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Team Wilder in disarray

By Robert Ecksel on February 23, 2020

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“I picked Wilder to win, figuring his eraser would take care of a lot of sins.” (Getty Images)

British heavyweights used to be something of a joke. Not anymore. It appears the joke’s on us. From the days of Bombardier Billy Wells to Henry Cooper to Lennox Lewis, and now with Tyson Fury, UK heavyweights never failed to acquit themselves admirably, even if they sometimes failed to set the world on fire.


That changed dramatically Saturday night.


It was a brilliant performance by Fury. He had a plan which he executed to perfection. He switched trainers, to the consternation of many; loyalists thought Fury disloyal. But he was looking for something different. He wanted more ammo in his arsenal, an addition to his bulging bag of boxing tricks, and went out and got it. Fury says so much so much of the time that distinguishing fact from fiction can be a full-time job. But when it comes to boxing, he’s got it down pat. He knew all along that he had Wilder’s number. Fury just needed some fine tuning. Wilder, on the other hand, is due for a major overhaul.


Since the loss and post-fight presser, Team Wilder has been in disarray. Those who watched the fight on TV saw referee Kenny Bayless stop the fight, before any mention of the corner. The suspicious among us jumped to the conclusion that we’d witnessed a contrived end to a foregone conclusion where the ref stops it early, thus providing a plausible narrative for a controversial loss and a reason for a third meeting. But no sooner did Wilder’s trainer, Mark Breland, wave the white flag, as it were, than the finger-pointing began.


It appears he was acting on his own.


At the presser Deas said, with a rhetorical shove in the direction of the bus, “Mark threw in the towel. I didn’t think he should have. Deontay is the kind of guy that’s a ‘go out on his shield kind of guy’ and he will tell you straight up don’t throw the towel in.”


Did Breland break a cardinal rule, a gladiatorial ethos written in blood on sand? Did he crack under the pressure watching Wilder take a wicked beating? Or was it compassion, perhaps misguided in this context, which prompted him to save Wilder, not just from Tyson Fury, but also from himself.


“During the round Mark said something about throwing the towel in and I told him I didn’t think he should do that,” Deas repeated. “Then the fight went a little longer and I saw the towel go in. We’ll talk about it and figure out what exactly happened there.”


Hopefully Wilder won’t shitcan them, individually or as a group. They had good raw materials to work with and no doubt Wilder worked his ass off to have gotten to this point. Whether it was a dream project or not from the start no longer matters. What they accomplished as a team is little short of amazing.


“You always have to consider Deontay is a fearsome puncher,” said Deas. “He always has that shot to land a big shot and turn things around.”


We waited seven rounds for that magic moment, but it was a pipe dream by the time they stopped it. Had the fight continued, and who knows at what cost, Wilder might have gotten lucky and landed that ungodly blow that rockets Fury to the moon. But it looked the killer instinct had been punched right out of him.


“Deontay Wilder is a very tough guy,” Fury said. “He took a lot of rights. I think they did the right thing.”


Many agree with Fury, not least among them Teddy Atlas. Trainer, broadcaster, and all-around savant, he’s not the smoothest of smooth operators in the boxing biz, but he knows what he’s talking about. Atlas was as shocked as everyone else at the result of Saturday’s fight. He wasn’t rooting for any one fighter in particular—he’s too busy rooting out corruption to waste time playing the odds—but took an educated guess as to who might win the rematch.


“Full disclosure,” he said, “I picked Wilder to win, figuring his eraser would take care of a lot of sins.”


That’s what most of us thought.


“But I’ve been saying since the beginning of his career that Wilder can’t fight. He can’t fight.”


Many of us have been saying that as well, but the Hammer of Thor silenced the critics.


“He never learned how to fight,” Atlas said. “But punchers are not made, they’re born, and he was born with that great eraser, with that thunderbolt in his right hand.


“But tonight it wasn’t there to pull him out of the fire. Tonight, he got exposed because he doesn’t know how to fight because of his technique.


“He didn’t try and box and didn’t try and use his best assets, his legs, and his elusive ability.


“He (Fury) used his size and determination, and he took advantage of a guy (Wilder) who was there to be taken advantage of.


“It was a guy whose technique was there to fail him on any given night, and his power was there to save him on any given night. Tonight, his technique failed him, and his power never got a chance to save him.”

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