Joe Goossen has a question for those convinced Deontay Wilder can’t make the strategic and technical adjustments necessary to give himself a better chance to beat Tyson Fury in their third fight.
The way Goossen sees it, if Fury learned new, outcome-altering techniques in just one training camp, why can’t Wilder? The veteran trainer and FOX Sports analyst believes Wilder will have a legitimate chance to win their third fight if he can learn the art of fighting inside during his upcoming camp.
Fury fought Wilder far different in their rematch than he performed in their first fight, a controversial split draw in which Fury mostly out-boxed the hard-hitting Wilder. The 6-feet-9 Fury, who was 18½ pounds heavier than he was for their first fight, overwhelmed Wilder with his physicality and pressure in their rematch three months ago.
By manhandling Wilder when they were inside, Fury made their second encounter easier. He attributed all those improvements to Javan “Sugar Hill” Steward, who replaced Ben Davison as Fury’s trainer just before Fury began training camp in the middle of December.
It often takes trainers and boxers more than one camp to properly apply during a fight what they’ve worked on in the gym. But it barely took Fury one round to prove he could defeat one of the most pulverizing punchers in heavyweight history by beating him up, not by out-boxing him.
Goossen wouldn’t have blamed Fury if, based on how their first fight went in December 2018, he applied a similar strategy in their rematch. Even though Fury only won that bout on one scorecard, there’s a significant faction of fans and media that think Fury won that 12-round bout, despite that Wilder dropped him once apiece in the ninth and 12th rounds.
Steward, a nephew of late Hall-of-Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, convinced England’s Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) that heavier was better because he would be able to wear Wilder down. Fury’s new trainer also persuaded the 273-pound Brit to take the fight to Wilder, rather than allowing Wilder to regularly remain in position to land one of his devastating right hands.
“Fury pretty much said what he was gonna do,” Goossen told BoxingScene.com. “I didn’t necessarily believe him when he said, ‘Look, I’m gonna go out and try to knock him out early. I feel like with my new trainer I never knew anything about boxing before. I’ve really learned a lot in just one camp. I feel like I’m punching with my knuckles more.’ The whole rundown. And he credited it to one camp. Remember, the key line here is, ‘I feel I really didn’t know how to fight until I got with ‘Sugar Hill.’
“So, will it take Deontay years to figure out subtleties about the inside game that he lacked? Well, it didn’t take years for Fury to learn a new game in one camp, did it? Because nobody had ever seen him fight like that. He’s always been a boxer, until he hurts you or you’re too small for him, and then he’ll wear you out. But for the most part, he learned to do new things in one camp with ‘Sugar.’ So, if you ask me, ‘Can Wilder be taught?’ He’s got a lot of time before they fight again, almost half a year. Of course, he can learn some new things.”
The 34-year-old Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) hasn’t announced any changes to a training team led by Jay Deas, who is also Wilder’s co-manager. Wilder wasn’t pleased with assistant trainer Mark Breland’s decision to throw in the towel during the seventh round, but he announced the week after suffering his first defeat that the ex-welterweight champion will remain part of his team.
The former WBC champion has said he’ll meet with heavyweight legend George Foreman before beginning his next training camp, but Wilder hasn’t said Foreman will work with him during camp, which typically takes place in Wilder’s hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Regardless, Goossen believes his current training team can teach Wilder what it takes to thrive inside through repetition in the gym.
Time obviously is on their side because the third Fury-Wilder fight might not take place until November or December. They were supposed to meet again July 18, but it was postponed until October 3 and then delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He’s capable of learning,” Goossen said. “I just think that his style worked for him for so long that he didn’t really need to concentrate on the inside game at all. And therefore, he paid for it dearly in this last fight.”
Goossen notes that, for all his fundamental flaws, Wilder was able to learn enough quickly to win a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, less than three years after he took up boxing at the late age of 20. Wilder was criticized throughout his five-year reign as champion for technical deficiencies he often overcame with his freakish power, but Goossen is sure he’ll be willing to make adjustments after suffering such a one-sided defeat February 22 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“All I know is this – that Deontay Wilder, under the instructions from qualified guys, which he’s got right there – could make a concerted effort to line up the right sparring for him, where he’s not gonna get beat up while learning how to fight inside,” Goossen said. “Because sometimes you have to put your guy in a particular spot in sparring. You’ve gotta say, ‘You’re not moving around. You’re gonna sit in a corner here and I’m gonna throw four guys at you over the next 10 rounds. And you’re gonna block, parry, slip, counter, bump, touch and go, slip and counter, parries and counters, all while not moving. OK?’
“I’ve done that with several fighters. I did it with [Joel] Casamayor. I did it with [Michael] Nunn. So, I kind of had to figure out a technique to get these guys to work on the inside. But you can’t put them in with the top, top guys while they’re doing that. They’ll get eaten up while they’re learning. You’ve gotta just put in bodies that will throw punches at them, where they won’t pay a dear price while they’re learning. You do that over the course of a couple months, that guy will be 120-percent better on the inside in his next fight. I’ll guarantee you that.”
Goossen wants Wilder to focus on utilizing his left hand while working inside, which would help him fend off Fury if the gigantic champion attempts to rough him up again. Wilder allowed Fury to put him in headlocks numerous times in their rematch, which helped deplete him.
“It’s never too late,” Goossen said. “I think that if they really, really do their homework and figure out drills in the gym, in the ring, where they just practice, practice, practice the inside game, well, now you combine that with your outside game, so if the flow of the fight takes you inside, you’re gonna feel confident. You’re not gonna get panicky and hold on and wrestle and expend energy. You’re gonna be able to ride out the inside stuff and then deliver your own damage. And that’s a double-pronged attack right there.
“If you have the reach that Wilder has and that great long-distance right hand, and learn a certain percentage of the inside game, it’ll take him a long way. At least he’ll be able to defend himself against somebody that’s trying to bully him. See, he had no answer for the bullying tactics. And there’s nothing like two-handed, short shots, tight defense, left hands to the body, left uppercuts, left hooks – you’ve gotta use that left hand. He relies too much on the right hand. So, he’s got to develop his left hand. And you can do that. It’s just about repetition.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.