Four months after the fact, the disbelief in his voice remains as thick as one of his pony keg-sized biceps.
Last October, heavyweight prospect Gerald Washington (16-0-1, 11 KOs) earned a draw in his showdown with veteran tough guy Amir Mansour, a dude as rugged as a pair of steel-toed work boots and about as friendly as one of said boots delivered straight to the groin.
When the scorecards were read, Washington was stunned.
Suddenly, the big man had an even bigger bone to pick.
“I couldn’t believe that decision,” he says. “I definitely felt I won that fight. Without a doubt.”
Washington got off to a strong start in his showdown with Mansour, using his eight-inch reach advantage to control the range in the fight, keeping his distance and rocking Mansour with right hands fired as forcefully as munitions from a howitzer.
But during the second half of the bout, Washington began to focus more on eluding Mansour’s charge at the expense of his offense, enabling his more active opponent to gain momentum in the middle rounds.
It was enough for TV viewers who participated in a round-by-round scoring poll to name Mansour the winner.
The judges called it even.
Washington was expecting to get his raised in victory, but the moment never came.
“I had that fight in my hands and then I didn’t get the outcome I was looking for,” he says. “I don’t know how Amir Mansour got all the credit from that fight. He just showed energy and determination, but he didn’t land any punches.”
During the fight, renowned trainer and boxing commentator Virgil Hunter, who helped call the action on Fox Sports 1, critiqued Washington repeatedly for fighting too safely and not showing enough of a killer instinct.
“He’s the bigger man. He’s the stronger man, apparently. He has the height and the reach,” Hunter said during the broadcast, listing Washington’s strengths before bemoaning his tentativeness. “He’s going to have to announce his arrival in the heavyweight division if he’s going to be significant. He’s going to have to come as an outlaw. He can’t come in as a nice guy.”
Washington took note of Hill’s sharp words.
“I was like, ‘Man, this guy’s bashing me,’” he recalls.
But rather than get bent out of shape, which isn’t much a part of Washington’s gentle-giant disposition anyway, he sought Hill out for some constructive criticism.
“As soon as I had the opportunity, I went up to him and he was like, ‘I hope you don’t take that the wrong way,’” Washington says.
He then relates an anecdote that Hunter told him about how a young lion learns to stalk and kill its prey.
“The mama lion brings a herd animal to the baby lions and lets them work on their technique and skills before they actually send them out there to hunt on their own because they won’t know what to do. It’s the same thing with me. I’m learning what to do, learning on the job.”
Said learning curve has been steep: A former tight end and defensive lineman at the University of Southern California before a brief NFL stint on the practice squads of the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks, Washington didn’t start boxing until 2012, when he was already 30 years old.
He’s proven himself to be a quick study, however, an athletic big man with swift hands, nimble feet and an action figure’s physique.
In the ring, he’s an elusive, heady presence who tends to work at a controlled pace. His game is a balance between good defense and a carefully calibrated offense, which brings us back to the Mansour bout.
“You can look at that fight two ways,” Washington says. “‘Gerald has skills, he’s knocking Amir Mansour around, he didn’t get hit.’ Or you can look at it like, ‘Gerald’s running, Gerald’s scared.’”
Washington doesn’t put a whole lot of stock in the latter interpretation. “That wasn’t the case at all,” he states.
Now, as he prepares to take on undefeated Colombian bomber Oscar Rivas (18-0, 13 KOs) on February 27 (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT), he’ll aim to get over his draw with Mansour by getting over on Rivas.
“It was a good lesson for me. I’ve got to finish the job and take him out,” he says of what he took away from his last fight. “I’ve learned from it. Now it’s time for me to show what I learned.”
For complete coverage of the February 27 card in Anaheim, California, visit our fight night page.
- Gerald Washington