Mark Breland knows a thing or two about what it takes to be successful in boxing. Not only is he a former professional welterweight world champion, he won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Breland is the trainer for heavyweight contender Deontay Wilder, who Friday night will try to keep his string of 28 consecutive knockouts alive when he takes on former champion Sergei Liakhovich at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio (on Showtime). Breland has trained Wilder his entire five-year career, and he likes what he’s seeing.
“Deontay is great to work with, he does what I tell him to and he’s willing to try anything I say, which is all I can ask,” Breland said. “He’s sparring 10 rounds and we’re coming off a great camp. He’s really improved a lot since we started. Honestly, we did not anticipate the knockouts; in fact, we are trying to get him to box and move more, which he’s beginning to do. He’s got good power in his right hand and a great 1-2 punch. So we’re trying to develop his jab. But his power is just overwhelming right now.”
Breland praised Wilder’s overall effort.
“Two great things about Deontay are his willingness to learn and his work ethic,” Breland said. “He knows he’s still learning and has the right attitude. He’s hungry and works hard in the gym. His shoulders are too tight when he boxes; once he relaxes a little and is able to loosen his shoulders, he will be even more dangerous. It’s all about relaxing, but that comes with experience.”
Wilder (28-0, 28 KOs), who is 6-foot-7, said giving 100 percent of himself is the only way to fly.
“I honestly don’t have any time off,” said Wilder, 27, of Tuscaloosa, Ala.. “I’m always up in the gym. When people call somebody a ‘gym rat,’ I am definitely that. This is my job and I take it seriously whether I’m outside the ring or inside. The only way to get better is to train and practice hard. The most time I’m off after a fight is maybe a week. After that, I’m training and waiting on the next fight. When I go to camp, I don’t go to camp to get in shape. I go to camp to put shape on top of shape. I’m never out of shape.”
Wilder is ranked No. 6 in the world by two of the four major governing bodies.
Liakhovich, 29, is 25-5 with 16 knockouts. He was world champion briefly in 2006, losing his title to Shannon Briggs in his first defense. Liakhovich has been stopped inside the distance in his past two fights.