By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
JAY DEAS was once a TV crime reporter chasing stories like a murderous mayor who ran off with his step-daughter.
But for the past 13 years he has been the man behind Deontay Wilder rather than the man behind the camera.
Deas has taken the American from a 21-year-old boxing novice Olympic medallist and WBC heavyweight champion, who defends his belt against Tyson Fury in LA on Saturday.
“He was a tall guy, he was athletic and said he wanted to box but everyone says that,” said Deas, recalling the first day Wilder walked into the Skyy Boxing Gym in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“Most of them don’t last a month. His ability didn’t resonate until I started working with him and I saw how much he was taking in, how much he wanted it and then I thought, ‘We may have something here’.”
“The Fury fight will kick the door down in terms of everybody knowing who he is”
Deas and his brother, Tommy, were brought up on a diet of boxing and his sibling went on to report on the sweet science for national publications.
Deas would soon become a reporter himself as a crime journalist in Panama City Beach, Florida.
It was there that he reported on the tale of a small-town mayor who left his wife for his step-daughter, before shooting the latter and returning to his missus.
“I have some crazy stories but that’s just one,” said Deas, who is Wilder’s trainer and co-manager.
The crazy ride in boxing started when his brother decided to open Skyy Boxing Gym.
Deas took over the reins as head coach when his brother was promoted to sports editor at the local paper in 2005.
“We had been everywhere with fighters in the 10 years before Deontay walked in the gym,” said Deas.
“It was great timing because if Deontay had come five years before I don’t know if we would have known what to do with him.
“With 10 years under our belts we knew who were the good guys, who were the bad guys.”
Wilder’s unique style of fighting doesn’t look like something taught in the gym.
“He’s always had an awkwardness about him,” said Deas. “He can throw punches from different angles.
“At first I tried to curb that but I came to find out early in his amateur career that he was effective.
“People were struggling to defend against him so we still taught traditional boxing techniques, but we didn’t curb his tendency to throw punches from different angles. “
Wilder, 33, only walked into the gym in 2005 but three years later he was at the Beijing Olympics with a bronze medal around his neck.
He won the WBC title in his 33rd professional fight and has made seven defences since, remaining unbeaten with 39 of his 40 victims not hearing the final bell.
But Wilder has struggled for recognition even in America, although his last win over Luis Ortiz got plenty talking.
And if he hands Fury his first defeat then the calls for a unification clash with Anthony Joshua will grow even louder.
“The Fury fight will kick the door down in terms of everybody knowing who he is,” said Deas. “Everyone will see that Deontay Wilder is the guy who wants to fight the very best.”
Deas’ main aim is to see his charge walk away from the sport with his faculties intact and plenty of money in the bank.
This week’s promotion will certainly help the latter but the Tuscaloosa trainer won’t be getting involved in the hullabaloo.
“I will be behind the scenes, I will be in the shadows, I am not one of those trainers to be out there,” added Deas.
“When you see Deontay walk to the ring I’m way in the back which is where I love to be, I’m not the guy that wants to be the one that is trying to get the camera time.
“To see him in the Hall of Fame one day would be my second greatest thrill as a trainer.
“My greatest thrill if Deontay Wilder at the age of 40 is able to do what he wants to do on a daily basis with his time.
“That would be my greatest triumph as a trainer and manager.
“I was very proud to have coached an Olympic medallist and I was very proud to have coached a heavyweight champion of the world.”
It is certainly different than chasing scoops in beach towns in Florida.