By Przemek Garczarczyk
Photo: Team Szpilka

“I just want a good referee who will pay attention to Wilder’s dirty tricks – like hitting behind the head, holding. I truly believe that everybody watching on Showtime or at Barclays Center will know who is a better fighter. I don’t care about what I cannot control. I believe only in my skills. Me vs. him,” said Artur Szpilka (20-1, 15 KO) in a® interview. “The Pin” will be challenging WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (35-0, 34 KO) on January 16 at Barclays Center, televised live on Showtime.

When I recently spoke with your US promoter, Leon Margules, he said, “Artur Szpilka is crazy enough and has a heart big enough to be crowned the new heavyweight world champion on January 16. Sometimes you have to forget about stats or bookies’ favorites. In the ring you’re alone. You can achieve anything.”

Artur Szpilka: He’s right. My confidence is rising every day, I watch Deontay fights every day. I won’t talk about Wilder’s weaknesses – just his strengths. We all know he’s strong, powerful, with long reach…but so what? I’m working too hard to not believe in myself. It’s not even about becoming a heavyweight world champion – more about changing history, becoming first Polish heavyweight champion. So, one day, when I am long gone, somebody will say ‘Artur Szpilka, the man who was first Polish heavyweight champ.’ This is very important to me.

Judging by the latest Deontay Wilder interviews – already looking for the next opponents, predicting a knockout and so on – you’re almost an afterthought.

I read all this BS. Almost every day fans are sending me – mostly through social media – some of his quotes. I’m just laughing, but he will have to prove these words on January 16. Every word. There’s one quote by him that should never be said. Something about knocking me out to the verge of death…. You should never wish that to anyone. Ever. This was the stupidest thing he could say – I just hope that his wishes won’t backfire. What comes around…? I will leave everything I’ve learned in the ring. For the first time, he’ll face someone who isn’t afraid of him, is faster and throws combinations. I know what I can do. I wish him great health and a win for myself.

I remember when we were sitting at pre-fight interviews, just a day before the Bryant Jennings bout in January 2014. You were extremely confident, even suggested that Jennings should not even be in the ring with someone with your skill level. It was supposed to be an easy fight…but it ended differently.

You know well the circumstances before this bout. I was stopped by the INS in Chicago, had to fly back to Poland and wait for a special visa. It was crazy not knowing if this fight will even happen. It started weird – with a challenge to Jennings on Twitter after my countryman Mariusz Wach pulled out. There was no time for a full training camp, but maybe there’s some truth in saying that I didn’t respect Jennings’ skills enough. I lost – now this is ancient history. I was a different fighter then – only 222 pounds, and now I have 234 pounds of strength and muscle. I’m a man now. You can ask Ronnie (Shields, Szpilka’s trainer) how much I changed training at the Houston Plex Gym in the last eight months. Mentally and physically. I have couple of ideas how to fight Wilder, the best possible corner, people who I trust. I also learned that by talking too much, I put an unnecessary pressure on myself. I’m staying true to my initial words about kicking his ass, but this is all. I know how tough it is to lose a fight. He will know January 16. It hurts.

You’re saying that Deontay is an honorary member of Team Szpilka, bringing extra motivation…

Exactly. After the fight I’ll say ‘thank you, Deontay.’ I’m using his words as extra fuel. I want to prove to him and myself how good I could be. Wilder will already know who he is facing after we meet for the first time.

There are a lot of statements from you about how mentally strong you are for this fight. Going back to the 2014 Jennings fight again – you admitted after the bout that all the crowds and the cameras during ring walk got to you. Something changed?

It will not happen again. This is one of the most important lessons from the Jennings bout. I understood then how much work is in front of me. Do you remember the Adamek fight in Poland, where stakes were even higher for me? I wasn’t nervous at all. Calm, collected. There’s a nothing to lose, everything to gain attitude now. It gives me wings! Now in the last couple of days before we’ll fly from Houston to New York, it’s just waiting. There’s nothing I can learn now, just small, cosmetic adjustments to all the work we did in the past months.

We can expect WBC #1 ranked Alexander Povetkin with his promoter Andriey Ryabinsky seating in the front row of Barclays Center in NYC. Both Povetkin and Wilder were talking recently about their possible fight…

Plans will change…I’m happy for them – they’ll see how good I am…

How much better fighter are you than when you defeated Tomasz Adamek, in November 2014?

I can do more between the ropes plus all the mental difference is enormous. It was huge change from the Jennings-Szpilka fight, but now my self confidence is on another level entirely. I’m only 26, learning fast. Training with the best in the world like the Charlo Brothers, Lara and Rodriguez is priceless. Every day I’m trying to steal some moves from them…

It’s working?

I tried to learn some defensive moves from Lara, but some stuff he’s doing, does not work for heavyweights. I got more luck with putting some Charlo defense in my repertoire and some of his offensive punches.

Do you believe there is one decisive factor in the fight vs. Wilder?

Not really. Stamina, strength, how we will handle each other’s punches, will decide it. Wilder is convinced that he already knows all about boxing… good for me. I will not get rattled or provoked, but if he tries something funny, he will immediately know that some stuff does not fly well with me.

This will be a special event for Showtime. 30 years of Showtime Boxing, the New York City showcase of Deontay Wilder, heavyweight champion of the world from United States, a historic evening with two heavyweight championship bouts. Is it Szpilka against the world?

I just want a good referee. One who will pay attention to Wilder’s dirty tricks – like hitting behind the head and holding. I also truly believe that everybody watching on Showtime or at Barclays Center will know who is a better fighter. I don’t care about what I can’t control. I believe only in myself, in my skills. It’s me vs. him. The rest doesn’t matter.

Szpilka talks Wilder: I want my place in boxing history