WHEN asked if training longtime friend (and former opponent) Deontay Wilder for his upcoming title fight with Tyson Fury satisfies that boxing itch only former fighters have for the sport, Malik Scott says it does, but with an explanation attached to it.
“It satisfied it to another level from my perspective because I’m a boxing geek,” he said. “I’m a boxing nerd from a teacher’s standpoint of things. I love to film study and go and drill my fighters on the things that I think will work for his body type, for his skill set. So, my itch is being scratched every single day. Whether I’m fighting, whether I’m training, whether I’m doing film study, whether I’m trying on clothes, whether I’m talking to myself, I’m a pure boxing person.”
Thirty years in the game will get that bug into your bloodstream and it will never leave. That leads some, like 58-year-old Evander Holyfield, to want to still compete, and we all saw how that turned out. Luckily for the 40-year-old Scott, after his final bout in 2016 against Luis Ortiz, that was it for him as an active competitor, even if this unofficial retirement didn’t come about from a lack of trying.
“After that fight, I went and I trained in different training camps, I continued to look for fights, and I continued to try to get fights,” said Scott, who lost a dismal 12-round decision to the Cuban, getting dropped three times in the process. “My contract was up with Goossen-Tutor, so you can imagine that with a performance like I put up against Ortiz, which was really a very bad performance – it was effortless – no one really wanted to have any dealings with me. So I continued to stay at it, continued to go through camps, continued to call guys out, tried to get promoters on independent cards, but it just never worked out for me.”
In addition to staying in shape, Scott began working as a trainer with both local fighters in Southern California, as well as folks just looking to learn the sport. Then, after Wilder’s seventh-round stoppage loss to Fury in February 2020 and subsequent split with trainer Mark Breland, Scott got a call from the man who knocked him out in a single round in 2014.
He was now going to be training a former heavyweight belt-holder, a man with a mountain to climb. As for any comeback plans, there are none, as all that matters to Scott is seeing his fighter regain his title. “I wouldn’t say I’m officially retired or anything like that; I’m just doing something that I also do very well,” he said. “Will I have another fight or will I get back to my own thing? I’m 40 years old and I’m a very intelligent 40-year-old, and I don’t get emotionally wrapped up into the whole ‘I gotta fight again’ thing. I don’t take life one day at a time; I take life one moment at a time. And right now, my moment is to give Deontay Wilder my all, to pour all my knowledge and all that the boxing gods have taught me in my 30 years in the game into him. That’s what my focus is right now.”
In many cases like this, a fighter simply wants his buddy around to go through training camp, show up on fight night and do what he’s always done. That wasn’t going to work for Scott – or for Wilder, for that matter. So before they leave for Las Vegas, it’s all work all the time, whether in the gym in Alabama or in the room where the self-proclaimed boxing nerd breaks down tape.
And that title isn’t one Scott uses for social media credibility. A conversation with him about the sport reveals layers and layers of knowledge that will leave you smarter about the sport than you were when you went in. So whether he’s breaking down individual fights of Wilder and the rest of the heavyweight division, explaining the success of Jarrett Hurd after not being convinced of his quality early on, or discussing what made the heavyweight greats great, Scott knows the game, and if Wilder takes in what his coach is teaching him, October 9 might look a lot different than many believe.
“I always think a trainer and a fighter relationship is 85 per cent up to the fighter,” said Scott. “Because the trainer, we come ready to work – we just want a dedicated, receptive athlete, and that’s what I have right here. If Deontay Wilder continues to stay on the path he’s on right now, Tyson Fury will be the least of his worries. He’ll never lose another fight again. Because I’m not just training the most dynamic heavyweight in the world, in my opinion; I’m training the most receptive boxer in the world. This dude does so many things well that so many people don’t know about or never seen him do. He’s a five-to-ten-dimensional fighter and he has the title of a one trick pony, and I just can’t wait for the world to see everything we’ve been working on.”
So getting Wilder on board wasn’t an issue?
“It’s very easy in this case because Deontay made his mind up that he’s gonna give himself to me as far as I’m the teacher and he’s the fighter,” he continues. “All of this is going well with us because of Deontay making a serious decision to be more receptive in his life than he’s ever been. He’s doing things, preparation wise, that he’s never done. I have someone that’s dynamic, wants to work with me, has an open mind, very athletic. And we already know he’s the hardest puncher in the history of the sport.”
Ah, the punching power. It’s the great equaliser in boxing, maybe even more so in the case of Wilder, who has finished 41 of his 42 wins by knockout. He even had Fury on the deck twice in their first fight in 2018, which was ruled a draw, so it would be easy for “The Bronze Bomber” to chalk up the loss to the Brit as a bad night (or any other number of reasons he’s given since then), and trust that his power will get him through in their third bout.
Scott won’t deny the power of his charge. He’s even been on the receiving end of it. But while he predicts that power will be the deciding factor at T-Mobile Arena, he wants to make it clear that the Deontay Wilder who shows up on fight night won’t be the one we’ve seen in the past. Scott is taking an old school approach to the modern game that he believes has been lost over the years, and not just in the obvious ways.
