Gerald Washington looking to rebound against Wes Nofire

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Heavyweight says back-to-back losses to champion Deontay Wilder and top contender Jarrell Miller have made him become a better fighter and he's ready to showcase his new skills Sunday night on FS1.

Gerald Washington

Despite the loss, Gerald Washington says he learned a lot in his February 2017 fight vs heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. (Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions)

Through two consecutive knockout losses, heavyweight Gerald Washington’s seen action against a pair of world champions, one each in gold and bronze medalists among three former Olympians, and an unbeaten 300-pound contender.

That’s quite a challenge given the relative inexperience of a U.S. Navy veteran and former collegiate football player who began boxing at age 30, turned pro after 14 amateur bouts, and was 18-0-1 with 12 knockouts entering his fifth-round TKO loss to 6-foot-7 champion Deontay Wilder in February 2017.

“Having only had a handful of amateur fights, turning pro was like being a first-time driver when every moment of a fight comes down to making a decision. Your hands are on the wheel, and to get from point A to point B, you’ve got to change speeds, make turns and change lanes,” said the 6-foot-6 Washington.

“I’ve faced a world champion and one of the division’s hardest punchers, I’ve faced a pressure fighter, and I’ve sparred slick guys who move around the ring, learning to cut them off and go to the body. It comes down to experiencing different styles and the mental aspects of fighting, focusing on game plans toward adapting and adjusting to every situation.”

Washington (18-2-1, 12 KOs) aims to rebound from an eighth-round stoppage loss last July to 6-foot-4, 300-pound Jarrell Miller (21-0-1, 18 KOs) this Sunday night when he faces 6-foot-6 John Wesley Nofire (20-1, 16 KOs) of Miami, Florida, in a 10-round, co-feature on an FS1 and FOX Deportes-televised card (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT) at Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California.

Washington, 36, enters his first fight with trainer Shadeed Suluki against Nofire, an Oklahoma-born, 249-pound Cherokee-citizen who was riding a four-fight knockout streak that includes stoppages of Yasmany Consuegra and Ty Cobb before losing a three-knockdown, third-round TKO to Joey Abell in May 2016.

Nofire, 32, has gone as far as six rounds three times, winning five of his past six fights by knockout and rebounding from Abell with a second-round TKO of Stacey Frazier in his last fight in September.

Following his mother’s suicidal death, Nofire advocates for Native American youth suicide awareness programs, speaking at schools on the importance of recognizing when loved ones are struggling with depression.

“Nofire’s a great, upstanding guy who has come up the hard way and fights for his community,” said Washington, part of a heavyweight tripleheader headlined by Travis Kauffman against Scott Alexander and matching 2012 U.S. Olympian Michael Hunter and Iago Kiladze.

“You’ve got to take your hat off to a guy like that. I may be Nofire’s toughest opponent as far as accomplishments, but he’s only had the one loss to Joey Abell, who is a big, strong guy I’ve worked with in the past and who can punch a little bit.”

Once you’ve gone through the fire, you become a true fighter. I can handle the oncoming pressure of being on the ropes. I understand this is the hurt business, not a game of tag. I’m the one controlling distance or chasing guys around the ring. Heavyweight contender Gerald Washington

Washington prepared for Wilder by sparring with 2012 Olympian Dominic Breazeale, a 6-foot-7 loser by seventh-round title fight TKO to Anthony Joshua in June 2016, and for Miller through sessions against Klitschko in advance of the former long-reigning unified champion’s 11th-round TKO loss Joshua in April 2017.

Washington outboxed “The Brown Bomber” early in the bout and was even on two of the three official scorecards after four rounds before Wilder dropped him once in advance of the stoppage.

“Gerald and I spar a lot, and we always give each other good rounds. Prior to him getting his call for Wilder, we did so again. It was a last minute call, so he didn’t get a lot of time to prepare for Deontay,” said Breazeale, 32.

“Sitting and ringside and watching what Gerald was able to do with Deontay for the first three rounds, Gerald boxed really well and was giving Deontay a ton of problems. But little by little, with Deontay’s experience, he started lading shots and picking Gerald apart.”

Washington concurs.

“That was my first time really stepping to somebody of that caliber, and I had to do that to keep him from being totally offensive. I attacked, defended and dictated pretty well from the middle of the ring,” said Washington. “But Deontay jumped right in with a one-two, which was a hook and right hand. I had my guard down slightly and the right hand caught me over the top. I got up, but he got in and finished the job from there.”

Washington admits to being undone in his last fight by the juggernaut Miller’s unyielding pressure and aggression.

“Wilder and Klitschko are long, rangy fighters like myself, and Dominic Breazeale’s big, durable and sturdy,” said Washington. “But Miller’s 300 pounds, can take a punch and fought a pressure type of fight, At that point in my career, I didn’t understand how to or have stamina to fight inside at close quarters.”

Washington served as a helicopter mechanic in the Navy from 2000-04 and achieved the rank of petty officer third class. He enrolled at Chaffey Junior College in Rancho Cucamonga, California, earning a spot on the football team despite having played just one year in high school.

After earning a variety of honors in his two years at Chaffey, Washington transferred to the University of Southern California, where he played both tight end and defensive end in 2007 and 2008 for teams that went a combined 23-3 and finished in the top three in the country both years.

Following stints on the practice squads with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, Washington turned to boxing.

“I’ve pushed myself to the limit and polished things up over the last 11 months, getting beyond that comfort zone into the unknown. I have an improved jab, a one-two, know how to fight in the trenches, slip, counter and roll,” said Washington.

“Once you’ve gone through the fire, you become a true fighter. I can handle the oncoming pressure of being on the ropes. I understand this is the hurt business, not a game of tag. I’m the one controlling distance or chasing guys around the ring.”

For a closer look at Gerald Washington, check out his fighter page.

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