jay Gatsby might easily have worn to a ball – as well as plenty he probably wouldn’t have.
So what’s it all about?
According to Wilder, “[The mask] has an energy about it that I feed off. Putting the mask on is like a blocker, I zone in. Most definitely it’s a strange feeling. The mask is everything for me.” And what happens when the mask goes on and he gets in the zone?
“When my mind transforms it is a scary feeling,” says Wilder. “It is a source of power that takes over and allows me to feel like I know I can.” Jim Carrey, eat your heart out.
If you turn up in a cape and mask, though, you’d better deliver in the ring. Prior to the Fury fight, Wilder had won all 40 of his professional fights, 39 coming by knockout. Those numbers suggest the mask really does have some strange power.
But on this occasion, it couldn’t help Wilder. He was comprehensively outclassed by Fury, who was returning from two years away from boxing. And though Wilder salvaged a draw – thereby retaining the WBC heavyweight belt – with two late knockdowns, the consensus is that Fury was robbed by some scarcely believable judges’ scoring.
There is already talk of a rematch between Wilder and Fury. The question is, with the copybook blotted, will the mask remain?