Feature | Apr 11 2019

What it’s like to spar Deontay Wilder

Stephan Shaw, who’s sparred both Deontay Wilder and Dominic Breazeale, tells James Slater that he looks ‘to take over the entire heavyweight division’
deontay wilder
Wilder spoke to the press while in Batley Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

26-year-old Stephan Shaw of Saint Louis, Missouri scored an eye-catching KO over Donovan Dennis last month, halting Dennis quicker and more spectacularly than Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller managed. Now looking to keep the momentum going with an active 2019, the 11-0 (8) contender, managed by Al Haymon, will also be working with WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder as Wilder gets ready for his fight with Dominic Breazeale; whom Shaw – known as “Big Shot” – has also sparred.

Here Shaw speaks exclusively with Boxing News:

Q: Your March win over Donovan Dennis, who you KO’d in the third-round, got a lot of praise. Was that your best performance so far as a pro?

Stephan Shaw: “Yes sir. Definitely. He was 12-3 with 10 knockouts and he had fought multiple guys who fought for a title, including Razvan Cojanu, who went the distance with Joseph Parker. He also gave Jarrell Miller a good fight, taking him into the seventh round, and I took him out much quicker. That was pretty big for me. I saw Donovan fight “Big Baby” Miller, who now is getting that shot at Anthony Joshua. I had a great camp for the fight, I sparred with Charles Martin down in California.”

Q: Ideally, when will you fight again?

S.S: “I spoke with my manager and he said that at the latest I should be back in the ring by late June. I will be in camp with Deontay Wilder as he gets ready for the Dominic Breazeale fight, and after that I’ll come home and I’ll be ready for my next fight.”

Deontay Wilder

Q: How do you see the Joshua-Miller fight going?

S.S: “Joshua is huge, he is big – he sells out stadiums. The boxing world knows who he is and he is the number-one draw of the heavyweight division. He has all the belts apart from the WBC. I think it will be a good fight, I’m intrigued. Jarrell has kind of made it personal, with his verbal assault and his pushing Joshua. I just can’t wait to tune in and watch the fight.”

Q: And Wilder against Breazeale? You have sparred Wilder before?

S.S: “Yeah, we have sparred for two years now. I helped him get ready for the Gerald Washington fight, the second [Bermane] Stiverne fight, the Luis Ortiz fight and the Tyson Fury fight. I have a lot of love for the champ, and he has for me. They always bring me back for sparring because they feel I give him the best work. And me being just 11-0 and holding my own, or even more, it gives me great confidence. It’s great being around that winning element, that winning spirit.”

Q: We have all seen how wild and aggressive Wilder is in fights. How is he when he spars with you?

S.S: “In sparring with me, he tries to be a little more measured. That’s why they keep bringing me back, because I keep the champ sharp, and he keeps me sharp. He tries to work his jab, be more technical and well-balanced when we spar. He doesn’t really get out of the pocket or get wild. Number-one, it’s because it’s sparring, and number-two, I won’t allow anyone to just go wild on me. I have great confidence in myself.”

Q: Does Wilder go crazy against Breazeale? They have that personal grudge of course, as you know (the two getting into a brawl in a hotel lobby a couple of years back, after Wilder had beaten Washington, with Breazeale also winning on the same card).

S.S: “I think Deontay has a chip on his shoulder because of what happened. I’ve heard both sides of the story, with me knowing Dominic well too. I’ve sparred Breazeale and I’ve got to know him. They don’t like each other! It’s another great grudge match and I’m excited to see it. In the heavyweight division, it’s often a case of who lands first and who can handle the other guy’s power. But Wilder, he really doesn’t wanna lose that belt. You know, the fight we all want is Wilder against Joshua, but these fights we have coming up, they’re pretty good fights and I’ll definitely be tuning in.”

Q: Getting back to you, what was your amateur record?

S.S: “I had sixty amateur fights, I was 51-9 and I had around 40 KOs. I was a four-time national champion and by the time I was 19 I was an alternate for the Olympic team. Then I went pro and I signed a five-year contract with Al Haymon. I’ve never met Al, I think it’s only when you get to a certain level that you actually get to meet him. It’s great being with Split Team Management and with Lou DiBella, a great guy.”

Q: You obviously have punching power, but do you look at yourself as a big, big puncher?

S.S: “I am a big puncher. I’m a devastating puncher with either hand. But I’m a puncher who chooses to box. I’m a defensive, offensive fighter. Most guys are one or the other, but I try to incorporate both. The name of the game after all is to hit and not get hit. I’ve got good footwork, fast hands, especially for a big guy at 6’5” and around 250 pounds. I feel I can do it all. I get it from my father and my grandfather. My grandfather, he worked with a number of world champions and a lot of tutors came up under my grandfather – Kevin Cunningham, Kenny Porter, and others.”

Q: Are you planning an active 2019?

S.S: “Yes. I want at least four fights this year, minimum. I want to keep active. Next year, I hope to have at least three fights and then, by the end of 2020 going into 2021, I should be fighting top 15 guys, top 10 guys. My intention is to take over the entire heavyweight division in time.”

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