He’s 40-0 with 39 knockouts, but to many, Deontay Wilder is still just a right hand.
After winning a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing — and thus becoming “The Bronze Bomber” — the 6-7 Tuscaloosa, Ala., native has come a long way during his decade in the paid ranks. The early part of his pro career was basically an extension of his brief amateur run, where he put together an approximate record of 30-5. But Wilder has learned how to become a complete fighter all while under the bright lights as a touted prospect.
Wilder has been guided by Jay Deas from the outset — a relationship the heavyweight calls a “big brother-little brother kind of relationship.” Deas has been pivotal in shaping Wilder into a well-rounded pro who is capable of moving nimbly despite his size; a guy with a pretty good jab to set up the big right hand that he uses to decimate his opponents.
Deas told Sporting News that for this camp, the team had shirts made up referencing the biblical verse Psalm 118:22. “I am the stone the building refused,” the shirts read. Though Wilder has always carried himself with the confidence of The Chosen One, boxing experts and critics have been anything but convinced Wilder was going to be the guy to pull the American heavyweight scene out of its decade-plus funk.
But here he is, on the verge of his first pay-per-view main event against Tyson Fury on Dec. 1 — at Staples Center no less, where dozens of big-name Hollywood names will be ringside.
“Nobody thought when he was an amateur that he was going to be the medal winner,” Deas explained. “He was not projected to win a medal, he was not projected to be the guy. He was the stone the builder refused. But if you know the story, that stone is then the one that holds up the whole building. That’s the cornerstone, the one favored. Deontay actually became everything they thought he would not.”
If Wilder is going to become a box-office success in America — another thing critics said he wouldn’t become — he’s got a perfect partner in Fury. “The Gypsy King” is the first opponent Wilder has met who has done just as much, if not more, promotion for the fight as he has. Even when Wilder beat Luis Ortiz in an exciting fight this past March, the Cuban heavyweight was an opponent who didn’t speak English and few non-hardcore boxing fans even knew about him.
“This is a first-time pay-per-view and I’ve got the right dancing partner for this,” Wilder told reporters Monday. “All my fights, I’ve had to promote the fight by myself. Guys scared to talk, scared to say what they’re going to do because they don’t know what they’re going to do. The thing about this game right here is you don’t want to say something and it don’t come to pass.”
Wilder has also had to learn the hard truth of how many obligations come with promoting a pay-per-view fight. Showtime wants to drive up the number of buys the fight does and that will help Wilder’s negotiating strength for a fight with Anthony Joshua to come together. The champion is not letting the duties take his focus off the task at hand, though.
“[The obligations haven’t bothered me] because I know how to pull back,” Wilder said. “I allow myself to do what I want to do, not what anybody else wants. I don’t care what type of fight this is.
“If I don’t want to talk, I’m not going to talk. If I don’t want anyone in my face, you’re not going to be in my face. That’s just bottom line. When it gets too forward and I feel like it’s too much pressure and too much for me and I can’t focus on the fight, the task that lies at hand, I know how to fall back.”
During his media workout, Wilder’s sparring partner, Malik Scott, moved around the ring in a similar way to the herky-jerky unorthodox style Fury has used to his advantage throughout his career. Wilder and his team have focused on finding sparring partners who can move rather than guys who are as tall as the 6-9 Fury.
“Deontay has had a fantastic camp and we’ve had really good sparring partners,” Deas said. “Fury is a tall fighter, but it’s really the athleticism that makes him what he is. We believe we’re better off finding more athletic guys who are slightly shorter than Fury rather than someone his height who is a statue.”
Wilder noted: “It’s very difficult to find guys to display what Tyson Fury does, but I definitely found the guys. I’m going to be so prepared for this fight, people are going to be amazed how I handle it. People always talk about the puncher against the boxer, we’ve heard that before with Ortiz. We heard that with [Bermane] Stiverne. Every time. How many times do I have to prove people wrong?”
It’s worth revisiting how well Wilder handled the adversity of being badly hurt by Ortiz during the seventh round of their fight. Deas has his fighter prepare for every possibility in the ring. Deas says they run drills where Wilder fights with one eye closed as if it has been swollen shut. He also has Wilder spar rounds as if he broke a hand. But that moment when Ortiz drilled Wilder with a right hand in the seventh, that’s something that’s hard to prepare for.
“We actually have some drills where we work on clinching,” Deas said. “To a certain degree, a lot of it you just have to get through. You just have to mentally be tough enough to get through that moment. A lot of it is conditioning. The better condition you’re in, the better chance you have of getting through those moments. Getting hit with a shot and going through that tornado is a whole different thing and he was able to grab and hold and get through those moments.”
Whatever Fury throws Wilder’s way next month, you can bet that “The Bronze Bomber” will be ready for it. He’s prepared for the best and worst possibilities, undoubtedly fueled by all those detractors who have been critical of him all along. After all, he is the stone the building refused.
Source: Mark Ortega