Don House expects a better version of Bermane Stiverne on Saturday
Prior to Bermane Stiverne’s first match-up against Deontay Wilder in January of 2015 (back when he was the defending WBC heavyweight champion), trainer Don House was rather dismissive of Wilder. To him, Wilder was nothing more than a basketball player masquerading as a boxer.
But on that night, as they squared off at the MGM Grand, Wilder tamed a listless Stiverne. It was rather stunning how easily he did it too.
So as they are scheduled to meet again, this Saturday night, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, as the main event on Showtime, will we see a better Bermane?
“Oh, it’s going to be a much better version than the first time,” promised House.
When asked why he felt so strongly about this, he told UCNLive.com, “Well, Bermane was actually ready for that fight. Somewhere during the camp, he got dehydrated somehow but, this time, I kept a close eye on him. I’m with him most of the time, making sure he does all the proper things, eating all the right foods and, yeah, he was severely dehydrated and I was shocked. How can a heavyweight get dehydrated?
“But we’re not dehydrated now. We won’t be sick. He’s going to be healthy.”
Yeah, about that, after that lopsided loss, Stiverne claimed he was dehydrated. But perhaps it was more a case of having to drop excess poundage prior to that fight and spending a few days in the sauna. So that’s one way of getting to that physical state. Sources say Stiverne had a bit too long of a victory lap after beating Chris Arreola in May of 2014 to win the vacant WBC strap.
“He took the fight serious but, y’ know, I hate when a fighter takes too much time off. I don’t think it was all of his choice,” said House of a dormant period for his fighter, after his title-winning effort. “We could’ve came right back and fought. Remember, the fighter really don’t have all the control. The promoter’s got to take some of the blame – you’ve got to keep your fighter fighting. You’ve got to keep your fighter fresh.”
This is certainly true but, at the same time, it is the boxer’s responsibility to stay in reasonable shape between assignments.
“When we beat this guy, this time, I want to fight at least 120 days or less to defend it. I don’t want to sit on the belt. That’s not what belts are for,” said House, who has an old-school approach to this particular aspect of the game.
The ironic thing is, coming into this contest, Stiverne has fought just once since that fateful night (a 10-round struggle against Derric Rossy in November of 2015). Won’t inactivity be a factor this time around? To this, House replied, “Here’s the thing, I thought, we’re kinda used to it. We’re kinda used to that year, 18 months of not fighting. So, to me, I’m comfortable with it. So it’s time, right now, he’s motivated and he just wants to get his belt back. So I’m not concerned about that.
“Maybe there’ll be a couple of rounds of ring rust. We’ll see after about the third round but his sparring’s been great. We’ve been training for at least the last eight or nine rounds for months. We’ve been in the gym. We didn’t get the call, last-minute, to start training.”
One has to ask, did Stiverne – with the slovenly way he came into camp for the initial encounter with Wilder – simply not appreciate the title and just how much it meant for his career? Sometimes the belt makes the fighter because, well…belts matter.
House says, “I don’t want to just say Bermane, I want to say that everyone that loses something realizes, ‘What the hell did I just do?’ I think most people, when they lose something they had, didn’t appreciate it till it’s lost. When you have the title, people open doors for you. There’s a lot of things that go with being a champion but when you lose it, it’s like, ‘Bermane who?’ It’s a big difference; trust me.”
It was a humbling loss for sure.
“Yeah,” agreed the trainer, who added, “Not only him, we were all humbled. The one thing about the boxing business: You go into a fight, you prepare and if you fight and you just lost, hey, that’s part of the game. You did everything you could; the opponent was better. But that fight was hard to deal with, a hard fight to swallow, because we were prepared. (Stiverne) screwed it up somehow and he took the blame for it but we are a team. It’s like, ‘Y’ know what? Let’s get past this and do better next time.'”
Wilder surprised many observers by boxing effectively and keeping Stiverne at bay with his long left jab. In many ways, it was his most technically sound performance. When asked if Wilder suprirsed him in any way that night, House answered, “No, he really didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was the effort Bermane put in. I was that shocked Bermane didn’t do anything. I was like, ‘What the hell is going on with you?’ That was not the fighter we did two months of training and I was looking at him during that fight and I was like, ‘Something’s not right with him.'”
And it was the type of loss that was not just embarrasing to the boxer but to the trainer.
“The unfortuate part is when a fighter wins, (you’ll hear) ‘What a great fighter.’ When a fighter loses, ‘What a piece-of-shit trainer.’ That’s just the way the game is,” said House, philosphically. “But the thing is, it was our first loss together. We made a mistake somewhere along the way, man. It’s boxing. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.
“To me, Wilder didn’t beat him. Bermane beat himself. He took a lot of blame for the things he did. He said, ‘Look, I screwed that up.’ We’re a team, so I take part of that blame too. I just hope, when we knock this guy out, that people come back and say, ‘What a great trainer,’ instead of, ‘What a great fighter.'”
Stiverne is facing Wilder on this evening because Luis Ortiz failed a pre-fight drug test and Stiverne, who still somehow kept a high rating in the WBC, stepped in. (Hey, there are still some privileges to being promoted by Don King). But this really is a do-or-die situation for Stiverne, who just turned 39 today. If he isn’t motivated now, he’s simply in the wrong line of work.
House says his charge has a “greater sense of urgency because he wants that belt back. He wants what goes with that title – and a lot of things go with the heavyweight crown, the WBC title. That’s what he wants back. So the best thing about it is the pressure’s not on us; the pressure’s on Wilder. We’re going to win this fight but the pressure’s on him.”
The WBC has ordered a rematch between Luis Nery and Shinsuke Yamanaka…Featherweight hopeful Toka Khan Clary will headline a card on December 1, in Providence, Rhode Island. Gotta give Real Deal Boxing credit for keeping him active and making him a priority…Is Devin Haney fighting again this weekend? This kid is the modern-day Archie Moore with his activity…Is it me or do kids not trick-or-treat as much as before?…The Denver Broncos are wasting a championship caliber defense with awful QB play…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.