Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Deontay Debate

A few years ago, I interviewed longtime Philadelphia boxing institutions Tommy Jenkins and Bobby Archer* about Miguel Cotto. What followed was a great debate and I thought that it would be interesting to see what they had to say about heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder. 

After talking with them separately, I was excited to find out that they held massively different opinions on the fighter and it seemed like it would be an entertaining endeavor to get them together for another debate. Jenkins and Archer (friends for decades, by the way) almost always provide a spirited back-and-forth and the way that they constantly rib each other can be side-splitting. They agreed to meet me at an outdoor cafe in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. What follows is a transcript of their conversation:

Tommy Jenkins (TJ): So the kid [points to me] wants us to talk about Wilder.

Bobby Archer (BA): You still call everybody a kid. [Looks at me] Don't sweat it. He's been calling me "Kid" for almost 40 years. 

TJ: [Laughs] Well you let me guess, you love the guy. He's the future. He's taking us back to the glory years. [Laughs again]

BA: I wouldn't say "love" but I think he brings some excitement to the division. And he has the eraser. And even a hardass like yourself knows that's true. 

TJ: So he has a right hand. Or we think he does. Has he knocked out a good fighter with it?

BA: He's hurt everyone with it.

TJ: But almost every heavyweight could hurt someone with something. They're like 230, 240 lbs. these days. You get hit with a good jab from a guy weighing that much and it hurts. You remember Mikey Serrano. Same thing with him. Yeah, if he catches you it hurts. Don't mean he's catching you with it. 

BA: Wilder's right hand is legit. And he wants to knock guys out. And that's a big difference. He's not Ray Austin. He's not Calvin Brock, or guys like that – the guys who are happy to be there. Deontay wants to be great. 

TJ: Every fighter wants to be great. Tell me a fighter who says, "I just want to be average. I just want to be mediocre." None. Nobody. But the truth is the truth. Listen, if you don't have that base, that foundation, it don't matter. Every punch you can see coming. He telegraphs it. Then, he just looks at the guy after he hits him. 

BA: Admires his work.

TJ: Yup. Like, kid, either keep punching or get the hell out of the way. [They both laugh.] 

BA: But can't he learn that? 

TJ: He's already what, 27? 28?

BA: 29?

TJ: 29! Shit. He ain't gonna get much better. 

BA: But even if he gets even 10% better with his defense, he has a real shot. 

TJ: A real shot at what! What are we talking about here? A guy who has one punch and no damn defense. Sounds like a "B-fighter." Dime-a-dozen 20 years ago. Wouldn't have even cracked TV in the '70s. 

BA: Bullshit! He won an Olympic medal. Back then that counted. The networks would have been all over that. 

TJ: Fine, maybe that's true. But he loses the first step up. Is he beating Shavers? Norton? Jimmy Young? And I'm not even talking about the Alis of the world, the Foremans, the Fraziers. 

BA: I don't even want to get into that nonsense. Those guys aren't around anymore. It's a different era...but someone we both know used to say, "If you got a punch, you got a chance." Remember that one? 

TJ: You're an idiot. 

BA: [Laughs] I learned it from the best. And 29 isn't even that old for a heavyweight. He still has time. And [expletive deleted].

BA: And you're a [Expletive deleted].

TJ: [Expletive deleted]

BA: [Expletive deleted]

TJ: [They both laugh.] Glad we got that out of the way [laughs]. Listen, Wilder's a good kid. He's a good interview. He's promotable. I get all that. But he couldn't tie his shoes without falling over. That footwork is terrible. And don't get me started on his defense. 

BA: Some holes there. Sure. 

TJ: Holes! It's goddamn Swiss cheese! You can march an army in there. 

BA: [Laughs] C'mon man, it's not that bad. 

TJ: You get inside on him and he's in a panic. He don't know what to do. 

BA: He did show the uppercut last fight.

TJ: Yeah, but it took him six rounds to throw it. It was there from the jump. He's just not a natural fighter in the ring. Like he's learning how to box from a manual. 

BA: But I think [Mark] Breland's helping him, don't you? He has a lot less nervous energy now. 

TJ: That's true. He's no longer shitting himself in the ring. [They both laugh.] 

BA: Yeah, he needed to relax some. But Breland's helped. He's mixing in his punches better.  

TJ: I like Breland. And I'm glad he's there but he can only do so much. The kid has bad habits. You don't suddenly break them. It takes years. And he don't got that kind of time. It don't matter if he's throwing left hooks when they're from a mile away. A guy with any talent beats him there with the right hand. 

BA: But who are those guys out there? Fury? You're calling him a ring genius?

TJ: Fury's the British kid right? The clown?

BA: Yes. That's him.

TJ: [Laughs] Well I wouldn't say that. [They both laugh.] He can punch though. 

BA: But I'm talking about counterpunchers. Who can do that in the heavyweight division?

TJ: The guys here can – Cunningham, Chambers, Scott – but they couldn't hurt Wilder. 

BA: See.

TJ: But they could outpoint him. 

BA: And please. Scott went down from Deontay's first punch.

TJ: [Inaudible] …please.

BA: Fine. We don't have to talk about that. But Steve goes down from a stiff breeze. 

TJ: Yeah. 

BA: Who else are we talking about?

TJ: That kid Perez, the Cuban, he can counter. But he's inconsistent. 

BA: He just got flattened by Povetkin too.  You know they're fighting next year?

TJ: Who? 

BA: Wilder and Povetkin. Have you seen Povetkin fight?

TJ: I saw Eddie's [Chambers] fight with him. He went into a panic and gave away the fight. [Inaudible] Klitschko fight too. One of the worst fights I ever saw. Povetkin had no clue in that fight. 

BA: He's been knocking guys out left and right since then. 

TJ: Knocking out who?

BA: Perez for one.

TJ: You know don't matter...yeah, Povetkin's OK, I guess. Accurate. Decent power.  

BA: So does Deontay beat him?

TJ: And so what if he does? Who the [expletive deleted] is Povetkin? 

BA: Probably the second-best guy in the division. 

TJ: [Turns to me] This is why I can't watch heavyweight boxing anymore. They're awful. All of them. 

BA: Everything was so much better when Tommy was a kid. Grandma Lois would tuck him in after listening to the fights on the radio. 

TJ: Oh you went there! [laughs] I'm gonna knock your ass out after this meal. 

BA: With what? Your cane, old man?

TJ: You see these [raises his fists]. Still dynamite in these hands. [They look at each other and start laughing.]  Good shit, Bobby. But seriously, I like Wilder. I wish him the best. I want him to be good. God knows we could use it. He's just not the guy. 

BA: But again, with that punch –

TJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He can punch. But can he take a punch?

BA: He took some good hooks from Stiverne. 

TJ: Yeah, he did. But in a real fight…even against the robot. He's going to get hit a lot. That robot hits him with those right hands, will Wilder still be there? No, he's going down.

BA: But Klitschko’s gone soon. The division's opening up. 

TJ: Opening up for what? Ain't nobody I see worth giving a crap about. 

BA: Just a jaded old man. [laughs]

TJ: Maybe true. But that don't make me wrong. 

BA: No, It doesn't. But if Wilder can be the guy, it would be very good for the sport. 

TJ: And if you had a left hook you could have gone all the way. 

BA: Always a [expletive deleted]. 

TJ: [They both laugh.] True.

*Tommy Jenkins and Bobby Archer are both fictional. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook
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