Wilder destroys Price
Ringside report and photos by Scott Foster
Deontay Wilder: "I'm not looking for a payday. I'm the type of fighter who says, 'you think you are the best? Well, I think I'm the best. Lets see.' I fight for the pride and the glory."
After Deontay Wilder's [24-0 w/24ko] initial opponent Kelvin Price withdrew due to a rib injury, Trinidad and Tobago's Kertson "Warrior" Manswell [22-6 w/17ko] not only accepted the challenge on late notice, but issued a theatrical tirade during the pre-fight press conference, threatening to "Kill and Bury" Wilder in his native Caribbean soil. But after less than 3 minutes inside the Mobile Civic Center Arena Expo Hall, the only thing soiled was Kertson Manswell's reputation as a reliable prognosticator.
"There are 2 sides to me," Wilder proclaimed, "I can be the nice, calm, laid-back funny guy, but there is another side to me if you piss me off. If you threaten my life, you will see the 'beast' side of me, much more than what I may display in the ring. And [Manswell] has definitely crossed that line. This was my first heated press conference — and I can take a lot — but when you threaten my life, I take that seriously."
After a passive 30 seconds into the opening round, someone from the raucous crowd demanded, "Alabama!! Represent!!" Within seconds Wilder obliged by landing the 1st significant right hand of the night, catching Manswell flush before depositing him in a heap. 60 seconds and two knockdowns later, the referee called a halt to the bout at the 2:10 mark.
When asked if the "rebel yell" from the patrons triggered the big right hand, Wilder admitted, "I definitely heard that shout out, and [getting the KO] was very important. I love my state, you know — not many boxers have come out of this sweet state — so ever since the Olympics, I wanted let Alabama know they have a new sheriff in town. And I just let the division know that when you're in the press conference, 'you better cater to my feet & toes!' But seriously, when you come with death threats, I don't take that lightly. I take that personally. You're sayin' you want to take the only thing my kids have to eat out of their mouths, so it became very personal, very fast. And when I get mad, somebody gets sad."
The scheduled bout with Kevin Price was to be a step-up for Wilder, and although the Manswell bout may be viewed as a lateral move, Deontay instantly disposed of a fighter who had given quality rounds to the likes of Ruslan Chagaev, Cedric Boswell and Bermane Stiverne.
Inevitably, the post fight talk turned to the future, and the perception that Wilder has been moved up the ladder in a slow, protective pace. Saddled with an illustrious, albeit brief amateur career, the road was always perceived to be a long one for Team Wilder, but the Alabama born boxer's hope is to match heavyweight championship title defenses alongside his beloved Crimson Tide's slew of national football championships.
"Any fighter," Deontay explained, "if you were to ask them when they were ready for the title shot, they would say now. And that's exactly how I feel. But we've got a game plan that we built for my career, and we've been sticking with it. And I understand a lot of people want to see it now, now, now — everybody is looking for an American heavyweight, they want it bad, and they want it now. A lot of people are loosing patience, but we can't dwell on that – we are taking our time and we are almost there. It's gonna be great when we get there, because I'm going into that fight to win that fight, not to just say I was there. You see so many Americans getting title shots, and after the 2nd round, they are just looking to survive. I'm not looking for a payday. I'm the type of fighter who says, 'you think you are the best? Well, I think I'm the best. Lets see.' I fight for the pride and the glory."
Wilders gaudy, 100% knockout ratio continues to fuel his perception of being a coddled fighter, ignoring the inherent power and leverage Wilder brings into the ring. Longtime trainer/promoter/confidant Jay Deas dismisses this notion out of hand, insisting that a closer examination warrants praise, not pejoratives.
"I know people get impatient," Deas began, "but Deontay said it best: 'If I was 23-0 w/16ko, you wouldn't hear anything. But because I'm 23-0 w/23ko, people tend to want to knock the opponents.' The fact of the matter is, statistically, Deontay's 1st 23 opponents have a higher winning percentage than the 1st 23 opponents of Eddie Chambers, Tony Thompson, or Seth Mitchell. He is fighting the same guys the top guys have fought, but it doesn't seem like that because he is getting them all out of there. Everybody seems to be content to just fight for the title – I really believe his attitude is not just to fight for the title, but to win it and hold it."
Wilder admits that the public can only go on what they see, and with quick knockouts being the norm, much of the grueling work Wilder performs remains hidden from public purview, cloistered inside the suffocating, no-nonsense Skyy Gym in Tuscaloosa, AL.
"I can go as many rounds as we are scheduled to go," Wilder promised, "many people question that because they can't really tell — they haven't seen it — and everybody has their opinion. But the hard part takes place in training, that's where all the blood, sweat and tears goes. It's like Roy Jones said: 'It's not that they were 'nobody' — I was just so good I made them look like 'nobody.'''
Former World Champion Mark Breland joined the Wilder team shortly after the Olympics, providing a perfect fit in terms of style and demeanor alongside Deas. The obvious physical traits Breland shares with Wilder have honed his natural jab and lateral movement, but the last cog appears to be Brelands ability to maintain composure and mental toughness, both of which he hopes to transfer to his excitable upstart.
"Deontay is getting his timing together with the jab and following it with an offbeat right hand," Breland noted. "If you are hitting the guy with a hard jab, and then pop him with a quick jab and another hard jab/right hand, he is not sure what is coming. But the real key for Deontay is just to relax. Take your time; use your jab. He also needs to move around in the ring. Deontay has long legs – much like Ray Robinson – and Deontay needs to take short steps, then long steps, and just work on being relaxed in the ring."
Deas concurred, noting progress in that respect with a 6'7'' heavyweight bomber built more like a Ferrari than a Ford F-150.
"The most improvement he has made is his ability to calm down," Deas explained. "Deontay has a high motor. It was a task early on; he really didn't know what we were talking about. But now he gets it. The camps that Deontay has participated in, with Thomas Adamek, Kevin Johnson, David Haye and Tony Thompson have been really, really helpful in showing how these guys are able to go in the 12th round the way they were going in the 1st round. They are able to calm down, to pace themselves and make their punches count. It's like in the army, you have guys that shoot a million times, and then you have the assassin, who only shoots 1 bullet, but makes it count. We are trying to make him more of an assassin. Deontay is much more athletic than your average heavyweight, so he will never be a '30 punch a round' guy. He will always have a high output, and that's just gonna be him. He will always run with a high motor, but we are trying to make it a motor with a purpose."