Deontay Wilder spent his 27th birthday in training camp as the primary sparring partner for then heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko to help prep Klitschko for his unanimous decision over Mariusz Wach in November 2012.
Wilder might get a delayed birthday gift from that day when he steps into the ring against Alexander Povetkin in Moscow on May 21.
Klitschko’s win over Wach came 11 months and two fights before he scored four knockdowns on the way to a one-sided unanimous decision over Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs). Since that disaster—which cost him his world heavyweight title—Povetkin has rattled off four straight victories, all by knockout.
He is looking to build on that momentum against Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs), the 6-foot-7 winner of a bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics who captured a heavyweight title against Bermane Stiverne in January 2015 and has since successfully defended it three times (all by KO).
“Basically what Klitschko did to [Povetikin] is that he stayed tall and he was the more aggressive guy,” said Wilder, a 30-year-old native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “That’s what I’m planning to do is stay tall and be aggressive.
“But not only that, I’m more athletic and a lot faster than Klitschko. I promise you that Povetkin is definitely going to see a fighter that he’s never seen, that’s for sure.“
In his last fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on January 16, Wilder thrilled a frenetic crowd of 12,668 with a vicious ninth-round knockout of previously once-beaten southpaw Artur Szpilka of Poland.
Povetkin, a 2004 Olympics gold medal winner for Russia, hasn’t fought since November 4, when he scored a dominating 12th-round TKO of Wach (31-2, 17 KOs), stopping the Pole for the first time in his career.
“Povetkin is a tremendous fighter who is strong and aggressive. Those are things he won't change at 36 years of age, and why should he?’’ said Jay Deas, Wilder’s co-manager and trainer. “His skill set has led him to a gold medal as an amateur and a world title as a pro. He's only lost one fight and it was an ugly fight to watch, with lots of strategic holding and leaning and so on.
“Deontay is a totally different fighter than Klitschko, so what would work for Wlad probably wouldn't for Deontay and vice versa. Deontay has to do what he does best, which is use his distance and range to create punching opportunities. He gets better every day, and I think you'll see the best of Deontay on May 21.”
MR. TROUT GOES TO WASHINGTON
Austin Trout is in the midst of his fourth straight training camp working with trainer Barry Hunter, along with Trout’s longtime cornerman Louie Burke, at Hunter’s Headbangers Boxing Gym in Washington, D.C.
Trout (30-2, 17 KOs), a 30-year-old southpaw from Las Cruces, New Mexico, challenges 154-pound champion Jermall Charlo (23-0, 18 KOs) at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on May 21 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Charlo-Trout is part of a 154-pound division championship tripleheader. Charlo’s twin, Jermell Charlo (27-0, 12 KOs) and John Jackson (20-2, 15 KOs) of the Virgin Islands meet for a vacant title, while Cuba native Erislandy Lara (22-2-2, 13 KOS) defends his crown against Vanes Martirosyan (36-2-1, 21 KOs) of Glendale, California, in a rematch of their draw from November 2012.
Hunter also trains former 140-pound titlist Lamont Peterson and his brother, Anthony, a 135-pound contender. Along with hammer-fisted 168-pound fighter Demond Nicholson, the Peterson brothers are providing Trout with outstanding sparring.
“The workouts that we’ve gone through require a new level of sustained intensity, and in order to do them, you have to be in tremendous condition,” Trout said. “So as an athlete, that has just taken me to a completely different level.
“Charlo’s got a good strong jab, but my man, Demond Nicholson is a big, strong fighter with a really strong jab as well as a strong right hand. We also have Lamont Peterson there who can do everything and has a long reach and a great jab.”
Since consecutive world-title losses to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Lara in 2013, Trout has won four straight, including the past three by stoppage. But Trout, who was knocked down once by both Alvarez and Lara, had to rise from the canvas in the third round against Daniel Dawson to win a 10-round unanimous decision in August 2014—his last fight before teaming with Hunter.
With Hunter in his corner, Trout dropped Louis Grajeda in the fifth round of a seventh-round stoppage win in December 2014, stopped Luis Galarza in the sixth round last May and floored Joey Hernandez with a body shot for a sixth-round knockout in September.
“The quality of sparring in that [Headbangers] gym is amazing and a huge advantage,” said Burke, who successfully guided Trout past Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico in December 2012 in the biggest win of his career.
“Of course the coaching over there with Barry is top-notch. It’s just been very beneficial for us all the way around.”
KEITH THURMAN AND DANNY GARCIA SWAP BARBS
Thurman will defend his title against Shawn Porter in a highly anticipated bout at Barclays Center on June 25 (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). Garcia won his title with a resounding victory over Robert Guerrero in January.
“Danny Garcia stepped up to 147, and I think it’s time for Danny to step up to me, but I can see him ducking and dodging,’’ Thurman said. “Jesse Vargas has a belt and [so does] Kell Brook, and I want to see another one of those things wrapped around me real soon.”
Garcia takes exception to Thurman’s “ducking and dodging” allegations, pointing to his impressive run at 140 pounds. Eleven of Garcia’s past 13 fights have been against current or former world titleholders, including Guerrero, Erik Morales (twice), Amir Khan, Lamont Peterson, Lucas Matthysse, Zab Judah, Kendall Holt and Nate Campbell and Mauricio Herrera.
In addition to fourth-round knockouts over Morales and Khan at 140, Garcia stopped two-division title winner Paulie Malignaggi in the ninth round of his 147-pound debut in August.
Garcia doesn’t see those kinds of marquee names on Thurman’s ring résumé.
“Keith’s biggest win was over Robert Guerrero, but I beat Robert Guerrero, too,” Garcia said. “He makes it seem like I ducked and dodged people, but I fought nothing but the best in my career. I was an underdog in some of my title fights early on.
"I just find it disrespectful that he tries to downplay me like that. Before you talk about a true champion, get your facts straight, and do a little more research before you open your mouth.”
Lem’s Corner is published each Wednesday at PremierBoxingChampions.com.