What Wilder learned from Klitschko
If there is any one fighter WBC title-holder Deontay Wilder (34-0, 33 KOs) should emulate, it is lineal heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Reigning IBF, WBA Super and WBO champ Klitschko has used a similar skill set to keep a firm stranglehold on the division for over a decade now. Klitschko is a tall and athletic power puncher who uses a thudding jab and clubbing right hand to dominate would-be usurpers. Wilder, under the tutelage of trainer Mark Breland, has slowly built himself up over the last seven years from a raw athletic prodigy who captured Olympic bronze for the United States in 2008 to a top-flight professional heavyweight pugilist.
Wilder’s manager, Jay Deas, did everything he could during Wilder’s early development as a professional to get him badly needed experience. Wilder told Boxing Monthly one of the most important happenings during that crucial time period was being shipped over to be a sparring partner in advance of Klitschko’s unanimous-decision victory over Mariusz Wach in 2012. Wilder said he went into the experience looking for opportunities to better himself, and Klitschko provided exactly that.
“When I went into his camp, I came in with an open mind. I was like ‘how has this guy dominated the sport for ten years?’ You know? And I got my answers. He’s a super hard worker. That’s why I gravitated to him like I did, and I admire his work, even more after seeing it up close and in person.”
Wilder praised Klitschko for turning his career around after a rough patch. Klitschko suffered the last of his three career losses way back in 2004 after dedicating himself to the principled training methods of the late Emmanuel Steward.
“Once he started listening to him, everything started becoming better for him,” said Wilder.
Wilder has enjoyed a similar experience with Breland. The former Olympic gold medalist and professional world champion has moulded Wilder from just being a talented athlete into a legitimate boxer, one who relies on a stiff jab and hard punches from a distance. If you watch video of Wilder from his early days as a professional, you see a big guy who flails his arms about with little to no precision. Contrast that with the work he’s done as of late, and you’ll witness the genesis of a new fighter.
Wilder is on a collision course with Klitschko. He said he expects the bout to come his way in 2016 after both he and Klitschko take care of various other mandatory title defenses. Klitschko faces Tyson Fury on October 24 in Berlin. Wilder is set for a voluntary defense on September 26 against an opponent to be named, possibly Lucas Browne or Czar Glaskov. After that, Wilder expects to face mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin before the end of the year.
But no matter when the Klitschko fight finally comes, Wilder said he’ll take things into it he learned while working in Klitschko’s camp. Most notably, Wilder said he believes he can defeat Klitschko by virtue of what he learned sparring against him three years ago.
“I took a lot from that camp. I became the No.1 sparring partner in his camp. I did over 50 plus rounds with him, and I learned a lot from that camp. I still remember those encounters. A lot of people say they have the blueprint, the remedy to beat a fighter, but when I say it…it’s going to be a good fight. Even when we were fighting in camp, we had people looking at us. Every time the rounds ended, they gave us a standing ovation, because it was just that serious and we both went at it because we knew that we would have to fight each other one day.”
Wilder wouldn’t go into specifics about his Klitschko plan, but he claimed those present at the time were able to catch a glimpse of what it might be.
“The things I was able to do. It shook up the camp, even with his people. He knows when the time comes, it’s going to be a great fight. But that’s what it’s all about. We want a great fight. You have the guy who has been on top for a long time, and now you have the newcomer who has come along.”
Wilder promised he wasn’t looking too far ahead. He said he knows he has loads of hard work ahead of him before then and said he wasn’t the type to overlook any opponent. In his last fight, Wilder knocked out journeyman heavyweight Eric Molina in nine rounds in his home state of Alabama. While he got the win, he’ll definitely need to be better than he was that night if he hopes to compete with Klitschko.
But Wilder’s enthusiasm can’t be ignored, and how he approached his time spent in Klitschko’s camp is a sure sign of maturity. He’ll need that and more if he hopes to become as fine a champion as Klitschko someday.
“It’s going to be great. I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to it," said Wilder. "But right now he has mandatories he has to fulfill. And I have fights and mandatories I have to fulfill. We’re looking forward to it, but we have to handle business until then.”