Breland: On the Mark

By Gordon Marino on February 26, 2015
Breland: On the Mark
Mark Breland recently revisited his student’s scintillating victory over Bermane Stiverne.

“Deontay still tends to overthrow his punches — make them too wide — and this puts him off balance. We are working on that…”

Yesterday, I caught up with Mark Breland, the trainer of WBC heavyweight king, Deontay Wilder (33-0, 32 KOs). Always generous with his time and insights, Breland revisited his student’s scintillating victory over Bermane Stiverne.

Breland recalled, “I told Deontay. Don’t jab — Stab!” Wilder’s Tommy Hearns like power jab was there right down the middle all night. I asked Breland why we didn’t see more movement. The master boxer and now master trainer explained, “Stiverne fights in a straight line. He comes in and he goes straight back. With someone like that you only need to punch and slide a few inches to the side. There is no need to dance around.”

What is graduate school going to be like for the new champion? What lessons in the art of delivering hard knocks is Breland trying to pass on now? He said, “I am still working on the jab with him. I want it even crisper than it was against Stiverne.”

Breland added, “We are also working on footwork. The only thing that Deontay needed against Stiverne was 1-2 down the middle.” I noted that when Wilder threw three- and four-punch combos he seemed to go a little wild — and lose his balance.” Breland did not disagree, noting, “Deontay still tends to overthrow his punches — make them too wide — and this puts him off balance. We are working on that.”

He also seemed to drop his left hand, something you would not want to do in front of a Wladimir Klitschko. Breland explained, “Yes, but that was late in the fight — 10th, 11th round. By then Deontay was confident that he could slip any big shots coming in.”

Breland is happy with Wilder’s left hook, which when cracking brings his opponent right into his concussive right, but the up-and-coming trainer said, “He didn’t need to use the hook much against Stiverne because Bermane was open all of the time for that straight right.”

“The uppercut was always there,” Breland added. “But Stiverne had two chances to win. Land with a big right or a left hook and when you throw the uppercut you are always open for a big left hook counter.” Consider, for example, Holyfield’s kayo of Buster Douglas.

Breland said that Wilder’s hand is healing well and that he hopes to make his first title defense in June.

Pressed about the April 25 fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden, Breland came right down the middle.

“Jennings is too small,” he said, “Klitschko too strong. He will knock him out.”

A professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, Gordon Marino writes on boxing for the Wall Street Journal. He is on the board and works with boxers at the Circle of Discipline in Minneapolis, as well as at the Basement Gym in Northfield, MN. His The Quotable Kierkegaard was recently published by Princeton University Press. You can follow him on Twitter at @GordonMarino.

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  1. Clarence George 11:05am, 03/01/2015

    That George Washington had a brother by the name of Booker T.?  Yes, Gordon, I’m sure (and thank you for the compliment).  Their mother must have been quite the patriotic lass.

  2. Gordon Marino 09:12am, 03/01/2015

    Clarence, Are you serious about the Booker T part? A hoot. Man, you know your history.

  3. Clarence George 07:45pm, 02/28/2015

    Ha!  That’s Booker T. Jones.  There’s also Booker T, the wrestler.

  4. peter 05:53pm, 02/28/2015

    “He had a brother named Booker T.!” ... Wasn’t that “Booker T and the MGs”?

  5. Clarence George 02:56pm, 02/28/2015

    Washington, who died about 10 years ago, was the first of only a handful of guys to stop Charley Norkus, despite an otherwise poor pro record, losing far more fights than he won.  Norkus, for example, returned the favor.  And he was stopped by Coley Wallace and twice beaten by Carmine Vingo.  But here is the best part:  He had a brother named Booker T.!

  6. NYIrish 02:43pm, 02/28/2015

    I don’t care who trains him. I don’t think he’s much for listening. I think he will fold under pressure.

  7. Jack 02:42pm, 02/28/2015

    Sorry peter, since you mentioned Mark Breland who trains Wilder as a PROFRESSIONAL, I assumed you were referring to who trained Mark as a professional , not as an amateur. Here is a link to GEORGE WASHINGTON, nice tribute!!!

  8. Gordon Marino 01:06pm, 02/28/2015

    Mamma mia - so it was George Washington—and seems like he was a great guy. Thanks for the history lesson Peter.

  9. peter 01:03pm, 02/28/2015

    Breland is from Brooklyn and he trained at Bed Stuy Boxing Center under George Washington, who was the head coach. The fighters Washington trained are countless, but Breland and Riddick Bowe are his standouts….Mr. Washington began his own boxing career in Birmingham, Ala., then joined the United States Marine Corps, serving in both World War II and the Korean War. While in the service, he was a member of the United States Marine Corps boxing team….He was a sparring partner of Joe Louis in 1945 and in 1946 became the champion of the South Pacific theater. Of the 114 fights of his career, he won 100, 80 of them by knockouts….Throughout his career,  Washington trained his boxers on a volunteer basis, while working at the Fedders Corporation and then the Welbilt Stove Company until his retirement….When I was boxing, you never wanted to go up against a Washington fighter; they were well schooled….George Benton was Philly.

  10. Marino, Gordon 12:14pm, 02/28/2015

    Ok so the famous George Benton was Breland’s trainer? Not GW? I was wondering about that. Thanks guys

  11. Jack 11:43am, 02/28/2015

    peter, George Washington was the first president of the United States LOL!!! I think you meant Georgie Benton, The Uncrowned Middleweight Champion of the World from Philadelphia. His trainer was Joe Rose, he was managed by Herman Diamond and later by Joe Gramby.

  12. Gordon 08:19am, 02/27/2015

    Excellent point on Mark. He brings a lot of serenity—has things in perspective. That is huge. Thanks for your insight.

  13. peter 08:02am, 02/27/2015

    Nice article.  That’s vintage Breland: “I told Deontay. Don’t jab — Stab!” As long as Breland remains in Wilder’s corner, Wlder should do ok.  Breland brings with him a serenity and a wealth of knowledge gleaned from his own trainer, George Washington. It would be interesting to know who Washington was trained by.

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