“I’m a beast with God-given talent,” boasted Deontay Wilder inside the ring at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena after stopping Britain’s Audley Harrison in a little over a minute in 2013.
The cocky Alabaman then turned his attention away from the vanquished Olympic gold medallist and towards another Briton; a certain Mr Tyson Fury.
“I will come back to England whenever he wants to fight me,” Wilder boldly claimed.
Of course, it would be another five years before the two would tussle with one another in the first of, so far, two fights but Wilder’s swift dismantling of Harrison certainly laid the groundwork for what was to follow.
In his first appearance on UK soil, Wilder’s stoppage of ‘A-Force’ was his 28th KO in as many bouts as a professional fighter and the early rumblings of the American’s terrifying potential in the heavyweight division, armed with a right hand that could give a silverback gorilla a concussion, were beginning to come to the forefront.
Harrison’s career had sadly become the subject of cruel mockery in the build-up to his showdown with Wilder, having already suffered six professional defeats and three via the way of stoppage - it took David Haye and Michael Sprott just two rounds each, and then David Price in a mere minute and twenty seconds.
Still, Harrison’s name was big enough to garner some interest in a fight with this mysterious American who’d seemingly vapourised all who stood before him. Could this be the fight that gives Harrison’s once promising career a much-needed kick-start?
Alas, it was not. Though the opening beats of the bout started fairly evenly, the visitor quickly dialled up the pressure on his unsuspecting victim and when Harrison found himself backed to the ropes, Wilder like a shark sensing blood, launched a mighty right jab.
From there on it was as if Wilder, sporting a clean shaven head, had robbed Harrison of all his boxing prowess. Harrison’s defence became almost non-existent as he was edged even further into the corner of the ring and a flurry of huge shots sent the Londoner to the canvas.
Throwback to when Deontay Wilder sent Audley Harrison into retirement with a devastating first-round knockout 👊👊👊
Despite protests from Harrison, referee Terry O’Connor had seen enough and called a halt to the bout - Wilder had passed his UK debut with flying colours, stopping Harrison a whopping 41 seconds faster than the already blistering time set by Price.
“It was a great performance and a long time coming. I am going to be the next champion of the world. Nobody can stop my power. When I feel a face in my glove, it excites me,” Wilder remarked.
“As soon as I hit him, the fight was over. His eyes were in the back of his head. I am a beast with a God-given talent but experience can take you only so far. Nobody can stop me.”
Harrison would hang up his gloves for good a month later, while Wilder would go on to stop all but one of his next twelve opponents, before a controversial draw and subsequent loss to Tyson Fury put his own career in jeopardy.
His unforgiving power still remains, as Fury nearly found at his own peril in their first fight, and Wilder still remains a key player in a supremely-talented heavyweight division - don’t rule out a return to the top once again.