Undefeated heavyweight Deontay Wilder, most would agree, is a work in progress. He’s not your typical work in progress, however -- unless you consider his record of 28-0 with 28 knockouts run of the mill.
Still, the question on most everyone’s mind: Does the former amateur standout and the last male American to medal in the Olympic Games possess the skills and talent to one day became a world champion?
The 6-foot-7, 27-year-old Wilder, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., will try to extend his winning and knockout streaks when he faces former world heavyweight champion Sergei “White Wolf” Liakhovich (25-5, 16 KO’s), of Scottsdale, Ariz., by way of Vitebsk, Belarus, in the 10-round main event of a tripleheader this Friday, Aug. 9, from Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif.
The will be broadcast live on ShoBox: The New Generation live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast)
Wilder, who didn’t start to box until he was 21, only had 30-35 fights in the amateurs but earned the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. He was the least experienced member on the U.S. team yet was the only one to medal.
Since turning pro in November 2008, Wilder has feasted on his foes, mostly demolishing each and every one of them. He has not gone four full rounds in a fight. Sixteen of his fights have ended in the first round, including a 70-second destruction of 2000 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Audley Harrison in his last start on April 27. Six of his fights were over in the second, three were done in the third and three were finished in the fourth round.
Currently ranked No. 6 in the WBA and WBO, No. 15 in the IBF and No. 30 in the WBC, Wilder has had one scheduled 12-round fight and three scheduled 10-rounders. This will be his third start in 2013 after fighting six times in 2010, 2011 and 2012. To his credit, he doesn’t take long layoffs between outings.
“I honestly don’t have any time off,’’ Wilder said. “I’m always up in the gym. When people call somebody a ’gym rat,’ I am definitely that. This is my job and I take it seriously whether I’m outside the ring or inside. The only way to get better is to train and practice hard. The most time I’m off after a fight is maybe a week. After that, I’m training and waiting on the next fight. When I go to camp, I don’t go to camp to get in shape. I go to camp to put shape on top of shape. I’m never out of shape.’’
Wilder has been trained since the outset of his pro career by Mark Breland, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist and former two-time WBA welterweight world champion.
“Deontay is great to work with, he does what I tell him to and he’s willing to try anything I say, which is all I can ask,’’ Breland said. “He’s sparring 10 rounds and we’re coming off a great camp. He’s really improved a lot since we started. Honestly, we did not anticipate the knockouts; in fact, we are trying to get him to box and move more, which he’s beginning to do. He’s got good power in his right hand and a great 1-2 punch. So we’re trying to develop his jab. But his power his just overwhelming right now.
“Two greats thing about Deontay are his willingness to learn and his work ethic. He knows he’s still learning and has the right attitude. He’s hungry and works hard in the gym. His shoulders are too tight when he boxes; once he relaxes a little and is able to loosen his shoulders, he will be even more dangerous. It’s all about relaxing, but that comes with experience.
“This is another stepping stone, but there’s no way we take Liakhovich lightly. There are still little things he can do that Deontay’s never seen. Deontay knows he has to be at the top of his game every fight.”
Wilder, who went pro at age 23 in November 2008, will be making his ShoBox debut. He won the WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title with an eye-opening third-round knockout over previously undefeated Kelvin Prince last Dec. 15 .
“I’m excited to be in the main event on ShoBox on SHOWTIME,’’ Wilder said. “I was on the (network) when I broke Price’s jaw. We’re just trying to reach our goal. I’m glad to have a great opponent. I can’t wait to perform on Aug. 9. It’s the Bomb Squad!’’
Liakhovich won the WBO heavyweight title with a 12-round decision over Lamon Brewster on April 1, 2006, and lost it on a 12th-round TKO to Shannon Briggs the following Nov. 4. He’s fought only five times since and is coming off a ninth-round TKO loss to Bryant Jennings on March 24, 2012.
The 6-foot-4, 37-year-old Liakhovich, who’ll be making his first start for trainer and former WBA super welterweight, WBA middleweight and WBC light heavyweight world champion Mike “The Body Snatcher” McCallum, didn’t perform well against Jennings. But the usually tough and durable 14-year-pro is confident he still has what it takes and has enough left to score what would be a major upset.
“I’ve been working with Mike McCallum in Las Vegas for over two months,’’ said Liakhovich, who’s counting on his vast advantage in experience and natural athletic ability to take Wilder into unchartered waters. “My main sparring partner is a tall guy like Wilder. I’ve fought a lot of tall guys – (6-foot-6½-inch unbeaten Robert) Helenius, (7-foot-tall, former WBA heavyweight champion Nicolay) Valuev. You need to find the key how to do certain things for this kind of opponent, but it’s not so difficult.
“Wilder is a good fighter, his record speaks for itself. But I’m not looking over him, I’m looking forward. On Aug. 9, I will put everything on the line, and I’m coming to win."
August 8, 2013
August 8, 2013