Trying to make sense of how Deontay Wilder fights is no easy chore. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
His bouts end in concussive knockouts, but he often struggles with opponents.
He lands the right hand with text-book dexterity, and yet he can look strangely amateurish in the early rounds, throwing wildly and doing little.
If you were teaching a novice how to shadowbox, you likely wouldn’t show him tape of Deontay.
But according to Wilder’s co-manager and co-trainer Jay Deas, we’re looking at it all wrong.
We’re missing the point.
Forget about the early rounds, he says.
Forget about the awkward moments, the clubbing shots.
This isn’t a beauty contest. It’s the hurt business, and no one does it better than Deontay.
The pound-for-pound list? Mark it down.
“He should be on there,” Deas said. “Who else is doing what Deontay is doing?”
Just concentrate on the result, he says.
But what about the lack of jabs?
It may not be pretty but it’s remarkably effective.
And it’s no accident that Wilder’s fights follow a familiar pattern — struggle early, land big late.
It’s all part of a risky, time-consuming, walk-the-tightrope strategy that is central to Team Wilder’s approach as they’ve fought better skilled opposition.
Give up the early rounds to get a beat on the opponent; study, get closer and then move in for the knockout. They’re not trying to win a decision.
“It’s called losing the battle to win the war,” Deas told BoxingScene on Wednesday. “With Deontay, we may be losing rounds but we’re gaining a tactical advantage. It’s about trying to get positioning and trying to gain an edge. It may look like Deontay is giving up early rounds, but he’s actually gaining control little by little. Deontay is working on his positioning, trying to get closer and the right angle to line up his opponent for the right hand.”
Most fighters try to win rounds. It’s common sense. You pile up points just in case you can’t get the knockout.
He turns the standard boxing playbook on its head, treating the early portions of his fights like observation sessions, studying, as if he’s reviewing tape.
All to land the right hand.
Which is what happened in his rematch with Luis Ortiz last Saturday when he basically lost the first six rounds of the bout. Then he suddenly starched Ortiz in the final seconds of the seventh round with a stunning right to retain his WBC heavyweight title. Few saw it coming. Wilder’s team has seen it before and knew it was.
“People don’t understand what he’s doing,” Deas said. “They see him losing some early rounds and believe he’s not doing anything. But he’s figuring out his opponent, making little adjustments to get in the right position, using feints, spacing. Everything he’s doing is to set up the knockout. And he’s been very successful at landing the right hand.”
It happened last December when Wilder was getting thoroughly out-boxed by Tyson Fury in their first fight before he dropped Fury in the ninth and 12throunds to eke out a controversial split draw to retain his title.
It happened against Artur Szpilka back in 2016 when Wilder rendered him unconscious with a right hand in the ninth after he struggled in the early rounds with Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis ringside in Brooklyn. It happens over and over.
It’s why Deas believes that Wilder is a no-brainer for the pound-for-pound rankings because of his ability to figure out his opponents and score knockouts against everyone he’s faced, with the exception of Fury, who he nearly stopped.
“What he’s doing takes immense skills,” Deas said. “The distance, the spacing, the foot positioning. You try knocking out someone who doesn’t want to be knocked out. He’s doing things that other fighters in the pound-for-pound rankings aren’t doing. I do think he should be in there. People just don’t understand and appreciate what he’s doing. And he’s just getting better with every fight.”
He believes Wilder will be even more effective when he faces Fury in the rematch on February 22 because Wilder will require less time to solve Fury’s vexing style. Wilder will just pick up where he left off after the 12th round.
“You saw with the knockdowns later in the fight — it took him until then to figure out Tyson,” Deas said. “I think heading into the second fight we already have a pretty good grasp of what he will do. Deontay will be a lot more relaxed and confident in what he’s doing. I always cringe at making knockout predictions but I feel good about the rematch.”
Which means if all goes according to plan, Wilder will struggle early, give up a ton of rounds, perhaps even get hurt...and then score a dramatic late knockout.
It's just his way.