The undefeated WBC World Heavyweight Champion is lauded for his other-worldly power, but here’s what some of the game’s best minds -- trainers and past opponents -- have to say about Wilder’s other impressive attributes ahead of his mega-showdown versus Tyson Fury this Saturday on PPV.
It is the Gordian knot of boxing. How does Deontay Wilder, the presumed biggest puncher of his era, consistently obliterate his opponents? The question perhaps answers itself; with such ungodly power coursing through his right hand, there’s little need to rely on anything else. Or so goes one particular school of thought.
A late starter who picked up boxing at 20, the Tuscaloosa, Alabama native has nevertheless gone on to become not only the undefeated WBC World Heavyweight Champion, but one who has defended it 10 times over the past five years. He’ll get a chance to make it 11, this Saturday, February 22, when he faces unbeaten former unified world champion Tyson Fury in a highly-anticipated rematch of their 2018 split-draw at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, live on a historic, joint pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
During his title reign, Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) has made believers of purists and skeptics who thought “The Bronze Bomber” needed to shore up his skillset in order to be competitive at the highest level. It’s safe to say that he has chucked that theory out of the window after stopping Luis Ortiz, once the bogeyman of the heavyweight division, twice.
So, is Wilder’s success simply a matter of his punching prowess? According to nine top trainers and a former opponent, there is far more to him than a ruinous right hand. For some, the key to Wilder is his sense of spacing, for others it’s his braintrust. A few believe it has to do with his deep-set conviction in himself. All in all, the consensus seems to be that there is more to Wilder than pure brawn.
Herman Caicedo, trainer of heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz
The power and speed is a big part of it. He’s mastered his one craft and it’s very, very, very, very effective. But I think the intangible part that you can’t see and train for is the combination of one, his confidence in himself and his natural abilities. I do believe he wholeheartedly believes what he is always preaching, his mantra, “See it, believe it, receive it.” He’s a spiritual man and it empowers him in tough scenarios. It’s a confidence that everything is going to fall in place. It doesn’t hurt that he has one-punch knockout power.
There have been big punchers who lack the other (mental) part. It’s definitely something that is impossible to train for. We couldn’t have trained any harder or smarter than we did. I believe there was no one better than Luis (in the heavyweight division) who has his mix of power and intelligence and we still couldn’t beat Wilder. Will he ever be beat? I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I can’t see anybody standing up to that right hand. There aren’t going to be too many guys who can. It would have to be a perfect night for the other person. Anthony Joshua would go to sleep inside three rounds. As a coach I’ve studied and watched every single fight that I could find of Wilder and that’s exactly what I’ve come away with. The beauty of Wilder is that he knows that he is blessed and he embraces it and believes it. That’s hard to beat, man.
Ronnie Shields, trainer of WBC World Middleweight Champion Jermall Charlo, former unified world bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux & undefeated heavyweight contender Efe Ajagba
It’s his will to win. It’s not like he’s the most talented fighter in the world. Because he’s not. He just has the will to win, and that takes precedence over everything. That’s something you press in your guys in your fighters that if you want to win you gotta have the will to win. Anybody can go out there and fight. He’s just that guy. A lot of guys don’t have that. They don’t possess the will to win.
A lot of fighters that I train I could see that they want to win. Of course, every fighter wants to win, but you gotta possess that certain thing – that will. A lot of others don’t have that extra so-called push to take it to the next level. Wilder has it. You can hear it in his talk and see it when he fights. It’s something that everybody doesn’t have. I’m not saying that every fighter doesn’t have the will, I think every fighter wants to win but there’s a difference between want and will. You gotta look in a guy’s eyes. You can tell from there.
Derrick James, trainer of WBC/IBF World Welterweight Champion Errol Spence Jr. & WBC World Super Welterweight Champion Jermell Charlo
His intellect, his boxing IQ, is very underrated. I think he’s a real cerebral thinker. The way he knocked out Luis Ortiz in the second fight, the way he sat right down and shot that punch down the middle, that was something that you have to work on. You have to, it’s not something that happens by accident. You also have to have the reaction time, and I saw that in that particular fight. He can punch, yeah, but at the same time, his intelligence is real underrated and people overlook that ability.
