Monday, 25 August 2014

Boxiana Vol. 1 preview: A New Hope

Over the next few weeks, this blog will be featuring a series of exclusive previews of content from Boxiana: Volume 1, which will hopefully whet your appetite and persuade you to buy the full volume, which will be available as a paperback book (RRP £9.99) or ebook (RRP TBC).

Today I'm presenting an extract from the fourth chapter of Boxiana Volume 1, written by myself, which examines rising heavyweight Deontay Wilder. The article is an in-depth look at Deontay's career so far, his background and the team surrounding him. The article features interviews with Deontay himself, his manager Jay Deas and the other members of his 'Bomb Squad' team - Mark Breland, Russ Anber and Cuz Hill.

With Deontay in line for a mandatory shot against WBC Heavyweight Bermane Stiverne in the next few months, hopefully you'll find it a timely article as we wait to see whether he can make the step up to World Championship level. I think Deontay's got what it takes and is the most exciting heavyweight in the world right now - only time will tell if I'm right!

As I publish further previews from the anthology in the coming weeks and days, hopefully you'll conclude that Boxiana: Volume 1 will be worth purchasing. If not, then at the very least I hope you enjoy the free sneak peeks and other blog posts!

Anyway, that's enough of the hard sell, here's the latest preview - which consists of the first 1,000 words of what is a mammoth 6,o00 word feature. Enjoy!

Boxiana: Volume 1 preview
Round 4


Luke G. Williams was recently given extensive access to America’s great heavyweight hope Deontay Wilder and the team surrounding him. After hearing what they have to say, he assesses the possibility that the ‘Bronze Bomber’ is the saviour heavyweight boxing has been waiting for …

They say that you can measure the state of professional boxing by the strength and profile of the heavyweight division. If that’s true, then the sport is currently on life support. Wladimir Klitschko, in all his robotic glory, bestrides the division - master of all he surveys, with a series of increasingly hapless victims having prostrated themselves at his feet. Klitschko has made noises about trying to extend his reign until the age of 50 but, Eastern Europe and the boxing cognoscenti apart, no one really cares - he may be a master at winning, as a decade-long unbeaten streak proves; he may even be a master pugilist, as his incredible determination to maximise his strengths and neutralise his weaknesses illustrates, but his inability to engage or excite the casual sports fan or wider public, particularly in America, has left heavyweight boxing in desperate need of a new face to re-establish the pre-eminence of the World Heavyweight Championship as the most prestigious honour in sport.

Deontay Leshun Wilder could be that new face. The saviour. The new hope. The next ‘big thing’. His professional record as of September 2014 certainly evokes excitement and infers a propensity for violence; in 32 bouts, Wilder has never been past four rounds, and every single opponent he has faced has been knocked out, many of them savagely so, left in a heap with their limbs twitching and bodies convulsing and contorting in concussive pain. Now that he is on the verge of challenging for a world title, Wilder is in the unenviable position of carrying the burden of America’s heavyweight hopes on his broad, tattooed shoulders. If a charismatic, photogenic and engaging man like Wilder can become World Heavyweight Champion … if he can buck the recent dominance of eastern European heavyweights … if he can unify the belts in an exciting style, sending the top contenders sprawling to the canvas ... then maybe, just maybe, he could revitalise boxing’s popularity, which has been under siege from a confluence of factors already too well-rehearsed and discussed to recite again. A series of ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’ aren’t much to hang the future of a sport on, but sometimes boxing fans have to cling to whatever hope they can find.

* * *

The Appalachians are a vast series of mountains, ridgelines and valleys, that stretch a majestic 1,500 miles through the east of North America, from the island of Newfoundland in the north to the heart of the southern state of Alabama. The vast swathes of broad and needle-leaf trees that characterise the flora of much of the region have borne silent witness to centuries of bloodshed, struggle and violence; from the cultural clashes between the first European colonists and the native Americans, to the American War of Independence, American Civil War and the Civil Rights struggle.

