Showtime has put together one of its best All Access episodes for the upcoming heavyweight bout between WBC champion Bermane Stiverne and much-touted American knockout artist Deontay Wilder.
When it comes to sports documentary voice-overs, the undisputed king is Liev Schreiber. His voice has bass, sharpness and tonal gravitas that blend perfectly with the often-somber cinematography that has been a hallmark of the best 24/7 episodes made by HBO. There are pretenders out there working occasionally on other shows, but none have yet to really pose a challenge to Schreiber. After giving Common a shot at narrating the All Access show, Showtime finally settled on Barry Pepper, an actor most memorable in my mind for his roles in "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Green Mile."
Although Pepper may not be Schreiber’s successor, he’s certainly a worthy contender. The latest All Access focusing on the heavyweight drama coming to Las Vegas on January 17 is a perfect example of why. Pepper’s voice brings just the right blend of serious and excited, respect and questioning to the 16-minute preview of the fight to come.
Although it gives both fighters an equal amount of time to shine on camera, ultimately the show reaffirms the quiet, iron-willed and iron-fisted image of the champion, Stiverne, while it transforms the flash of Wilder’s image into something even more marketable. Anyone who’s seen Wilder’s interviews knows that he loves the mic — and the camera for that matter. His walk-in mask, toothy grins and post-knockout celebrations are all in line with a long history of heavyweight bombast. The fans love it. But creating a heavyweight image like undoubtedly leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of some fans. That taste may have softened after the latest installment of All Access.
The show introduces fans to Wilder’s daughter, who was born with a congenital deformity to the spinal cord. Speaking about his daughter’s struggles and how it motivated him was touching, a stark contrast to the persona that most fans know.
The stage is now set for the victor of Saturday’s matchup to steal the hard-earned spoils of the other. Stiverne may say that Wilder doesn’t have anything he wants, but that’s not true. I’m sure Stiverne wouldn’t mind stealing away Wilder’s media buzz. After all, the difference between making Michael Moorer money and a Mike Tyson heavyweight fortune is in large part a function of marketing (with the necessary victories sprinkled in, of course). Stiverne may have the heavy hands and dedication to grind out victories for years, but one big show against a fighter with Wilder’s media lure can make up for years of quiet, ho-hum interviews.
Wilder wants the green belt. He wants the legitimacy that comes with a victory over a tested heavyweight like Stiverne. He wants Tyson-esque money and knows that to get it he’ll need to take out Stiverne and then go hunting for Wladimir Klitschko. After All Access, should Wilder manage to win the belt, he’ll not only have at least some critics and a lot of fans believing he can dethrone the dominant Klitschko; Wilder will have a whole new set of fans hoping and rooting for him and his daughter to enjoy the spoils of felling that long-reigning champion.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.