As Buddy McGirt watched the rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, a thought came to the trainer’s mind.
“I told my wife in the second round, I said, ‘Something’s not right.'”
McGirt said he thought Wilder looked unsteady — his legs were not underneath him. He looked rather flimsy. Wilder would get knocked down in the third and fifth rounds and was ultimately stopped by Fury in the seventh.
Entering the bout, everyone expected an intriguing, evenly matched fight. Instead, it was a one-sided mauling.
McGirt, a former two-time world titleholder, has an acute understanding of what Wilder went through.
“I’ve been down that road when either you’re not good or it’s just not your night,” McGirt said. “But something’s not working and at the end of the day it’s, ‘OK, I’ve got to take this for 12 rounds?'”
Since that loss, many have called for Wilder to make changes in his corner. Wilder has been with trainers Jay Deas and Mark Breland since he started boxing at age 19. Together they have won the WBC heavyweight title, defended it 10 times and went unbeaten in 43 bouts until the loss to Fury.
“Wilder brought a lot of excitement to the division — and in boxing — with that one-punch knockout power,” McGirt said. “He can end it at any moment with that punch, no matter if he’s up or down, he tries to keep getting that shot in there.”
As of now, nobody representing Wilder has called McGirt to ask for a helping hand. But if that call comes, he’ll be all ears.
Here’s how McGirt would approach training for Wilder ahead of his third fight against Fury, which is scheduled for July 18.
Improve defense through the little things
Buddy McGirt believes Deontay Wilder, right, just needs a few adjustments on defense to be able to defeat Tyson Fury when they meet for the third time. Al Bello/Getty Images
McGirt said Wilder doesn’t need too much work to fix what looks to be one of his problems.
“It’s just little, minor adjustments, nothing major,” McGirt said about Wilder’s defense. “Just minor things that fighters tend to get away from. There are things I know can be corrected.
“He needs to use more of his athleticism. I’m going to keep my secrets to myself, but I’m just going to tell you this: It’s little things he needs adjustments on. He makes those adjustments, nobody is beating him.”
How about Wilder’s tendency to keep his chin high and his left elbow low?
“I’m not going to answer that one,” McGirt said with a chuckle. “But I think one thing he does is rely on his power too much. He doesn’t set it up like he should.”
Keep the distance and disguise the right hand
Deontay Wilder’s right hand has been effective during his successful career and was effective in his first fight against Tyson Fury, left. Philip Pacheco/Getty Images
McGirt said that Wilder needs to improve his ability at keeping range so he can consistently set up his lethal right hand. Many times during the rematch, Fury smothered Wilder as he closed in on him, which impacted Wilder’s ability to launch his preferred weapon.
The right hand has been a trusted asset for Wilder, but for it to be effective, McGirt believes he needs to make sure the opponents don’t know it’s coming.
“He has two hands, don’t he?” McGirt said with a laugh. “So, if one doesn’t work, he has to use the other, then put them together until you figure it out. He’s got to do different things to disguise that right hand.”
Show him what you want him to do
James McGirt, right, was a two-time world titleholder before becoming a boxing trainer. Focus on Sport/Getty Images
McGirt said he thinks trainers should be able to do what they ask of their fighter.
“The key is this: If you tell a fighter something, you’ve got to be able to show them, and tell them why,” McGirt said. “Most guys in boxing can’t do that. I mean, they can tell a guy what to do, but if the fighter tells them, ‘Why?’ and he looks at him, what’s he going to say?
“If you’ve never been there, never done it, I’m sorry, I don’t care what anybody says. If you haven’t been there, you can say it, but you can’t do it and you can’t teach it. If you haven’t been in the trenches as a fighter, and you look at your guy and he’s in the trenches, how the hell are you going to tell him how to survive?”
Build a collaborative effort
Mark Breland, left, has been working in Deontay Wilder’s corner since the begining. David A. Smith/Getty Images
“I personally believe that Mark Breland is doing a great job with him. I don’t think he should fire Mark. I think he should keep Mark,” McGirt said. Breland has been praised as much as he has been criticized for throwing in the towel on behalf of Wilder to end the fight.
“Mark needs another set of eyes there to see the little things because Mark’s done a great job with him. He’s done a great job, but it’s like when Eddie Futch was training Larry Holmes, and when he got ready for Gerry Cooney, he brought in Ray Arcel,” McGirt said, referring to a fight in which Holmes stopped Cooney in Round 13 of a scheduled 15-round bout to retain his WBC world title. “You rarely find that type of unity in boxing when it comes to trainers because everybody wants to be the boss. But it’s not about being the boss. At the end of the day, it’s about helping your fighter get the ‘W’ because you win as a team.”
McGirt said he and Breland have already worked together in training Brian Adams and Vernon Forrest.
Keep an eye on Wilder’s weight
Tyson Fury, left, was able to get close to Deontay Wilder to land his heavy punches. John Gurzinski/Getty Images
McGirt found it strange that Wilder came in at 231 pounds for the Fury rematch. Wilder was 212.5 in their first bout (December 2018), then 219.5 in his second with Luis Ortiz last November.
“Bigger is not better,” McGirt said. “People always think that — but it’s not better. Everyone focused on Tyson Fury coming in heavier. It’s not the bigger man that’s going to win the fight, it’s the better man — and the smarter man. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
“Tyson Fury can fight. He can fight, [but] did the better fighter win that night? Ehhh.”
In McGirt’s view, putting on extra lean-muscle mass won’t enhance the natural punching power of a fighter like Wilder.
“These guys get strength and conditioning coaches who say, ‘Oh, I’m going to get you bigger and stronger,'” McGirt said. “OK, but does that mean better? You wonder if, with Fury making it a point to tell anyone that would listen [before the fight] that he would be coming in at 270-plus pounds, he got into Wilder’s head a bit.
“So whether that costume was heavy or not, I just personally believe that sometimes in a situation that he was in, you start searching for stuff. I just think that at the end of the day, he knows when that bell rang, he wasn’t ready — something was wrong. Whatever it was, only he knows, and God knows.”
Make sure Wilder is ready, physically and mentally
Deontay Wilder, left, lost a seventh-round TKO against Tyson Fury in their rematch. Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports
The third fight between Fury and Wilder is contracted for July, but that timeline is uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic. Given the strange scenarios for training and timing, should Wilder go right into another fight with Fury?
“He’s got to make sure that when he starts training camp, that his body is back to where it should be,” McGirt said. “Sometimes, if you lose a fight like that, if you face someone else in between, you’ll never get the best out of your fighter. Because sometimes they have just one thing in mind — the guy who just beat them and the way they beat you.
“So physically it’s about how he’s going to be. If he’s OK physically, that’ll make him better mentally.”
Does McGirt believe Wilder can be the same force he was before?
“I just feel that if anyone’s going to defeat Fury, it’s going to be Deontay Wilder.”