Tuscaloosa, the fifth largest city in the state of Alabama, is located in the foothills of the Appalachians. Like many towns and cities across America, its history sums up many of the maddening contradictions of the American dream. It was in Tuscaloosa, on 11 June 1963, that Governor George Wallace stood in front of the entrance to the University of Alabama in an attempt to maintain segregation at the University by blocking the entry and enrolment of black students Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood. It was also near to the site of modern-day Tuscaloosa that, in 1540, the Spanish Conquistador Hernando de Soto was ambushed by members of the Mobilian tribe, led by one Chief Tuskaloosa, a fearsome warrior who was said to be so much taller than the Spanish that “he seemed a giant”. After a bitter and bloody battle lasting nine hours, the Spanish emerged triumphant, although Chief Tuskaloosa’s bravery was not forgotten, with later settlers naming the town in his honour, as well as the river that ran through it, which was termed the ‘Black Warrior’ river, a nod to the meaning of the chief’s name when translated from Choctaw. Interestingly enough, the Gentleman of Elvas’ description of chief Tuskaloosa in 1557 pretty neatly summarises the qualities of a great heavyweight champion: “Full of dignity … tall of person, muscular lean and symmetrical … Equally feared by his vassals and the neighbouring nations.”

It somehow seems appropriate that Tuscaloosa is the birthplace and home of Deontay Wilder, for the heavyweight division has long been looking for a ‘warrior’ to curb the Klitschko brothers’ monotonous dominance. After the false dawns represented by the likes of Michael Grant, Seth Mitchell et al, and given Wilder’s untested chin and occasionally wild style, many sceptics scoff at the notion that he is the prodigal son the sport has been waiting for. But, interviewing Deontay himself and the team who surround him, a compelling case emerges that Wilder is the real deal, and that the Heavyweight Championship of the World isn’t merely his dream, but his destiny.

* * *

Although Wilder has admitted that he possessed a youthful tendency to get involved in street scraps, it would be inaccurate to characterise his upbringing as misspent or dysfunctional, in the way that, say, Mike Tyson’s was. “My childhood was good,” he confesses, an unusual but refreshing admission to elicit from a boxer, given how regularly the sport’s participants proudly parade their stories of a misspent or deprived youth. “I had good teachers in school who cared; I was taught right from wrong. I learned to respect people and to expect people to respect me. I learned to not to be a fool. Alabama is a great place to raise a family; you can live here and not worry about too much.  I still live here and would recommend it to anyone.  I've had opportunities to move but I don't want to; this is home.”

To paraphrase the classic plot device from Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, there was a ‘Rosebud’ moment for Wilder - in other words, a moment that explains and puts into context everything that he has achieved, strived for and focused on since. For Wilder, that moment was the birth of his daughter Naieya on 20 March 2005. X-rays soon after revealed a hole in Naieya’s spine and she was subsequently diagnosed with the developmental disorder spina bifida. “Naieya is my inspiration,” Wilder stresses. “After she was born with spina bifida, the doctors said she wouldn't do this or that but she is now doing all the things they said she wouldn't. I never would've gotten into boxing without her.” After Naieya’s birth Wilder, then just 19, was fuelled by a steely determination to provide for and support his daughter the best he possibly could. He dropped out of college and was soon driving a beer delivery truck to earn a living as well as working at a branch of Red Lobster, a seafood restaurant chain. A sports enthusiast, Wilder had never given a boxing career a second thought, however desired careers in American football and basketball had not materialised, so he decided to consider other options. And that’s when he discovered the Skyy gym.


Boxiana: Volume 1 will be available through Troubador PublishingAmazon in the UKAmazon in the USA and all good traditional and online booksellers.

Further exclusive previews of Volume 1 content, as well as further information about Boxiana's contributors will feature on the Boxiana blog in the coming weeks.

Boxiana: Volume 1 is an anthology of never before published boxing writing and takes an in-depth look at the sport’s past, present and future. Original, startling and thought-provoking, Boxiana examines pugilistic themes, characters and issues ranging from the personal to the universal, combining exclusive interview material with meticulous research. The book’s fresh approach will both intrigue and delight all serious followers of boxing.

Featured in Volume 1: comic book legend Trevor Von Eeden analyses the significance of Jack Johnson; Mario Mungia tries his hand at amateur boxing; Ben Williams uncovers his grandfather’s bareknuckle boxing career; Matthew Ogborn considers the issues boxers face on retirement; James Hernandez catches up with Jon Thaxton; rising light heavyweight Chris Hobbs recounts his life in the military and the ring; Rowland Stone recalls a heady night in 1992; Corey Quincy attempts to solve the Wladimir Klitschko conundrum and Luke G. Williams examines the meteoric rise of Deontay Wilder and the under-rated career of Chris Byrd. 

No other boxing anthology can match Boxiana’s eclectic range of subject matter, or its in-depth examination of issues and characters from boxing’s past, present and future.

Luke G. Williams

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