By Sam Constantinou Coulter
WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder faces a change of opponent for his latest outing with undefeated American Gerald Washington stepping in to replace Andrzej Wawrzyk.
Wawrzyk aged 29 from Poland had been set to face Wilder at the Legacy Arena, Birmingham, Alabama on February 25th but has been replaced after becoming the latest heavyweight fighter to test positive for banned substances following the likes of Alexander Povetkin and Lucas Browne last year.
Out of competition, surprise testing found the anabolic steroid Stanozolol Metabolites in Wawrzyk’s system which naturally meant the fight could not go ahead.
The man to replace him is the aforementioned Gerald Washington who aged 34 holds an 18-0-1 professional record containing 12 wins by way of knockout. Like many recent American heavyweights, Washington is a former college football player.
Washington has an interesting background having played football for the University of Southern California, becoming a member of the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills practice squads as well as being a US Navy veteran.
In a rather unusual entry to the sport, Washington made his professional boxing debut at the age of 30 before going to claim victories over the likes of Travis Walker, Jason Gavern, Eddie Chambers and Ray Austin.
The victory over former world title challenger Eddie Chambers last year is, without a doubt, the standout win on his record. Washington was able to dominate the fight using his considerable height advantage to keep Chambers frustrated and claimed a one sided points win over eight rounds.
Whilst Wilder is a much higher level than any of those Washington has faced so far, it is surprising to see such a highly ranked fighter selected given the little preparation time that is left before fight night.
Standing at six foot, six inches tall with an 82 inch reach Washington is an imposing figure who has the potential to cause Wilder some issues. Wilder has been used to facing men shorter than himself who he can dominate with the jab and set up his long right hand but against a man nearly as tall as him this may not be as easy.
Aged 31 Wilder holds an undefeated 37-0 professional record containing 36 wins by way of knockout which on first look seems incredible but when delving deeper seems rather less so.
Whilst Wilder’s punch power is obvious the quality of the vast majority of his opponents has to be questioned which is rather strange when talking about someone with 37 professional fights under his belt.
He has faced a lot of guys that most decent heavyweights would knock out emphatically and has to a large extent got a very padded record.
There really are only a handful of opponents that you could claim are decent fighters including Malik Scott, Bermane Stiverne, Eric Molina, Johann Duhaupas, Artur Szpilka and most recently Chris Arreola.
Only in the highly political sport of boxing could a man reach the pinnacle of challenging for a world title having only fought one fighter of any sort of real note in Malik Scott. Even Scott’s legitimacy can be questioned when you look at performances like that against Luis Ortiz when he showed no real desire to win whatsoever.
The one win on Wilder’s record that stands out is against the then champion Bermane Stiverne. Stiverne is a hard-hitting, durable opponent who many felt would have too much for the untested Wilder.
The Alabama native was to prove the doubters wrong outboxing Stiverne to claim a unanimous decision win creating hopes of a new American heavyweight to return the buzz to the heavyweight division.
Whilst Wilder’s personality has certainly created headlines his in-ring performances have done little to suggest he is the man to dominate the division for years to come.
His displays against Molina, Duhaupas and Szpilka have not been entirely convincing and several weaknesses have been shown against men he was expected to deal with without too much trouble. His work has been rather crude at times being made to look wild with his punches and he has lacked a variety to his punch repertoire.
Despite the disappointing performances Wilder has been able to do what a champion does, win even when not at their best.
Whilst many feel Wilder has perhaps been exposed since becoming world champion it has to be said that he is a very dangerous fighter who can end a fight at a moment’s notice. He has shown that he can use his boxing skills at times and ultimately he should have more than enough to deal with the likes of Washington.
When it comes to facing the other top fighters in the division such as IBF champion Anthony Joshua and former champions Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury he would in the opinion of many experts not be the favourite to win.
Nonetheless victory over Washington could set up some huge nights for the sport with talks of Joshua facing Wilder in a unification fight if he successfully defeats Klitschko. Joshua versus Wilder would be a eagerly anticipated contest between two athletic men with real knockout power.
Such talk is for another day though as firstly Wilder must deal with Washington and I expect him to do so with a mid to late round stoppage.