By Fox Doucette
There exists a critical difference between bringing a prospect along slowly and setting him up for a fall. For 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Deontay Wilder (19-0, 19 KOs) the latter problem seems to be in the cards. Wilder, who has built his record against the most motley array of opponents since Homer Simpson took up the Sweet Science in “The Homer They Fall”, faces Cincinnati club fighter David Long (11-1-2, 7 KOs) this Saturday on the undercard of Adrien Broner’s defense of his super featherweight title in the home of the Bengals and WKRP. Wilder has never gone past the fourth round; in that four-round KO of Harold Sconiers (who took a 17-20-2 record into the fight), the Alabama native even found himself on the floor.
Wilder’s own trainer has pointed out that his heavyweight did not have a long amateur career and claims that the soft touches have been on-the-job training in the pros. This would be a lot more defensible position were it not for the fact that Wilder competed in the Olympic Games and came within a fight of competing for the gold medal. There is an argument for quality over quantity, and Wilder showed in the amateurs that he was ready for the pros surprisingly quickly.
In addition, it is very hard to suss out the motivations that Wilder’s promoters have for him. ESPN won’t show his fights because the opponents are not of sufficient quality to sell the bout to the audience even as a swing fight. His most notable opponent was Damon Reed, a veteran who was best known for losing to anyone B-level or above in the sport and whose only attribute was experience, in a non-televised fight in Wilder’s hometown of Tuscaloosa. Wilder himself has never stepped up, never been challenged, and never looked like he has been given a chance to grow as a fighter through ring experience. Unless the objective is to get in touch with Contadina or Hunt’s to market their canned tomatoes with an ad campaign of Wilder saying “I know tomato cans, and this is the best tomato can on the shelf”, the promotional angle makes no sense as far as the marketability of the fighter is concerned.
So this isn’t a case like Demetrius Andrade where his promoters got him on TV until the gravy train began to pull out of the station (the prime motive behind Andrade’s fight with Grady Brewer on ESPN in August). Nor is it a case where a fighter moves over from another sport like Seth Mitchell or even Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson. This is a guy who made a name for himself in the Olympic Games being treated like a porcelain figurine by the same people who in the same breath say that Deontay Wilder will be the heavyweight champion of the world.
It seems an overstatement of fact to label Deontay Wilder as a prospect. Until he beats even a B-level fighter, he is a guy with an amateur pedigree and no professional experience that even remotely qualifies as noteworthy. As the only medalist on that underachieving 2008 US Olympic boxing squad, he should be held to a higher standard and the hangers-on and yes men who follow him should be summarily dismissed in favor of real boxing people who will steer Wilder’s career toward that goal of championship glory.
(note: Assistance in compiling information for this report was provided by The Boxing Tribune’s heavyweight maven Kelsey McCarson.)
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and shouts of “Roll Tide” from Tuscaloosa can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.