It’s only fair and right to give due credit to the man who got the W, focus on his excellence, rather than on the deficiencies of the loser, what the guy who got the L didn’t do. I found myself pondering that topic as I mulled over Deontay Wilders’ win over Bermane Stiverne on Saturday night in Vegas, the night that Wilder over-delivered to an audience which was heavily prepared to see his balloon busted.
I reached out to Wilder’s trainer, the humble and candid Mark Breland, who told me that Wilder should get 90% credit for what he did, and that 10% of the victory has to be filtered thru what Stiverne didn’t do. And he didn’t do a lot.
Because say what you will about the Haitian hitter, say that he’s no all-time great, sure. But he wasn’t on message, not from the get go, from what I saw on Showtime…and while what Wilder brought to the table, a stabbing jab, smart movement, exemplary focus and defensive sagacity, was immense, Stiverne’s showing was a heavy-duty example of under-delivering.
Don’t want to believe me, then check out what his trainer Don House, a fightgame lifer who has helmed Vince Phillips, Diego Corrales, Freddie Norwood, Frankie Liles, Eric Harmon, and many more, said to TSS.
First, off, he told me that as of Monday, Stiverne was still in a Vegas hospital, being treated for dehydration. He has been there with the man who he looked at in bewilderment on Saturday. “I thought to myself, ‘Who is this guy? Who is in that ring?’ House told me, about the evening in which the 36-year-old simply wasn’t getting off, and wasn’t doing basically anything he’d showed in training camp. “I thought to myself, ‘Did someone pay him off?’ ‘Did someone threaten him? This ain’t Bermane.’
I said to him (during the fight), ‘You OK? Something ain’t right.”’
The guy who was capable of putting punches together, at least three at a time, on a Chris Arreola, could barely unleash one. And sure, the Wilder jab and movement and length and height and power factored in. Big time.
But around round three, or four, House expected Stiverne to step up, get busier. It didn’t come.
Thinking back, he noted that Stiverne didn’t get a sweat up properly in the dressing room. Did he have some flu bug that was sapping his energy and draining his system, to the point that he couldn’t pee for two hours while trying to give a PED-test sample post-fight?
“He can be a slow starter,” said House, age 52, a Vegas resident since ’78, who now spends a lot of time as a UFC cut man. “He felt his power, but Bermane was strong, in shape. We worked hard for Wilder, for sure. I really thought, ‘Did someone threaten him or pay him?”
Stiverne never told House he was so off; “I saw it in his eyes. His face told me he couldn’t get off. ”
In the dressing room, it looked like there was blood in his urine, but House said a doc told them it was from dehydration. So he went right to the hospital.
Stiverne after theorized maybe he overtrained. Hey, it happens. A guy can’t typically push himself at 36 as he did at 26….But no, House said, he’s had lengthy camps before. The trainer said he thought about pulling the plug around the ninth or tenth, when he just knew the kid didn’t have it. But Stiverne fought on, wanted to keep on keeping on.
“I do want to give Wilder all credit. He fought like an effing king. He showed up!”
That inability to cut off the ring, the way Stiverne walked Wilder down, but didn’t cut him off at the pass…House for sure knows how to teach that skill, and he says Stiverne more energized could have and would have done it. But it takes that extra bit of alley-oop, to slide into position, and it wasn’t there.
Stiverne isn’t done, he said. The fighter and Don King chatted at length after, and plotted out a comeback plan. Two or so fights, then another crack at Wilder would be ideal, House said.
“Hats off to Wilder,” House said in closing.
Yep, the big man does deserve all the plaudits. But it did bear asking, as I had seen Stiverne look a heckuva lot better and more energized before. Does it go differently in a rematch? Who the heck knows, and who knows if Stiverne gets the chance.
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