By Adam Ewing, Shawnee, OK, 12/24/15 – “The Vanilla Gorilla” Wayne Heath (6-0, 5 KO) looks to begin 2016 with another victory. On January 9, Firelake Arena in Shawnee, Oklahoma will host Heath’s ninth professional fight.
In Heath’s last fight, he took on journeyman windbag, T.J. Jones. Jones talked relentless amounts trash via social media, and from the opening bell “The Vanillia Gorilla” took the fight to him, knocking out Jones in less than a round. So much for that “resume” of yours, huh T.J.?
“I worked really hard for that fight,” Heath said. “It was the first time I was in a main event. My opponent was T.J. Jones. On boxrec.com, he was ranked a few hundred spots ahead of me. He beat some good-quality opposition. I went out there and knocked him out in the first round. It was a good win. Going into that fight, I talked to two guys I really respect in the sport, they have been in the sport for many years, and they said it was a 50-50 fight. For me to go in there and stop him in the first really boosted my confidence. This win moved me up 300 some spots in the world ranking. To put it in perspective, it moved me ahead of Zhilei Zang, the 2008 Olympic Silver medalist.”
Over the last couple fights, Wayne Heath has improved immensely. In his last fight specifically, I noticed an increase in hand speed, along with much improved footwork.
“When I first got into boxing, I thought if I worked really hard, trained right, ate right, slept and breathed it I thought I would be a .500 fighter,” Heath said. “In my first eight fights, I’ve gone further than I thought I would. Now I have to set new goals. Getting a couple big wins in tough fights has given me a lot of confidence. I didn’t have anything handed to me. I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.”
In 2016, it is possible fans will see Heath fight in a six round fight.
“My conditioning is getting better; I’ve been going more rounds in sparring,” Heath said. “I’ve only been pro a little over a year, with not much amateur experience. To be honest, I don’t have anything planned for the future, but I would like to bump up to six rounds. That is something I am looking forward to. Having confidence, believing you can accomplish things has improved my work ethic. I’ve added a couple guys on my team to improve my overall technique and conditioning.”
Two fights ago, Heath fought a guy who was very unprofessional to say the least. Chester Burton used his head more than he used his fists, causing a nasty cut, forcing the ringside physician to call a stop to the fight, resulting in a no contest on Heath’s record. It was a fight that referee, Gary Ritter, should have called a stop to, especially after all the knockdowns and Burton doing nothing to demonstrate he was a professional fighter.
“I hate to talk bad about him but all the opponents I have fought were pretty respectful, and he did some things prior to the fight, and during the fight that showed he has questionable character,” Heath said. “I had him down four times, and you can kind of question whether it was five times. It was pretty one-sided. I was out-boxing him, keeping my distance, making him miss. In my opinion, I feel I outclassed him. I talked to a lot of people who where there and they feel the same way. I don’t think I have anything to prove because it was so one-sided. Personally, I would like to fight him again, just to keep my record clean, but I don’t see it happening in the near future.”
The nickname, Vanilla Gorilla, has been around since Wayne was a youngster playing football.
“It was fifth or sixth grade,” Heath said. “I was playing little league football. I was towheaded and had big curly hair. There was a guy for the Denver Broncos. He was a big lineman, I can’t think of his name. He looked very similar. He was crazy, always yelling and hollering. I was the same way, just a really hyper kid. Cale Gundy (Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy’s brother) and my brother gave me the nickname after that guy.”
“I’m very proud of him,” Heath said. “He recently had all of his equipment inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. He’s one of two boxers to have their stuff in the hall. We got a phone and on October 22, they are going to honor him at the California Boxing Hall of Fame. One of the fighters already in the hall, “Scrap Iron” Johnson, my dad beat twice.”
“He was able to watch all of my fights,” Heath said. “The last year of his life, I didn’t get to see him as much as I would like to because I was boxing. He was always very supportive of me. He told me to dedicate myself to boxing. He believed in me a lot more than I believe in myself. He thought I had the talent to go as far as I wanted in boxing. He came from the old school. He was around Archie Moore and a bunch of other really good fighters, and he knew a lot of tricks. He understood the game, I could always go to pops and he would give me advice. I’ll miss that.”
Heath’s next opponent, Dee Burchfield (1-1, 1 KO) will give him a much different look. Burchfield is a taller opponent than Heath has faced in previous fights.
“We wanted to look for a guy who is going to give us rounds,” Heath said. “That’s what we are going to get with Dee Burchfield. He’s a big, strong guy. We have a lot of mutual friends; he’s a really good guy. He’s fought mixed martial arts and has two professional boxing fights. He knocked out his last opponent, and he’s knocked out a few MMA guys.”
“I don’t like to predict fights,” Heath said. “I have to make sure I don’t give him anything to hit. Just be on my toes, moving, give him a lot of different angles. If I don’t stand in front of him I should come out with a victory. I didn’t force the knockout last fight. I just let it come to me. That’s part of growing as a fighter. I’m in good shape and I’ve done everything in camp to make sure I’m ready for the fight.”
Fight fans, be sure to tune in, and follow “The Vanilla Gorilla” as he continues to climb the heavyweight ladder in 2016.
“I’ve moved up quite a bit in the rankings here recently,” Heath said. “In 2016, I want to keep improving and taking steps up in competition. I just want to fight whomever my promoter puts in front of me.”