World heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder says deaths in the boxing ring have reminded him of a “scary feeling” he contemplates every time he fights.
Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev, 28, and Argentine Hugo Santillan, 23, died this week from injuries sustained in bouts.
American Wilder, 31, has been criticised in the past for stating he is “trying to get a body on my record”.
Asked by Sport newsmen if he thinks of the risk he faces by fighting, he said: “Almost every time I have to fight.”
Wilder added: “It makes you think you can go in there and not get out. We, all us fighters have some kind of mental illness to fight one another.
“But boxing will grab you and hold you tight. It’s an emotional sport too.”
Tributes have been paid to Dadashev and Santillan from across the sport.
Promoter Lou DiBella – who has worked with Wilder in the past – said the deaths meant he currently did not want to attend a boxing show, adding: “As a sport [or] industry, we have to look in the mirror. I have to look in the mirror.”
Speaking to BBC Sport boxing correspondent Mike Costello about the deaths, Wilder added: “It’s a scary feeling.
“Each and every time I go in the ring I make sure I’m prepared. I tell people I turn into the Bronze Bomber, a different animal. That’s because I know how serious this sport is. We risk our lives for others’ entertainment and I know how severe it is. I have children too.
“It puts a gladiator spirit in your heart to know you go in do what you have to do and come out.”
Wilder – who holds the heavyweight division’s WBC title – has been questioned for raising the prospect of one his opponents dying in the ring on more than one occasion.
His words have been widely condemned, with the likes of former world heavyweight champion Frank Bruno and former world cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew highly critical.
“With me being in this sport, providing my life for others’ entertainment, I have the right to say whatever I please,” Wilder told IFL TV.
“I can say I want to kill a man and my actions can be different.
“I’m the one risking my life. I will speak my piece while I’m risking my life, please give me that respect.”
Wilder confirmed his next bout will still be against Cuba’s Luis Ortiz, despite a lengthy delay in securing a date and venue for a bout which will take place later this year.
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