ACCOMPLISHED trainer Ronnie Shields has worked with a number of notable heavyweights over the years – Mike Tyson, David Tua and Evander Holyfield for three examples – and right now, Shields is training Polish contender Artur Szpilka.
Szpilka, a southpaw who enjoyed a fine amateur career, will challenge WBC heavyweight ruler Deontay Wilder in Brooklyn, New York on January 16, and Shields says no-one should underestimate his newest charge.
Here Shields speaks exclusively with Boxing News:
Q: First of all, Ronnie, how long have you been with Artur Szpilka?
Ronnie Shields: “Since April of this year. We’ve had three fights together [Ty Cobb, Manuel Quezada, Yasmany Consuegra – all stoppage wins for 26-year-old Szpilka].”
Q: And as a trainer who has worked with so many great fighters, including heavyweights, what attracted you to Szpilka?
R.S: “He has a lot of determination as a person. When they asked me to work with him, I watched some tape of him, of his fights, and I saw some things that maybe I could change. He loves to fight and I thought that as determined as he is, maybe this kid has what it takes to become heavyweight champion of the world.”
Q: And what do you and he have to do to beat Deontay Wilder?
R.S: “Be better in every part of our game-plan. When we trade, we have to be first, make sure we land the first shot. And we have to be smarter. He can’t do what every other fighter who has fought Deontay has done, where they have sat back and waited for him.”
Q: How good is Wilder?
R.S: “I think he’s very good. You know, you can’t become heavyweight champion without being good. The critics point to his lack of experience, amateur experience, but if you underestimate him, he will always beat you. That’s what he’s relying on, people thinking he isn’t the full article. As long as fighters do that, he will beat them. This fight, you cannot underestimate either fighter.”
Q: Do you agree with the critics who say this is the first real challenge for Wilder – better than Eric Molina and Johann Duhaupas?
R.S: “Well, I think Molina is a good fighter, and he gave a much better fight of it than anybody thought he would. But as far as experience goes, with Artur’s amateur experience, yes, this is the most experienced fighter yet for Deontay. This is the toughest test for Wilder.”
Q: Do you see Szpilka’s southpaw stance having a factor in the fight? Wilder has not fought a southpaw since he stopped Audley Harrison in a round back in 2013.
R.S: “Not too much. Whenever a guy is throwing punches at you, it doesn’t really matter too much which stance he is throwing them from. It’s a myth that guys will train a certain way for a southpaw or an orthodox style. If Szpilka is awkward for Deontay, Deontay will be just as awkward for Szpilka. So I think that will even it out.”
Q: Do you see a physical fight, where Szpilka gets inside and goes to the body and throws uppercuts?
R.S: “Every fight we have, I train my fighters to hit the body, throw uppercuts, hit everything you see. That’s the way I train; hit everything, use uppercuts, go there, use everything and hit every single target.”
Q: What did you think of Tyson Fury’s big win over Wladimir Klitschko?
R.S: “He did what he had to do. He’s a big guy and that affected Wladimir. He’d never fought anyone bigger than himself before, and he couldn’t deal with it, and he had not seen that style before and he didn’t know what to do. That fight showed that you can never underestimate any fighter. But I think he [Wladimir] will think about it and try to adjust in the rematch. The heavyweights are doing what they need to do right now. There are some really interesting heavyweight fights out there.”