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Wilder to defend belt at Barclays Center

American Headlines First Brooklyn Heavyweight Title Bout Since 1900

December 10, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
WBC champion Deontay Wilder, shown here making an appearance during last weekend’s fight card at Downtown’s Barclays Center, will defend his belt here on Jan. 16, marking the first heavyweight title fight in Brooklyn since 1900. AP photo

The last time the world heavyweight title was contested in our fair borough, Theodore Roosevelt was the governor of New York and just six months away from beginning his tenure as Vice President under the soon-to-be reelected William McKinley.

Also, a first-class U.S. stamp would cost you 2 cents, and unbeaten Yale was crowned the mythical national champion of college football.

In other words, it’s been quite a while.

But that extended and historic drought will come to an end on the night of Jan. 16, 2016, when WBC champion Deontay Wilder will defend his crown at Downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center against Polish challenger Artur Szpilka.

The main event will mark the first title bout in the heavyweight division here since James Jeffries knocked out “Gentleman Jim” Corbett in the 23rd round on May 11, 1900 on Coney Island.

You all remember that one, don’t you?

“It took 115 years, but heavyweight championship boxing is back in Brooklyn,” said Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark. “I spent some time with Deontay at the [Daniel] Jacobs-[Peter] Quillin fight last Saturday, and he can’t wait to defend his title at Barclays Center, but it won’t be easy.

“Artur Szpilka is a great fighter and is sure to be well represented by the ‘Little Poland’ neighborhood of nearby Greenpoint,” Yormark added. “The borough is ready for heavyweight championship boxing. It was worth the wait.”

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The 30-year-old Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) is the first U.S.-born heavyweight champion of any sanctioning body since 2007, while Szpilka (20-1, 15 KOs) is looking to become the first-ever Polish heavyweight champion of the world.

Both boxers have been busy of late, with Wilder entering the squared circle for the fourth time in the last calendar year since dethroning Canada’s Bernane Stiverne on Jan. 17, 2015.

“I’m looking forward to being the next undisputed heavyweight champion and the most active heavyweight champion in history,” Wilder said.

Szpilka, 26, has won four fights in a row since the lone loss of his career in 2014 against then-unbeaten Bryant Jennings.

“I’ll be ready to put on a show for my fans and take [Wilder’s] belt from him on Jan. 16,” Szpilka said.  

The winner of the SHOWTIME-televised headliner will more than likely be in line to take on whomever emerges from the Tyson Fury-Wladimir Klitschko rematch after Fury stunned Klitschko, long considered the universal heavyweight title holder, in Germany on Nov. 28.

But for now, both Wilder, who will be making his third WBC title defense, and Szpilka are focused on the task at hand.

“I’m excited about coming to New York City, I’m excited about displaying my talents and I’m excited about fighting at Barclays Center,” said Wilder. “I want to thank my opponent Artur Szpilka for accepting this opportunity that I’m giving him. I wish him luck. He’s going to need it.”

“It feels amazing to get the opportunity to fight Deontay for his heavyweight world title,” countered Szpilka. “I can’t wait to be the first-ever Polish heavyweight to win a world title.  I’ve dreamed about this many times, and now my time has come.”

And after 115 years, the time has also come for Brooklyn to host a genuine heavyweight title bout.

* * *

In local college sports news, the LIU-Brooklyn women’s basketball team dropped to 0-4 at the Wellness Center this season following a tough 53-44 defeat to visiting NJIT Wednesday night.

Junior Brianna Farris scored 13 points and Brooklyn-born senior Shanice Vaughan added 12 for the Blackbirds (2-5), who have lost two straight overall following a dramatic 68-66 overtime win at Navy in Annapolis, Maryland, on Dec. 2.

LIU will try again to post its first home win of the year on Monday against Columbia.

Defending Northeast Conference women’s champions, SFC Brooklyn, dropped a 74-35 decision to visiting Army at Remsen Street’s Pope Center on Tuesday night, despite 17 points and 10 rebounds from senior standout Leah Fechko.

The Terriers (1-6) will be back in action Dec. 18 at Manhattan College.

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