Most boxing fans remember Mark Breland. He captured gold at the 1984 Olympic Games by boxing circles around his opponents.
Breland parlayed his Olympic success into a solid professional career winning 35 of 38 fights.
He won the WBA world welterweight title on two occasions in the 1980s. Still, there were some who said he was overratedand never reached his potential.
His manager Shelly Finkel set in place an annuity that kicked in when Breland turned thirty-one. He's been receiving $100,000 a year since.
Breland retired in 1997. He eventually became a trainer, working with former champion Vernon Forest among others.
In 2009, he joined the team of Olympic heavyweight bronze medalist Deontaty Wilder. Five years later, he watched his charge win the WBC heavyweight title by jabbing Bermane Stiverne silly at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev., last Saturday night.
Breland, 51, had one of the best jabs in the business. He was hired to teach Wilder the punch, and some other aspects of the game.
“My theory is to use the height difference (Wilder stands 6'7") to keep a guy on the outside,” Breland told Maxboxing.com. “You won’t have any problems if you’re a tall guy like Deontay. Nothing fancy. What do you want to be fancy for?
"It was great boxing,” said Breland of Wilder's victory in an article by D.C. Reeves of the Tuscaloosanews.com. “He fought a great fight, he boxed him, he did a lot of things people said he couldn't do, plus going 12 rounds.”
Breland kept telling Wilder to jab. The big heavyweight listened. By the end of the 12-rounder, 120 of his jabs had connected. In comparison, Stiverne landed a total of 110 punches.
Boxing history is filled with a number of great left jabbers. In 1910, Jack Johnson used the punch to keep James J. Jeffries at bay during the first, ‘Fight of the Century.’ Joe Louis would set-up his opponents with his left, and then knock them out with a right hook. Sonny Liston could never figure out how to get past Muhammad Ali's long stick. Even at age 50, Larry Holmes had the punch down to a science.
Wilder sincerely thanked Breland a number of times during the post-fight press conferences. The trainer looked embarrassed, but Wilder was right. If it hadn’t been for what Breland had taught him, it’s unlikely Wilder would have emerged victorious against Stiverne.
That quick stab to the face, executed again and again, won him the match.