The most significant moment in the life of Deontay Wilder had nothing to do with boxing or becoming heavyweight champion of the world, rightly proud though he is of that accomplishment.
It came when he was called upon to make a deeply personal and profoundly agonising choice as a poor teenager who was about to become a father. Wilder and his then-girlfriend Helen Duncan were told that his first child would be born with spina bifida.
'It had been scary first off to know I had a child on the way,' he says. 'It was even scarier that this tiny being would be coming into the world with a defect. I was so young, holding my whole world in my hands. Suddenly I was facing this huge responsibility for a life which would need my enormous care and attention.
Deontay Wilder opens up to Sportsmail on life as a father to eight children by four women
Wilder reveals why the home comforts of Alabama are the perfect surroundings to hone craft
The Bronze Bomber also explains how he'll knockout Tyson Fury in Las Vegas next Saturday
'The doctors told us she would never walk. Told us maybe she would never have a child's natural ability for learning. They offered us the opportunity to terminate. This was the most important decision of my life. To keep her or not to keep her. Thank God I got it right. We just felt she had a right to live.'
Vindication has come with every improving day of Naieya's life and her 6ft 7in 34-year-old dad, whose business is knocking out all the other giants of the prize-ring, is glowing with love and delight as his daughter approaches her 15th birthday, on March 20.
'Doctors can do all that studying and acquire all that knowledge,' says Wilder. 'But what they cannot account for is a miracle, the miracle that is our Naieya. She's not just walking, she's running. She's not only going to school, she's one of the smartest girls in her class. So clever, so intelligent.
Wilder's youngest daughter, Naieya, was born with a spinal condition called spina bifida
Naieya, 15, has defied the prognosis of doctors and is flourishing academically and in sport
'The experience with her matured me early. Seeing her overcome adversity so many times inspired me to do the same. Even before she was born, she taught me the importance of always making the right decisions. She's such a bright spark lighting up my life, as are all my children with their different characters and personalities. I love them all.' All eight of them. By four different mothers, including the latest addition with Telli Swift, the fiancée soon to become his second wife.
We are talking in a cubby-hole of a room in a corner of his dilapidated gym, which occupies two of a few mostly deserted lock-up storage units tucked away in a small clearing in woods on the edge of Tuscaloosa. Rain is hammering on the tin roof and old buckets are catching the drips around the ring.
It is where Wilder escapes family life and trains to be the Bronze Bomber. He will be happy if he finishes the job of knocking out Tyson Fury, who he floored twice in their drawn first fight 14 months ago.
Wilder is desperate to prove himself as the best heavyweight of his generation by beating Fury
He explains: 'Yes, I want to prove that I'm the best heavyweight of this generation. Perhaps the best ever because when I knock out Tyson it will be in my 11th straight world heavyweight title fight, which is closing in on Muhammad Ali's record. This is now the biggest fight of my life.'
But talk quickly returns to his family. 'My best days of all are when I have all the kids at home with me. Sometimes with all their mothers. Even a couple of my mothers-in-law. I love them, too. I have a big, beautiful family.'
Preparation for a large family came from being the eldest of eight siblings. As did the aspiration for greatness. He recalls: 'The house was always full. Some nights when everyone was at home and two of my sisters brought their kids, there was no bed for me and I had to sleep outside in the back of our old car. As the oldest I got to do the majority of the chores, as well as look after the others.'
Wilder wanted to become an NFL player before turning to boxing when he was a teenager
The 34-year-old has remained in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama throughout his career
Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama, whose fabled college champions football team, the Crimson Tide, Wilder dreamed of playing for. Poor high school grades partly put paid to that ambition and he had to go to a tough community college 'where they made fun of my old hand-me-down clothes and wornout shoes, so I turned to boxing'.
There was also the more pressing need to boost the family income. 'We were always struggling to make ends meet,' he says. 'Living from pay cheque to pay cheque. So I got a job as a server at the local IHOP.'
That is short for the International House Of Pancakes fast food chain and Wilder adds: 'I used to make pretty good tips. I always kept my station spotless. At first people thought I must be a basketball or football player and talked to me about