Man had a 110-1 record as an amateur.
Day-um. Let that sweep over you for a second, and please know he was doing it in an era which was not watered down. Yep, in the 70s and early 80s, Mark Breland had to fight toughies to scratch and climb his way up the ladder, which he darn well did, to the Olympics, getting gold in '84, and then to the pro ranks, where he captured welterweight crowns on two occasions.
Today, he's 51, and by the way, you won't find a softer spoken, kinder soul within our sphere than the Brooklyn native, out of Do or Die Bed-Stuy, who on Saturday night will be cornering power punching but only semi-tested Alabama slammer Deontay Wilder. The “Bronze Bomber” has talked mad s–t coming into the sternest test of his six plus year pro career, which sees him attempting to lift the WBC heavyweight title from the Haitian-born hitter Bermane Stiverne, the lone jewel left in the King's crown, and a not untalented specimen who's been somewhat under radar as King promotes only intermittently now.
I checked in with Breland to get his take on what his 29-year-old kid needs to do to win, and elevate the heavyweight ranks to a state of buzz which we haven't seen in many a moon.
First off, I was curious. That first loss an amateur; who was the sonofagun who did that to the Brooklyner? “Darryl Anthony,” he told me. In St. Louis, they boxed, and the judges spoke, and deemed Darryl the victor. “I thought I won,” Breland admitted. “He was a national champion the year before. It was 1981. I thought I outboxed him.” They fought as pros and Breland got his revenge, via KO in 1984, in his 11th bout. He'd accumulated 80 something wins before the Anthony upset, for the record…
So…Putting you on the spot. Are you, Mark Breland, the best boxer to ever come out of Brooklyn?
He paused. And some more.
“I don't know,” he said, with a soft chuckle. Tyson, Bowe…and what about, he offered, Leon Taylor.
Wait, who now?
“We used to spar and we didn't like it, because we couldn't show off on each other. He went to camp with Michael Spinks, and they sent him home.” The streets beckoned their bony and sinister fingers at Taylor, Breland told me, and got him off path, but Taylor is doing well today, happily.
Which brings us to today…
Wilder has never been in with a better than B- grade boxer, and that is including Malik Scott, who is on his best day a solid B, but their scrap left more people scratching their head at the outcome than coming to the determination that Wilder is definitely more than hype and bluster.
“Our mood is great,” Breland told me. “We are hyped up. I'm calm. Our plan is: hit Stiverne with the jab. That's the main thing, the jab. Stiverne gets hit with the jab easy. Ray Austin was doing well against him with the jab, then got caught. I've been telling Deontay in camp, “Stab him!”
I interjected, cracked up. Sounds like your Brooklyn streets back in the day, man….
“Yep. We gonna stab him, till he's swollen up. Deontay (32-0 with 32 Kos) is definitely in great shape, and I've been teaching him the stiff, stiff, stiff jab. It's like I did, jab, jab, jab, then see the right.”
So wait, the plan isn't to come out guns a blazing, overwhelm the shorter man with an imposition of body and power? No, Breland said, he has prepared his kid to box the whole 12, set tone with the jab, use the height edge, and win a D.
“Stiverne gotta come forward, he can't fight going backwards. Stiverne has to jump to hit Deontay, he's going to jump with his left hook. He will miss with the left hook then bang, we hit him with the right hand.”
Watch for it, friends, on Showtime on Saturday (Jan. 17) night…
I told Breland, straight up, I like the experience edge that Stiverne (age 36; 24-1-1 with 21 Kos) has. He's been in tougher, has had to deal with a more varied set of obstacles. He gets that take, Breland told me, fully understands me liking Stiverne to retain. But his kid, he said, while sometimes looking awkward, can use that to his advantage. “It looks easier to get in on Deontay than it is,” he stressed. Stiverne will be looking to come to Wilder, and when he does, Wilder will seek to get his jab there first, and that will back up the Haitian champ, and then we might be seeing the rubberband-snap right hand land on the King boxer. Then, maybe we see a title transfer…
By the way, Wilder had a kid who beat Stiverne, back in 2007, Demetrice King, in to work at camp. He played Stiverne, looked to walk Wilder down. Wilder handled it well, the trainer said. Wilder worked on keeping the range and distance to his liking. Something else to look for on fight night, is Stiverne dropping his jab hand. Wilder will be looking to time that….
Be on the lookout for Breland harkening back to “The Warriors” era Brooklyn, and yelling, “Stab! Stab!” to perk up the jabbing from Wilder.
(By the way, I recently met the widow of the man who wrote the book “The Warriors,” Saul Yurick, and Mrs. Yurick was a delight. We shot the stuff for about 25 minutes, and she didn't even tell me he wrote that, I only found that out when I Wiki'd him. She told me he was a committed artist and journo and novelist who was not in making-money mode, so he had to battle the IRS too much for their liking. I know this is a digression, Mark Taffet, and don't think I don't appreciate the platform afforded to me here which gives me the leeway to veer off. Now veering back on…)
Dominick Guinn was also in camp, because he had success with tall guys, and his feet, Breland said, are better than Stiverne's, so Wilder had to fend him off and that could prove harder than fending off Stiverne.
The champ might come out hard and fast, looking to test the greener basketballer sized hitter, and Breland has stressed that.
The immensity of the stage won't bother Wilder, Breland said, when I noted that we can't know how he'll react till the fight starts and plays out. All those interviews, all those eyes on you, it can sap the mental energy and some of the adrenaline of even a confident person…
If Wilder gets buzzed, he will know what to do, Breland said, and that means grab if need be. Macho goes out the window, he told me. “An ugly win is better than a loss,” is Breland's thinking…
Yet more…Stiverne isn't as effective going to his right, so we might see Deontay trying to force him to his left, make him do what he's not so comfortable doing…Breland saw Chris Arreola catching Stiverne with a right hand as he moved right, so we could see that dynamic play out in Las Vegas.
Stiverne can be bothered if he gets jabbed, and can't set his feet, so be on the lookout for CompuBox numbers, and Wilder out-jabbing the WBC titlist.
Anyway, that's all theoretical; we shall see how all that Xs and Os stuff plays out tomorrow. Me, I like those definitive finishes, so…Mark, think we get a KO finish on Saturday night?
“I think so,” Breland said.
And yes, he's thinking the BB is the one getting his hand raised….
Your thoughts, readers? How does Stiverne-Wilder play out?
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