Last fall, when nearly 6-foot-6 southpaw 2000 Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison was preparing for an October clash with 6-foot-8 English countryman David Price, he employed 6-foot-7 American heavyweight prospect Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder as a sparring partner.
Harrison (31-6, 23 knockouts) ended up being stopped in the first round by Price, but has won three consecutive fights, two by knockout, since.
On April 27, Harrison will yet again meet Wilder (27-0, 27 KOs), but this time, he will face the 27-year-old boxer-puncher in a real fight on April 27 at Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England.
Wilder-Harrison will take place on the undercard of a main event featuring former IBF/WBA junior welterweight beltholder Amir Khan against two-time lightweight beltholder Julio Diaz, of Coachella, Calif., in a 143-pound catchweight clash on Showtime.
And since the Wilder-Harrison fight was announced, different scenarios have surfaced on internet sites regarding exactly what transpired during their sparring sessions and who got the best of whom a few months back.
Coming off a first-round stoppage of Claus Bertino in February, Harrison hopes to enjoy similar success against Wilder as did 41-year-old left-hander Tony Thompson against Price. Thompson’s second-round knockout handed Price — a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist his first loss in 16 bouts in February.
Called “The No. 1 heavyweight prospect here in the United States” by his promoter, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, Wilder is a resident of Tuscaloosa, Ala., who was also considered to be “the best heavyweight prospect” by Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel “Manny” Steward before Steward’s death in October.
Wilder served as a sparring partner for 6-foot-6 RING champion Wladimir Klitschko — who was trained by Steward — in advance of Klitschko’s unanimous-decision victory over 6-foot-7 Mariusz Wach in November.
RingTV.com conducted a recent Q&A interview with Wilder regarding Harrison:
RingTV.com: How do you rank this fight with Audley Harrison among those that you have had so far?
Deontay Wilder:I rank this as the top. I don’t underestimate any of my opponents, but I rank this as the best fighter that I’ve faced so far.
Based on the simple fact that you have the 2000 Olympic gold medalist and he as been around the block. You know, Audley is a veteran and he’s been in there with a lot of great guys.
Audley’s fire still is lit. He’s still one of those guys that does what he needs to do. He wins some and he loses some. But he comes back. So I rate this one as the top.
RTV: When was your sparring session with Harrison?
DW: That was when he was training for David Price. That was about five or six months ago, maybe? They fought and David Price knocked him out.
RTV: Can you address the sparring session and whether it was Harrison who dropped you or whether it was the other way around?
DW: Definitely, I’ll address that. A lot of people spread rumors. I don’t know. The first time that it came out and somebody spread the rumor that he dropped me and this and that.
It got to the point where Audley, himself, he went on his Twitter account and he said that “I want to put this rumor to sleep rigth now,” and he said that “I did not drop Deontay Wilder, it was the opposite that happened.”
All of a sudden, though, somebody else wants to spread rumors that it happened that way. But it doesn’t matter what people say. Nowadays, people have the internet and the Twitter and they can say anything.
They can sit behind their television or be in their under drawers in their living room and just get on the internet and just get mad and say whatever.
But, you know, as a matter of fact, April 27, on that day, that will be all that matters. People can say what they want to say until then, and it doesn’t matter.
April 27 is the only factor for me. I know and he knows what really happened. He has already put it out there. He has already put it out there that I dropped him.
I don’t know whether it’s a hater of mine or just someone who wants to spread rumors and stuff, man, we can’t do nothing about that.
RTV: Your thoughts on avoiding what happened to Price when he was stopped by Thompson?
DW: I think that David Price went out there and he was very careless. I think that he had a lot of people in his ear down-talking Tony Thompson and saying that he was out of shape and that he was old and that he was done.
You know, I think that a lot of that played into his attitude, and that he thought that he was just going to be able to do whatever he wanted to do with Tony.
But he didn’t give him the respect that Tony needed to get. I was one of those guys that was looking at the television and I was telling people that David Price couldn’t sleep on Tony.
Don’t sleep on him because, even though he’s old, age isn’t always a factor. You know, look at Bernard Hopkins. Bernard Hopkins has changed the game around about how to keep your body healthy.
You’re dealing with the heavyweight division. It’s about power. You can be up, and then, you’re down. That’s where he went wrong. He slept on Tony, and that’s when Tony came and hit him.
But I do think that the punch that Tony threw, I don’t think that he intentially tried to. It looked like Tony was trying to get out of the way or something.
And then, all of a sudden, if you look at the fight, he caught David with his right hand. That was not even Tony’s power hand.
So we can say that maybe David Price’s chin is soft, or he’s got a weak chin or maybe David Price can’t take a punch. Things can happen, which is why I never take anybody lightly.
I train as if they’re the best and that’s how I go in there. I’m not trying to go in there and just get a decision. I want to come in there and destroy you and knock you out.
RTV: What improvements can we expect to see against Harrison?
DW: I’m going to go in there and be happy to get rounds. There are a lot of improvements that I’ve made just since my last fight. I’m always improving form one fight to the next.
I’m always working on my mistakes — the mistakes that I’ve made, and, even the things that I did well. I’m turned what I’ve done good into things that I’m doing great.
But I’m really looking forward to going in there and just having fun and being excited about fighting in England. I’ve been there before, but never fought there before.
I know that I’ve got a lot of fans in England, probably more fans that Audley Harrison has. I’m excited to go and perform in front of England and to show them what I’m all about. I don’t have any worries at all.
I’m a hungry, young fighter, and I’ve always been hungry. I just feel as if this is just another block in the road that I must get out of my way.
When you’re dealing with a young, hungry lion, and his eyes are red, like mine, if you get in his way, he’s just going to destroy you.
That’s what I’m looking to come and do on April 27. Audley has always said that if he loses, then he’s going to retire, and if he wins, this will excelerate him into the top 20.
So he’s looking to get into the top 10 at my expense. But this time, facing Deontay Wilder, he may have met his matchmaker. I’m a hard puncher and everybody knows that.
Audley knows that from being in the ring with me and that experience. He has even said that I’m a fast, dangerous fighter and that I hit like a mule.
But this time, I’m going to put his career to rest, because when I hit Audley Harrison the right way, that may be the punch that ends up ending his career.
Photos by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com