Deontay Wilder on sparring with Wladimir Klitschko:"We were just going to war in there...After the first day, Wladimir said, 'Deontay, you're the fastest heavyweight I've ever been in the ring with.'"
"When you talk about the best American heavyweight prospects and all of that, Deontay Wilder is right at the top of my list. I think he's a good prospect. I think that Wilder's a very good fighter. As far as the American fighters, he's No. 1 to me among the American heavyweights. I think that he could step up and challenge in one year. I'm talking within the next 12 months, if he can step up and challenge other fighters.
"This fight that he's got coming up on Saturday, it ain't s--t. It ain't nothing. He's got to get away from fights like that. Forget about the record. He's got to start fighting some real fighters, and when he does, you know what? He'll beat them. So I think that the best heavyweight prospect for winning the heavyweight title is Deontay Wilder." -- Manny Steward, who trains Wladimir Klitschko.
Unbeaten heavyweight Deontay "The Bronze Bomber" Wilder, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., shared his thoughts on the late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel "Manny" Steward, as well as his experience sparring RING IBF, WBA and WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko in advance of Kliitscko's unanimous-decision victory over Mariusz Wach on Nov. 10.
Before his death on Oct. 25 at the age of 68, Steward had called the 6-foot-7 Wilder, "No. 1...among the American heavyweights," and, "the best heavyweight prospect for winning the heavyweight title.
Wilder will be after his 26th knockout in as many wins without a loss opposite 37-year-old Kelvin Price (13-0, 6 KOs), of Pensacola, Fla., on a Dec. 15, Showtime-televised undercard to a main event featuring former IBF and WBA junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan and Carlos Molina at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
A 2008 Olympic bronze medalist who turned 27 on Oct. 22, Wilder is coming off a second-round knockout over previously undefeated Damon McCreary in September. McCreary had come up with stoppage victories in three of his previous four fights.
Prior to facing McCreary, Wilder scored a first-round stoppage of Trinidad and Tobago's Kertson "The Warrior" Manswell, which had followed June's third-round knockout of former heavyweight title challenger Owen Beck.
Wilder was critical in the training camp of the 6-6 Klitschko, whose stoppage of 6-7 1/2 Wach marked his 17th-straight victory during a run that has iincluded 12 knockouts.
Prior to his death, Steward had charged Johnathon Banks with training Klitschko for Wach, a camp during which Wilder became the primary sparring partner.
RingTV.com: How has it been for you the past few weeks?
Deontay Wilder: Well, I've been back and forth, overseas, here and there doing this and that because I was working with Wladimir for the Mariusz Wach camp.
RingTV.com: What were your feelings when you first heard what Emanuel Steward said about you?
DW: My feelings, when it was first introduced to me, it was like, I kind of got excited, because Emanuel's been around for a long time, you know?"
RingTV.com: Did you feel as if he was anointing you as the next American heavyweight champion?
DW: You know what? That's exactly how I took it. Emanuel has been training champions ever since his career has begun. So if anybody would know the qualities that it takes to become a champion, he knows. I mean, he really knows what it takes to make a champion and to become a champion.
So for him to bless me -- we can use that term -- to bless me that way. For him to bless me with being the one that can do it, it was a great feeling for me from the start. I just needed to get some clarification.
RingTV.com: When did you get that clarification?
DW: Well, when I went over there to train with Wladimir, that was more clarification for me right there. Johnathon was good about it too, you know?
When I was up there doing my thing with Wladimir, came up to me and said, "Yo, Emanuel has been talking about you. He's been talking about you up here in this camp, but I didn't know who you were."
At one point in time, I understand that somebody had asked Johnathon about me, and they had said that he didn't understand what all of the hype was about me and Seth Mitchell.
RingTV.com: Has he had a change of heart?
DW: Well, I made him change his mind a whole 360 when I went to camp, and he saw the things that I was doing with Wladimir Klitschko in that ring.
So, then, he came to me and he said, "Man," he said, "Emanuel has been talking about you, but I didn't know who you were and I didn't know nothing about you."
Then, Johnathon started Tweeting. He wrote, "Deontay Wilder's up here showing why he's the next American heavyweight champion of the world."
So some people just need proof. A lot of people can say what they want, but in reality, you know, it's wait and see.
RingTV.com: What was your assignment in working with Wladimir Klitschko?
DW: Well, he was definitely prepared for Wach. Basically, the assignment was...there was no assignment. I just took it like I always do. Somebody pays me to do a job, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability.
That's even if it's just flipping burgers. But basically, they just...most camps, they say, "We want you to come in here and model this fighter" or whatever.
But it wasn't like that. Just, basically, they said maybe we'll adjust to some things, depending on how the sparring goes. "We may want you to go into Wach's style" or whatever.
But they were like, "We know that's not your style, so we have other guys that can do it if that's not your style." But basically, they didn't give us instruction.
Everybody was mostly just themselves. They were just looking at me, more or less, height-wise. But the thrill about it was that the aggressiveness and everything that I had to offer, you know, they loved it.
They loved it so much that I became the head sparring partner. I did 45-plus rounds with that man. Sometimes, everybody would be ready to spar, but it was just me.
The work and the intensity and the excitement of the sessions was great. I mean, we were just going to war in there, and sometimes, the guys would be ready to spar.
But it was me and Wladimir doing all the rounds because of the intensity in the ring. After the first day, Wladimir said, "Deontay, you're the fastest heavyweight I've ever been in the ring with."
But the end of the camp, he said, "Deontay Wilder is the greatest sparring partner I have ever had." Wladimir said that.
RingTV.com: So Manny wasn't there, but still, you validated what Emanuel said about you?
DW: No, that's correct, he wasn't there. But yeah, you know, it just made me feel real good that Emanuel sees those things in me, because when others done, Manny does.
RingTV.com: What do you recall about your final conversation with Emanuel Steward?
DW: The last thing that I think Emanuel shared with me, we were up in Atlanta. That was the first time that we connected. We were doing a clinic in Atlanta and he was in there talking about how trainers should do proper mitt work.
Out of all of the guys who were there, he called my name up. It was a beautiful moment, because he went from teaching everybody to working with me in a snap.
With the chemistry that was up in there, it was as if I was one of his fighters. It was so good that he transferred from teacher to trainer. So, you know, I picked up on it so fast.
And my speed and that power, he was so overwhelmed. So the statement that he made, I think that that's how that all came about. He said, "You've got nice size, nice speed and you've got nice power."
And he said, "you're definitely going to be a champion." At the end of the clinic, he said, "Keep on doing what you're doing, and you will definitely be the next heavyweight champion of the world."
Photos courtesy of Deontay Wilder
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org