So he’s gone to the past to move into the future, with some interesting stops along the way. “I got into the math and the science and Vitali and Wladimir (Klitschko),” Scott said. “I didn’t understand the method to their madness for a couple years. I didn’t get it. But when I got behind it and I remembered what Emanuel Steward taught me and things Lennox Lewis taught me and Harold Knight taught me. What they all had in common was that they taught me how to fight like a big man. And that didn’t just mean throwing punches. That meant when it comes to clinching, which is a very, very lost art in boxing. It’s like fighters and trainers are too egotistical to learn the art of clinching.
“People will have their favourite fighters, but their favourite fighters will be master clinchers,” he continues. “The new generation, we’ll say everyone that has the Floyd Mayweather syndrome, they’ll copy everything Floyd does except his clinch game, when he had one of the best clinch games ever in boxing. Floyd Mayweather, Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir Klitschko, Larry Holmes – all these guys’ clinch games were top tier. How are people not hiring wrestling coaches to teach their fighters how to clinch two or three times a month? How are fighters going on unnecessary vacations, spending money on Louis Vuitton and Gucci, but not having a clinch instructor come into their gym once or twice a week? How is this going on? It’s because ego is involved. These guys didn’t just clinch in fights. They worked on this in training. It was drilled. [Oleksandr] Usyk? Incredible clinching the other night [against Anthony Joshua] when it was necessary. He’s not stronger than AJ, but when you know how to technically do something very well, you can appear stronger and more technically sound. I’ve watched guys actually lose fights from not knowing how to be physical on the inside, from not knowing how to impose themselves. Can you imagine if Joshua really knew how to impose himself as a big man? He may still have come up short, but it would have been a better showing from his side.”
Scott calls the 2003 bout between Lewis and Klitschko a “master class” when it comes to the subtle parts of heavyweight boxing, making it clear that using defence and clinching doesn’t equate to a boring fight; it equates to an effective fight.
“This is being fundamentally sound, this is being physical, this is hitting and not getting hit, but at the same time still being entertaining,” he said. “It’s looked at as you’re a coward if you know how to clinch. People will say, ‘Why is he clinching?’ I’m not saying go in there and just hold people; I’m saying when the necessary time comes and you need to clinch, you better know how to do it. And it doesn’t start in a fight; clinching starts by drilling it in the gym.”
Scott and Wilder have been drilling everything, from clinch work to footwork to pad work that actually replicates something we will see in the ring, not just on Instagram or TikTok. And through that, they’ve developed their own language of code words that will be revealed when it matters in the ring.
But most importantly, Scott has been working on making sure that when Wilder gets Fury hurt, he finishes the job, quickly, yet efficiently. He uses the 1938 rematch between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling as an example.
“I feel as though a guy like Fury, he doesn’t mind getting hurt if he knows that Deontay is gonna be wild, because then he can slide, he can weave and get out of the way, and then it can be very draining for Deontay,” said Scott. “But when you hurt someone, me and (manager) Shelly Finkel have been going over film study and it was Max Schmeling and Joe Louis two. It’s probably the best finish in boxing, not because of the punches, but because of the calmness of the operation, the selection of punches. Joe looked like he wasn’t even breathing when he finished him. The last six-inch right hand, he didn’t even telegraph it. When he had Max Schmeling up against the ropes, he paralysed him with the kidney and liver shots. He didn’t go wild on him. And he was so calm and cool through that. And the pressure that was on him at that time was insane. And look how he handled it. That’s the exact kind of calmness that Deontay needs to have to finish Fury once he hurts him. It’s for sure that he’s gonna hurt him. But once you hurt him, that’s when everything we’ve worked on and everything it took us to get back to this moment of extreme confidence, that’s when everything will matter. When Fury’s hurt and the way Deontay reacts to that, that’s gonna tell everything. My job was that when you get him hurt, we have to continue to do what created him to be vulnerable from your positioning. If you hurt somebody with a calm one-two and they’re hurt and on their feet, it’s not time to go windmill. It’s time to continue to breathe and be calm and cool. It’s like Joe Goossen used to tell me, ‘Be fast, but don’t be in a hurry’.”
It’s not the only game plan, but it is the end game, as far as he’s concerned. He knows who his fighter is in there with, he knows what happened in the first two fights and he knows that taking advantage of every positive situation will be the difference between victory and defeat.
“Fury is probably the only guy that Deontay has ever fought that we’re gonna have to knock out in a way that we didn’t knock other people out,” said Scott. “And I believe that’s not just from a right hand. I believe it’s gonna have to be purpose, perspective and a surgical mind frame. It’s how we get it done. It’s not us getting it done. The whens, whys and how matter everything to me when you’re fighting the likes of a Tyson Fury. He’s very elusive, he’s very alert, he’s half-psychotic, he has all types of issues, so he’s very woke on all aspects. Everything works for him in the boxing ring, so we gotta break this guy down, and we’re gonna beat him up before we knock him out.”
Mr Scott is calling for a knockout, then?
“Retribution is on the menu,” he said. “Deontay is gonna look good, and he’s gonna do it in grand fashion. My prediction is inside of five rounds, but I also know who we’re dealing with. If Fury just so happens to get by that, we’ll just beat him up for 12 rounds. It doesn’t matter. Either way, Deontay Wilder is about to be two-time [WBC] heavyweight champion of the world.”
If he does, Malik Scott’s days with the gloves on may officially be over, as his phone will likely be ringing off the hook come Monday morning.