(Photo credit: Esther Lin/Showtime) By Sizzle JKD: Here’s the thing, Deontay Wilder came with a game plan and executed it to perfection Saturday night to capture the WBC Heavyweight title at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Former champ Bermane Stiverne had no answer for Wilder’s jab, and was thoroughly outclassed as the longer and stronger Wilder showcased what trainer Mark Breland was hired to teach him. Even more impressively, Wilder showed he had the stamina to box a complete 12 rounds and maintain the intensity and focus to win the championship rounds of a championship fight against a legitimate threat who could knock him out at any given moment.
To the surprise of many fans, the fight didn’t end in an early knockout. Perhaps a knockout was what everyone expected considering Wilder had 32 knockouts in 32 fights entering the match, while Stiverne had 21 KO’s in 24 fights. It was clear, however, that Stiverne had an iron chin and a forehead made of steel. In any case, it was clear by round 6 that Wilder wasn’t going to walk right through him.
That was when we saw Wilder execute his gameplan to perfection as the fight progressed into the latter stages. And trainer Mark Breland, who is probably best known for his unusual and lanky frame and Olympic exploits as a welterweight, put his stamp all over this fight. It was nothing short of genius, and to see the game plan coming from Breland, who was always a solid yet little-talked-about fighter in the 90s, was certainly a gratifying moment for boxing fans who appreciate the sport to its fullest.
Wilder had to be cautious in the early moments of the fight because, after all, Stiverne was the champion. This was indeed Wilder’s stiffest test to date. It was clear Wilder wasn’t going for the knockout like he did in other fights. Instead, he boxed and immediately developed a rhythm.
What we saw right away was Deontay thoroughly measuring Stiverne with a very stiff jab. Wilder constantly used his jab to maintain range and distance, and what was most impressive about his effective jab work was the fact he used the jab even while he was moving. Not to mention, the jab kept coming. He was consistent all night with it.
It didn’t help Stiverne that he couldn’t cut off the ring on Wilder and had zero head movement, but no matter how Stiverne fought it was clear that Breland wanted to show the world that Wilder wasn’t just a one-punch KO puncher and that his pupil also possessed a boxing skill set reminiscent of past heavyweight greats.
Wilder’s reach, length, and frame resembles that of Breland so it’s easy to see why Breland has been working on developing Wilder’s jab in order to make him a more complete boxer.
Once Wilder established the jab, there was nothing Stiverne could do about it, and it completely nullified anything Stiverne could bring to the table. The jab was stiff, it came off-speed at times, it had snap to it, and most importantly it was scoring points and kept Stiverne at a safe enough distance for Wilder to throw his right hand which Stiverne at times didn’t see coming.
Indeed, the jab was the story of the night for Wilder. He showed the world that he wasn’t just a knockout artist and that he had a whole slew of weapons in his arsenal. He showed us the left hook, the uppercut, and he showed us he can fight on the inside and fight defensively using foot work and distance. And he owes it all to Breland, who should receive a ton of credit for his work on Wilder, especially if Wilder continues to win.
I can see great things happening in the future for the new WBC Heavyweight champ. Great heavyweights that came before Wilder who utilized a very effective jab – Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Louis, among others – became Hall of Famers largely because of it.
Others legends who possessed some of the best jabs in the business – Tommy Hearns, Oscar Delahoya, Winky Wright, Sweet Pea Whitaker, Ike Quartey, to name a few – were known for their jabs because they either used it to “establish the pocket” or used different variations of the jab to create angles based on the positioning of their bodies.
Only time will tell how far Wilder goes and how far along he develops as a complete boxer. Next up will eventually be Wladimir Klitschko, who has a pretty decent jab of his own. What Breland should work on with Wilder next is to refine his defensive footwork, head movement, and angles, and to make him a more controlled puncher when throwing power shots and combinations instead of the free swinging Wilder we saw a little bit of last night.