by Fox Doucette
Let’s talk for a minute about Deontay Wilder, US Olympian, and the future of his boxing career. As anyone who follows sports can tell you, the real money for any athlete isn’t in salaries (unless you’re Floyd Mayweather and you get to keep the promoter’s cut in a pay per view that grossed a hundred million, becoming the #1 paid athlete in the world in the process.) Tiger Woods makes more money from Nike than he makes on the golf course, and that was true even before his ex-wife bashed his golf career and his waitress-screwing career in with a nine-iron. LeBron, Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, even Michael Jordan still makes bank despite not having played meaningful basketball since 1998 (shut up about the Wizards. That never happened, you’re imagining it. Put the drugs down.)
The problem with boxing is that, except for George Foreman and his “knock out the fat” countertop grill, there isn’t really a lot of mainstream connection between boxing and potential endorsement deals. Ordinary folks don’t wear boxing shoes the way they would wear basketball shoes, Subway already has a fighter (Mike Lee, who left fans wondering if eating at Subway would sap their strength after that woeful punching performance on Friday Night Fights last week), and nobody wants to see Sylvester Stallone conversing with Siri unless the payoff was Siri saying “You appear to have marbles in your mouth. Here are some clinics in your area for when you choke on them.”
So what’s left for a boxer who has more “marketability” than boxing ability? Deontay Wilder is in action this Saturday against some schmuck with gloves on (Owen Beck, with eight stoppage losses to his credit), the 2008 US Olympian whose 22 knockouts as a pro to start his career have come against an array of hobos, nobodies, club fighters, fall guys, and plain old tomato cans…
Tomato cans! That’s it! Genius! I can see the commercial now…
(SCENE: A supermarket, the Italian food aisle. Deontay Wilder, in his boxing trunks and wearing hand wraps, is shopping. We see his cart full of lasagna noodles, Parmesan cheese, Italian sausage, ground beef, ricotta…all the ingredients for a meal, except…)
VOICE OVER: When it’s Italian food night at Deontay Wilder’s house, only the best ingredients will do. Pasta imported from Italy, real Parmesan cheese, meats fresh from the butcher’s counter. But when it comes time to make the sauce…
(Wilder comes to a display of canned tomatoes. Suddenly, he starts going postal, beating up displays of blue cans and green cans and red cans, making a horrible mess in the process.)
VOICE OVER: Deontay Wilder knows when it’s time to knock out a tomato can. In his boxing career, he smashes tomato cans that have no business being in the ring with him, and in the supermarket, he smashes tomato cans that have no business in his perfect lasagna.
(Wilder stops, looks pensively at the remaining part of the display he hasn’t destroyed, then smiles expressively)
VOICE OVER: What’s this? It’s the vine-ripened, canned fresh Roma tomatoes from Contadina! Only the very best for an Italian food meal that goes the distance and always wins a decision when your family judges dinner!
(Wilder picks up a can of Contadina canned tomatoes and displays it for the camera)
WILDER: Mmmm, Contadina’s the champ!
Seriously, someone needs to have a nice long chat with Deontay Wilder’s management team. Bringing a guy along on a diet of palookas, no-hopers, and zombies only makes a fighter’s skills regress from the level he achieved in the amateurs. There’s a reason ESPN won’t push Wilder’s career, and it isn’t because they couldn’t work the angle of the 2008 Olympic team. They still do it with Demetrius Andrade. If Andrade’s level of competition is acceptable and yours isn’t, you really need to take a long look at who you’ve got your guy in with.
Wilder still hasn’t fought a bout that was even scheduled for more than eight rounds, and he has never been past the fourth because of the rotten competition in front of him. If you put him in against Alexander Povetkin (who wasn’t as good an amateur and has almost the same number of pro fights, 24 to Wilder’s 22), the Russian would kill him. Once he steps up in class it’s going to be an adventure because of all the bad habits Wilder has learned.
So unless Wilder’s handlers want to cash him out for hilariously over-the-top commercials for Italian food, they need to step things up sooner rather than later. Because Owen Beck isn’t exactly Wladimir Klitschko in there.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for the Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and offers to accompany Fox on a delicious dinner date at Pizzeria Regina in Allston (ladies) can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contadina (or anyone else) did not pay any promotional consideration for the mention of their product. It’d be spiffy if they did, though!