Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Is Deontay Wilder’s younger brother Marsellos fighting for his big bro's approval?
"We are the same species. We have the same fierce, dominant blood"
Last Updated: 07/08/19 4:08pm
Older kids never used to pick on Marsellos, the quiet boy in the Wilder family.
"Growing up my brother would fight a lot," he tells Sky Sports. "I didn't really have to fight too much on the streets, because of my brother's reputation.
"Guys didn't really try me, when I was a teenager, because they knew who my brother was. They knew what my brother was capable of."
His big brother, Deontay Wilder, is now the WBC heavyweight champion and unbeaten in 42 fights but, back in those days in America's Bible Belt, he was an enforcer who prevented young Marsellos getting into any trouble.
The result was that Marsellos grew up in a bubble - the toughest guy in the town slept above him in the same bunkbed, so the younger Wilder brother was never required to prove himself in the same way.
Now a pro boxer in his own right, it seems Marsellos' career is about earning Deontay's approval. Their father and grandmother were religious preachers and Deontay claims they predicted he was "anointed by God". But what about his younger brother?
Marsellos is three years younger but started boxing professionally 10 years after Deontay, and has already experienced more adversity. In Marsellos' fourth fight, earlier this year, he was knocked out.
Marsellos first seemed like he would emerge from his brother's shadow by pursuing basketball and American football. Both brothers played the two most popular sports in their hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but Marsellos was the standout athlete. He earned a scholarship to attend Jackson State and expected to be a fourth-round NFL draftee.
"Football didn't work out, man," he sighs.
Deontay, meanwhile, found a boxing gym in his late-teens after becoming a father and feeling the pressure to provide. He went to the 2008 Olympics, won bronze, and embarked on the journey that would see him evolve into the ferocious champion that stands tall today.
Marsellos refused to be consigned to the scrapheap of football nearly-men. Boxing didn't come as naturally to him as it did to Deontay, but what better way to seek his endorsement?
It led to the frankly ridiculous notion that Marsellos' first-ever sparring session was against the reigning heavyweight champion.
"The moment I knew that I had impressed my brother was, after he hit me with a good right hand, when I got up," he said. "I was able to get up when he knocked me down. I showed him my heart and my courage."
Deontay and Marsellos had been through rough-and-tumble as kids but nothing like this, essentially an elite world talent trying to KO a total novice.
"He really took it to me. He really gave it to me, like I was just any other opponent.
"He had to give it to me like that so I knew what I was getting myself into.
"In my pro fights I haven't been through anything like what my brother put me through in sparring.
"I knew I was tough enough, I had the mentality to go through that storm. And I did.
"If I can take a brutal beat-down from my brother, the heavyweight champion of the world, then I can go through anything."
Marsellos' scrappiness has manifested itself into a shouting match with Tony Bellew, a fracas with Tyson Fury's mob and a more personal grudge with Dominic Breazeale. He is never far from his brother's side but it always Deontay's voice that you hear.
"Deontay is the more outspoken, Marsellos is quieter," said Jay Deas, Deontay's trainer and one of the men who knows the brothers best. "Deontay is very passionate about what he thinks, and Marsellos is too, but Deontay is the more vocal.
"People expect the second-coming of Deontay but Marsellos is a young, developing fighter who mustn't have unrealistic expectations, just because of his last name."
Marsellos had just seven amateur bouts but expectations were dampened in March when he lost to 8-13 journeyman William Deets.
He remembers: "It was a careless mistake, I blame myself. You have to stay focused in every second of a fight but, in the last seconds, I dropped my hands and got caught with a shot out of nowhere. He knocked me down and, even though I got up, the ref thought I was hurt.
"I was winning the whole fight so it proves that it ain't over until the fat lady sings. It was a big lesson and I'm glad I took it, because it woke me up. I stay on my grind."
What type of fighter will Marsellos, now 30, eventually become? He is four inches shorter than his big brother, about two stone lighter, and until last weekend's heavyweight debut had boxed in the division below. His record is now 5-1.
"Deontay is a more devastating puncher but Marsellos has to put his punches together," Deas explains. "Deontay has one-shot immediate power but Marsellos has more of an accumulative effect.
"Marsellos doesn't mind the solitude of the work. He understands that everyone's attention is on Deontay but that doesn't stop Marsellos getting his work in. Marsellos is very diligent and started his career very late so he's trying to make up for the lack of an amateur career."
Marsellos displays some of the confidence his brother is known for: "I can box you, I can knock you out, I've got power, I'm fast and strong and athletic. I'm a freak athlete.
"Everything is starting to slow down in the ring, I am starting to find myself."
Perhaps the biggest indicator about Marsellos' strength of character is that he followed the same path as his older brother, knowing it is almost impossible to achieve more.
"I always looked up to my dad and my brother," he said. "We fought but we had our good brotherly moments too. We were close, same mom, same dad, same room.
"Me and my brother are always cool, calm and collected but we back down from nobody.
"It's not difficult [following him into boxing] because I don't compare myself to my brother. This is his element, and it's something I've just got into."
So is Marsellos fighting for Deontay's respect?
The man who knows them best, Jay Deas, pauses and thinks.
"That's a good question…
"I think he likes Deontay's approval, and he wants Deontay's approval. But I don't think he's boxing for that reason.
"Marsellos is his own man with his own goals and his own beliefs. He is charting his own course."
Marsellos says about Deontay: "We are the same species. We have the same fierce, dominant blood but we bring different things to the game.
"Same blood, different Wilders."
Vasiliy Lomachenko faces Luke Campbell in a world lightweight title fight, Charlie Edwards defends his flyweight title, and Hughie Fury meets Alexander Povetkin in a heavyweight battle, on August 31 live on Sky Sports Box Office.