- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
A week after receiving an Olympic bronze medal in the Beijing Olympics to complete his meteoric rise through the amateur ranks, heavyweight Deontay Wilder is turning pro.
The 22-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Thursday signed a multi-year contract with powerful manager Shelly Finkel. Finkel will co-manage him with Jay Deas, who is also Wilder's trainer.
Finkel, who was back in New York on Friday after completing the deal, told ESPN.com that he was finalizing a promotional contract for Wilder with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions.
"I was in Alabama on Thursday getting our deal done and next week he should be signed with Golden Boy," Finkel said. "His lawyer is looking at the contract."
Finkel said he planned for Wilder to have his first professional fight in November or December, but he said he would bring him to Las Vegas to introduce him to the boxing media at the Sept. 13 Joel Casamayor-Juan Manuel Marquez lightweight championship fight.
"My game plan right now is take it slow," Wilder said during an appearance on "Friday Night Fights" on ESPN2. "I'm just turning pro. ... I'll learn some different things. I got great people coming in to work with me. I'm looking forward to this game."
Finkel said trainers Mark Breland and Ronnie Shields, both of whom are close with Finkel, would work with Wilder, who will also keep Deas in his corner. Wilder also will get a strength coach to build up muscle on his lean 6-foot-7, 200-pound frame.
"I believe at the end he'll be a 230- to 240-pound solid heavyweight with the right physical coach and dietician," Finkel said.
Finkel said he paid Wilder an undisclosed six-figure bonus and that Wilder would receive another six-figure bonus from Golden Boy. It's money that will go a long way to helping Wilder support his 3-year-old daughter Naieya, whose fight against the spinal cord disorder spina bifida was well-chronicled during Wilder's unexpected Olympic run.
Wilder, who didn't begin boxing until three days before his 20th birthday in 2005, was the only American to earn a boxing medal in Beijing. It was the worst performance for the United States in Olympic history. The 1948 team also only won a single boxing medal, but it was silver.
Although Wilder was the most inexperienced member of a U.S. squad that boasted two reigning amateur world champions in welterweight Demetrius Andrade and flyweight Rau'Shee Warren, he saved the team from a shutout.
Wilder, a former junior college basketball player at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, won two Olympic bouts to advance to the semifinals, where he lost 7-1 to reigning amateur champion Clemente Russo of Italy.
Now the pros beckon and Finkel has high hopes for the raw and powerful Wilder.
"He has great size and natural ability," Finkel said. "I knew he didn't have experience, but he's determined, he's athletic and he has ability he doesn't even know he has yet. In four to five years I would hope he is ready to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world."
Finkel knows a thing or two about heavyweights champions. He's managed former heavyweight champions Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Michael Moorer and currently manages unified titleholder Wladimir Klitschko and his older brother, former titleholder Vitali Klitschko.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
32mMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne
8hEric D. Williams
13hChris Broussard and Marc Stein