NEW YORK -- Deontay Wilder had just retained his heavyweight world title for the seventh time in a brutal battle with Luis "King Kong" Ortiz on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Wilder dropped Ortiz in the fifth round but then took so much damage, and came so close to getting knocked out in the seventh round, that all three judges awarded Ortiz a 10-8 round even though he didn't knock down Wilder.
It was miraculous that Wilder survived the round and then, in the 10th round, he came storming back to destroy Ortiz. He knocked him down with three brutal right hands and then finished him with one of the most sensational right uppercuts you'll ever see. Ortiz went limp on the mat and the fight was over.
Facing by far his most dangerous opponent, Wilder had walked through fire to score a rousing and memorable victory that will play on his highlight reel for eternity.
"There is no man that has stood in front of me that I haven't knocked out and I'm gonna continue my knockout spree," Wilder said proudly at his postfight news conference.
But only a couple of minutes after Wilder arrived, the question everyone knew was coming was asked: Do you want to call out Anthony Joshua?
A Wilder showdown with two-belt titleholder Joshua, a huge star in the United Kingdom, is easily the biggest fight the division has to offer and one of the biggest fights in boxing, period. They are both undefeated titleholders. Both own Olympic medals (Joshua gold in 2012, Wilder bronze in 2008). Both are charismatic. Both are gargantuan punchers.
"How many times do I got to call him out? How many times? They hiding," Wilder said. "His promoter [Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing] don't want that fight and after tonight they definitely won't want it. I've done enough, I've spoken enough. I really don't want to talk about the dude no more because I've said all I have to say. After tonight I don't need to say no more. All I want to do is prove to the world that I am the best. I'm the baddest man on the planet and, hey, whenever they ready I'll be ready. Talkin' about calling him, how many times I got to call him? All you got to do is pick up the phone.
"They don't want this fight. Eddie Hearn is milking the cow. It's good to make money and stuff like that, but how long you going to cheat the people out of their money? How long you going to sit around and fight these guys who ain't even worthy of him?"
To be fair, while Wilder was dealing with his tough task against Ortiz, Joshua is two fights removed from nearly getting knocked out by the future Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko last April in the 2017 fight of the year. And now, although Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) is not facing Wilder next, he is taking on the division's other undefeated titleholder, Joseph Parker. They meet to unify their three belts on March 31 in Cardiff, Wales.
Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) plans to be ringside for the fight and hopes to fight the winner. He has been hired by Sky Sports, Joshua's home broadcaster, to serve as a commentator.
"As far as who's winning, it don't matter who wins. But, of course, everybody wants to see Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder," Wilder said. "And with Joseph Parker, I don't know. They say they want to fight but they had the opportunity to fight me before. That's why they came to Alabama to the fight."
Indeed, New Zealand's Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) was in Wilder's home region of Birmingham, Alabama, 13 months ago to watch his knockout of Gerald Washington. Parker and his team said they were there hoping to make a fight with Wilder, but it never went anywhere.
"When I knock people out they get indecisive about what they really want to do," Wilder said. "Certain people say certain things for the media and to entertain the crowd but what I say I really mean. I only speak from my heart."
The Joshua discussion continued and Wilder said he believed his win over Ortiz was more impressive than Joshua's over Klitschko.
"'King Kong' was undefeated," Wilder reminded the media. "Wladimir had been beaten many a time and when he fought Joshua he was already beaten. He wasn't the king. He had been dethroned. He was coming off almost a two-year layoff. And really Joshua didn't win that fight. Wladimir lost. He had the opportunity to get that guy out of there. He made the wrong decision at the wrong time and it cost him."
Wilder accused Joshua and Hearn of making too much of the win, a fight in which Klitschko dropped Joshua for the first time in his career before Joshua stopped him in the 11th round before 90,000 at Wembley Stadium in London.
"They still on their high horse about that win," Wilder said. "But how can you be on your high horse when somebody else already dethroned him? And we know who did that, Tyson Fury. They can celebrate that for only so long. I feel with Ortiz, he got the better skills. Nobody wanted to fight this guy. Everybody ducked this guy. Once I unify the division they have all their belts back. I just want to prove a point to myself and the world that I am the best in the world."
He may have to wait awhile. Shelly Finkel, one of Wilder's managers, said he met with Barry Hearn, Eddie's father and owner of the company, on Nov. 29.
It was at that meeting, Finkel said, that Barry Hearn told him he thought a Joshua-Wilder fight would do bigger business in Las Vegas than in the U.K. "because I can bring over 20,000 Brits who will spend more money just like they did for Ricky Hatton."
Finkel said he asked for Hearn to crunch the numbers because "we're ready to make the deal."
Finkel then pulled out a printout of an email he said he got from Eddie Hearn a few hours after he had met with Barry Hearn, and Finkel read from it.
"Glad you had a good chin wag with the old man," Finkel quoted Eddie Hearn as writing. "I will get the respective [profit and loss projections] to you this week for discussion, meaning what we would make in the U.K. and what we would make in Vegas. That was Nov. 29. I've never heard from him since."
Finkel said that to him it's a sign they don't want the fight.
"The bottom line is if someone wants a fight, it gets made," Finkel said, adding that their side has never asked for any particular purse split for the bout and that they are aware they would get less than 50 percent of the money. "We have not begun negotiations with him. We are fine to fight in the U.K. We are fine to fight in Vegas. Here you have [Wilder], one of the two best [heavyweights] in the world ready to fight. The dollars will get made if Joshua wants it. I know that no matter what is said he doesn't want the fight now. It's got nothing to do with cowardice. It's got nothing to do with anyone else. Deontay, he knows, is the only one who can beat him. He'll fight when he's ready. Right now he's dodging us."
Wilder stands ready for the fight. Joshua and Parker have business to attend to later this month. In a perfect world -- which this is far from -- the winners will fight and give the people what they want.