He is the Ding-A-Ling Man. In a sport that produces better nicknames than the best frat-house keg party aftermath could ever dream up, "Ding-a-Ling Man" is tops. It's wacky, silly and ridiculously raunchy. Darnell Wilson has had to answer as to how he was dubbed "the Ding" his entire six-year career.
What he usually offers up is a politically correct dismissal such as, "I'm just the Ding-a-Ling Man. I hit you. I'll ring your bell. I'll knock you out."
The Ring magazine top 10-ranked cruiserweight has been knocking out high-level competition to become the "it" fighter in one of my favorite divisions. Still, come on! Ding-A-Ling Man can't just be the product of ring wars.
When pressed, Darnell will put the kiddie version away and get to the meat of the matter.
"That's the name I got back in high school for reasons other than boxing," Wilson said unblushingly. "I used it in a fight just as a joke. You know, one time just between friends. They're like, 'You won't do that.' I say, 'Yeah, I will."
He did do it, and it caught on. As you can imagine, Wilson has had some fun in his life as a red-blooded bachelor seeking short-term companionship. Austin Powers has nothing on him.
This week on "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET), the 32-year-old Ding-A-Ling Man (21-5-3, 18 KOs) is looking to ring up yet another well-regarded 200-pounder. Emmanuel Nwodo (20-3, 16 KOs) has won 10 straight fights. The Nigerian native is tough and rugged. Nwodo has a solid punch and a good memory. Especially when asked to remember what happened when he sparred Darnell Wilson in 2004.
"That was when I was new here in the U.S.," Nwodo, 33, recalled. "I sparred with Darnell Wilson, and I stopped Darnell Wilson."
That was the old Ding-A-Ling Man he faced. I have broadcast plenty of Wilson's fights, and I know he is a different fighter now. He is fighting with more finishing energy. Wilson isn't punching himself out with huge heavy-handed weapons that would drain him as much as they would threaten the opposition. I've questioned how he has changed completely.
"I was diagnosed. My adrenal glands were being worn down. I would go flat after a few rounds of sparring because of a bad effect from energy drinks."
You heard him. He was sucking down energy drinks as if he was being paid by the can. Nifty excuse, huh? I know it's an odd one, but Darnell has explained it to me a few times.
"I drank a large amount of them, and my body would just die on me after a round or two. I would have nothing. So I've been taking this stuff to replenish my adrenal glands."
He told me he would have energy drinks all day long, with meals, before training, just relaxing. It's like anything else, I assume: Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. He says his body became dependent on the drinks and wasn't firing off on its own.
"I was drinking a lot, I'm talking three or four double-sizes a day, every single day," Wilson said. "That's way too much. It's not just the caffeine, which is more than coffee, but they have a lot of other things in them, too. It really chews up your glands."
That's the before. As for the after, it's a wonderful run of success. In September, he TKO'd Daniel Judah, Zab's brother. Then Ding-A-Ling faced top-10 world title challenger Dale Brown and stopped him in the second round. Most recently, he destroyed former cruiserweight world titlist Kelvin Davis in February. Wow, maybe we should put down the energy drinks.
Wilson is so red-hot that it seems a win this Friday against a capable opponent would almost demand a title shot in the near future. Still, it's not going to be easy against a veteran he gives plenty of respect.
"This fight is going to be something. I wish more people knew about Nwodo because he might be the strongest puncher I could fight in the division. He's very strong.
"I give Nwodo credit; he would blow through a lot of guys."
If you haven't gathered, the Ding-A-Ling Man is more than just a hard hitter with a suggestive nickname. He is very smart. He owns and operates a digital infrastructure firm as a technology systems engineer. If he stays the course, he will soon be engineering a way to win a world title.
Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."