He may not be as technically sound as others, but it doesn’t mean that what he does isn’t effective. What it means is that he doesn’t throw punches the way we want and expect from fighters, but it works from him. It’s all situational. You don’t know what a guy can or can’t do. With Deontay he’s taught what works for him and he’s mastered that. It would be asinine to second-guess his trainers when he’s been really effective. He’s undefeated. No one has gone the distance except for maybe two guys. You tell me if (Wilder’s team) haven’t done a good job.
What they’ve done is make Wilder master what he’s good at. He mastered his power. He may throw wild shots, but that punch he landed on Ortiz was a straight shot. Maybe the wild shots open up the guy in the middle, the guy blocks a punch and he throws it straight down the middle. That’s the thing, you don’t really know where the punch is coming from with Wilder.
His strength is also his fortitude. He was down on points in that Ortiz fight. His will and fortitude are great.
Brian “BoMac” McIntyre, trainer of WBO World Welterweight Champion Terence Crawford & WBO World Super Featherweight Champion Jamel Herring
You gotta look at his corner. Look at Mark Breland. Mark Breland was a great amateur back in the days and an OK fighter as a professional. His trainers have great boxing knowledge. So, you gotta give them credit. The more Wilder fights, the better he gets. Look at the last fight (against Luis Ortiz). They were looking for that one punch. Look at the course of the fight. He was stepping over, stepping over and then he finally turned that right hand.
Wilder used to come out there and throw wild punches. But look at him now. He’s using more technique behind his power. He’s able to set it up now. I guarantee you if he hits Fury with a good shot, he won’t go rushing in there. He’ll take his time and set up more power shots.
It’s gotta be the f---ing corner dude, because fighters go out there and they make up their mind up and sometimes it doesn’t go their way. Sometimes they gotta go back to their corner. Wilder listens. Great fighters listen. When they come back to the corner you have to talk to them and you tell them ‘you gotta do this,’ ‘you gotta do that’. The corner has to adjust too.
Abel Sanchez, trainer
Maybe three or four years ago, I took Murat Gassiev to spar Wilder for one week. Back then I thought the same thing, but now more than ever – his secret weapon is co-trainer Mark Breland. When Mark was fighting, he knew his distance. Everything he did was behind that distance. There are tall guys who fight inside and don’t know how to use their distance. I think what Breland did as an amateur and a pro, I think he taught or developed that in Deontay. When you look at Deontay’s right hand, that thing is totally extended. And I think that is one of the reasons why he punches so hard. He gets so much leverage on his punch. He just extends it so well. That punch he landed on Bermane Stiverne in the rematch, that punch went right through his gloves. The first knockdown, if you slow it down, that punch is right at the end of the punch. And it just drives it through the glove.
James “Buddy” McGirt, trainer of former world light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev
His focus comes to mind. He’s totally focused in there.
The perfect example is in the first fight with Fury. It was coming down to the wire and he kept that focus, man, and scored that knockdown. Also, that fight against Ortiz it wasn’t the greatest fight ever, but he kept his focus and get him out of there. He’s unique because he doesn’t have the greatest boxing talent, but he can punch like a motherf---er. He keeps his eyes on the prize.
When it comes to boxing skills, eh, but that son of a gun can punch. If he couldn’t punch, he couldn’t be where he’s at. To do what he does have to be totally focused. In order to make knockouts happen. I’m gonna be honest with you, I thought that Fury won the first fight. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. I just hope the best man wins and they put on a good fight for boxing.
Marc Ramsay, trainer of WBC World Light Heavyweight Champion Artur Beterbiev
Before everything, Wilder is an athlete. I'm pretty sure he can be good at any sports he tries since he proved that he could reach an Olympic medal with very limited amateur experience.
We can accuse Wilder of many things and specifically on the technical side, but he has two fundamental strengths that a boxing champion needs: Confidence in himself and balls. He showed this in the past when he fought tougher competition and whenever he got hurt, he had a very competitive reaction!
In addition, if you have good speed, decent coordination, balance for a guy of his size, with that long reach and one of the most powerful right hands in boxing history, then you get a legitimate world heavyweight champion.
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