A full 81 percent of young people think cyber bullying is easier to get away with than bullying in person, because you obviously never have to face your target. In the event the aggressor and victim do meet, it could go terribly wrong for the bully. You don't know what someone is capable of if you've only interacted through a screen and keyboard.
In the case of Charles Zelenoff, however, he should have know. Zelenoff, who fancies himself a boxer, chose an Olympian and heavyweight boxing champion as the target of attacks and just had an in-person encounter that shattered the power of digital hate speech.
Deontay Wilder is 6'7" and 227 pounds. He won a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics. Since turing pro, he's been in 31 fights — all of which he won by knockout. Being an undefeated heavyweight who has never been taken the distance in any fight is an incredible feat in his sport. He is currently ranked as a top ten heavyweight boxer with every major boxing organization, and holds the World Boxing Council Continental Americas Heavyweight title. That is all to say: Wilder is really, really good at punching people in the face.
Zelenoff is the self-proclaimed "Best Boxer In The World The Greatest Of All Time." While he is not ranked with any major boxing organizations, it does appear that he has been training as a boxer for some time. His YouTube channel notes he has a record of 35-0 with 22 knockouts, though this couldn't be confirmed with any athletic associations, because it's almost certainly not true.
Zelenoff gained notoriety through his YouTube videos and presence on boxing blogs and forums, but for all the wrong reasons. He was allegedly blocked from one of the more popular forums for his hate speech and bullying. While some in the boxing community thought he might be a "wind-up merchant", others took his threats and cyber actions seriously.
Much of his digital rage has been focused on Wilder and Wilder's young daughter, who suffers from spina bifida. Zelenoff used every name in the book when attacking Wilder online. He used racial slurs, made commentary on Wilder's boxing abilities, attacked his daughter for her condition, and much more. This went on for years through social media, but also included harassing phone calls and videos. Finally, Wilder reached his breaking point with Zelenoff. After some particular comments were made about Wilder's daughter, Wilder took Zelenoff up on his challenge to fight in person.
The Olympian met his bully at the Hollywood Boxing Gym on Wednesday, and amateur video of the confrontation ended up online today. Though Zelenoff did sort of get one punch in, Wilder clearly had the best of him. At one point, Zelenoff actually ran away, jumping out of the boxing ring with his gloves still on and going straight out the door. Not so big and bad without the shield of a keyboard.
Since Wilder delivered what witnesses called an "ass kicking", he has taken to Twitter to assume the official title of "Troll Hunter" and retweet positive messages from fans who had followed the saga.
This was not Zelenoff's first fight with a professional boxer. He attempted to take on Floyd Mayweather Sr., the famous fight trainer and father of undefeated world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., in 2011. At the time of the fight, Zelenoff was 23 years old and Mayweather was 62. Regardless, Mayweather landed the majority of the punches. Zelenoff did land one sucker punch — Mayweather's back was turned — before others at the ring finished him off.
It's not clear what Zelenoff hopes to gain by tormenting famous fighters and then square off with them in public, but it's not going well for him. California, where Zelenoff appears to live, has the highest level of bullying of any state. Perhaps there's something in the water.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.