THE WBC heavyweight champion and the only American world heavyweight titlist, Deontay Wilder paid tribute to the late, great Muhammad Ali.

“He stood as a man of principle, but he was also a man who made everyone laugh and a man everyone wanted to be around,” Wilder told the Premier Boxing Champions website. “Everybody takes a page from someone’s book to add to their legacy, and Muhammad Ali is the icon of boxing for me. It’s fascinating how he lived his life inside and outside of the ring.”

Any heavyweight champion will feel like they are following in Ali’s footsteps. He was the most powerful personality in boxing history, Ali made himself the definition of what a heavyweight champion should be.

Wilder identifies with the jovial side of Ali’s character. “There are similarities between us as far as our personalities and the way that I treat people. I’m a silly person on the outside and on the inside, even as a champion fighter,” Wilder continued. “People are surprised when they meet and hang around me. Muhammad Ali was the same. He liked to make people laugh and make them feel comfortable.

“It’s not that I try to study him and emulate how he speaks or walks, I just do me. But we’re very similar; I see myself in the same way … but this is a sad time for boxing.”