Tyson Fury defeated Deontay Wilder on Saturday night to claim the WBC heavyweight title and hand Wilder his first professional loss. As Fury landed at will with Wilder trapped in the corner, Mark Breland, one of Wilder’s trainers, threw in the towel, resulting in the fight being stopped.
Jay Deas, Wilder’s head cornerman, publicly questioned the decision at the postfight press conference, as did Wilder himself, in interviews with various media outlets on Monday.
“For Mark to do it, I was very heartbroken,” Wilder said to Dan Rafael. “If I say statements like I want to kill a man [in the ring], then I have to abide by those same principles in the ring of him doing the same thing to me. I’d rather die than go out with someone throwing the towel in.
“I told all my trainers, no matter how it may look on the outside, no matter how you may love me or have that emotional feeling, don’t make an emotional decision, and do not ever throw that towel in because my pride is everything. I understand what it looks like, but when you have power like me, I am never out of a fight, no matter what the circumstances. I’m never out of a fight.”
Wilder also told ESPN that the outfit he wore to the ring was heavy and adversely affected his performance on Saturday night.
Was throwing the towel the right decision? ESPN polled other professional boxing trainers to get their take on the action of Wilder’s corner, as well as whether or not they believe Wilder’s wardrobe decision impacted his performance in the ring
Responses were edited for clarity.
Do you agree with Breland throwing in the towel?
Joe Goossen (Trainer of Rafael and Gabe Ruelas, Michael Nunn, Joel Casamayor, Diego Corrales, Sergey Lipinets and Chris Arreola): Without a doubt he did the right thing. Look, Deontay Wilder protested, which is the nature of fighters — they never want to quit. So I understand that, but the trainer is there to protect your life, as are the doctors, the referee and the commission. But the first line of defense is normally your corner, because they know what you’re capable of, or not capable of.
With the amount of fights Breland has been with Wilder, he knows what he’s looking at when it comes to his well-being. So I think it was absolutely the right call. I think it was all but over at that time. Breland initiated the process to the inspector, to the referee. He definitely overrode Deas, and what was going on was unbeknownst to Wilder as he was being attacked by Fury.
Wilder is not happy about it, and his statements since show how it has definitely interfered with that relationship.
Kevin Cunningham (Trainer of Cory Spinks, Devon Alexander, Erickson Lubin): I do agree. I thought he made the right decision. I thought Deontay Wilder’s legs looked weak from Round 1. And once he got tagged and hurt like that, I mean, he had a 6-foot-9, 273-pound man lining him up and teeing off on him.
I’m hearing people say that a fighter wants to go out on his shield. Well, that’s fine, that’s what a fighter’s mentality is supposed to be. But a good, experienced pro trainer is supposed to know when his fighter’s had enough and protect his fighter so he can regroup and come back another day. I thought Breland saw enough to know that it was not his fighter’s night and it was going to get worse, he wanted to save his guy from any permanent and further damage.
It’s a tough decision, but it’s a decision that you have to make when you’re in the trainer’s role. The head trainer is the leader of the team. When you’re a leader, you have to make leadership decisions, and that’s what I don’t understand with Jay Deas, the head trainer, going to the press [and] throwing Breland under the bus, saying that he doesn’t agree with Breland throwing in the towel.
For one, if I have an issue with anybody within the team, we discuss that behind closed doors. We don’t go to the press and tell the press and say, “I don’t agree with what he did,” and “He shouldn’t have did that,” and “My guy’s tough enough to go out on his shield.” Well, everybody’s guy is tough enough to go out on their shield, but what professional trainer really wants to see his fighter go out on his shield?
Andre Rozier (Trainer of Daniel Jacobs, Richard Commey, Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Edgar Berlanga): Absolutely he should have thrown in the towel. Deontay was bleeding from his ear and required stitches afterward. You don’t really see that in boxing, you see that in the MMA, guys are bashing their heads against the canvas and up against the cage. But you don’t see that in boxing. That’s problem No. 1.
Secondly, Deontay seemed to be disoriented after the second round, he didn’t have any coordination. From my perspective, it is not a good thing. As the bout wore on, it seemed to become even worse. I truly believe Mark did the absolute right thing, and whoever says he didn’t, they don’t know s— about boxing.
After the first round, Wilder was OK, but Fury was putting undaunted pressure on him. Of course it’s uncomfortable, and he doesn’t have great feet to begin with. If you have a big 6-foot-9, 273-pound monster coming at you, your not-so-good-feet aren’t going to be any better. But to let it just go on and have him suffer more damage, even though he said he wanted to go out on his shield — he was already on his shield.
Buddy McGirt (Trainer of Arturo Gatti, Antonio Tarver, Sergey Kovalev, Paulie Malignaggi and Janibek Alimkhanuly): Yes, he made the right decision. First of all, Deontay Wilder was not himself the other night. After the second round, he had nothing. You could see that. So, now here you are, as you’re slowing down, the other guy’s getting stronger. What chance do you have? Isn’t it best you live and fight another day, instead of getting your ass whooped and never fight again?
And on top of that, the trainer knows his fighter, You know when your fighter ain’t got it. He had nothing, his legs were gone, his equilibrium was f—ed after the knockdown, he was bleeding at the ear, every bomb he threw he missed.
Mark did the right thing. I texted Mark right after the fight and told him that. I wouldn’t have been mad if he threw in the towel after the fifth or sixth round.
How difficult is it to throw in the towel?
(Editor’s note: Buddy McGirt was the trainer for Maxim Dadashev during a fight in July 2019 in which Dadashev suffered brain injuries that resulted in his death four days later. McGirt stopped the fight after the 11th round. You can read more on his thoughts on that fight here.)
McGirt: It’s the toughest thing because it’s like… you really don’t have much time to think about it. But once it gets in your head — “Should I or shouldn’t I?” — then you’re watching the fight and it’s like, “F—.” But what comes from it is knowing your fighter, you say, “My guy has no chance in coming back in this fight, none. So why let him sit there and get beat more? Why?”
You can’t care about the emotions of your boxer, because if you did, you’d never stop a fight. Listen, I tell the fighters this: I’d rather you be mad at me for a month or two than, God forbid, your family being mad at me forever because something bad happened to you.
Goossen: First off, when you throw in the towel, it means you lost, OK? And everything you do going into a fight, it’s about winning. So whatever form, manner, or shape it takes, whether it’s a referee who stops it, your corner stops it, the judges award the other guy the fight, it’s all very hard to stomach. But stopping a fight is very difficult, especially when you still believe in your guy. Maybe he’s got something left to offer, but sometimes it comes to that.
It’s a tough thing to do, because sometimes you’re putting your own wishes ahead of what is the reality of the fight. You’ve got to come to grips with it. You want to win so badly sometimes, but for the betterment of the fighter, you’ve got to stop the fight.
Cunningham: For me, personally, it doesn’t matter whether or not the fighter wants to keep going, or if he has the mentality to go out on his shield and keep fighting. If he’s in a certain level of trouble, and I see that it’s just not his night, his legs are gone and there’s potential that some permanent damage could happen, I’m stopping the fight regardless of what my fighter’s mentality is. So it’s not that tough, to me.
When I came up on the apron when Cory Spinks fought Zab Judah in the rematch, and I’m waving to the ref to stop the fight, I don’t know if he actually saw me or if it was simultaneous, and he stepped in to stop the fight. Cory was kind of upset to see me up on the apron, waving to stop the fight, but he knew that I had his best interest at heart. That was just in the heat of the moment, but a day or two after that, there was never any issue.