He may be a nice fella in person, but Amir Mansour is a frightening dude to behold, with biceps that bulge like croquet balls stuffed into a gym sock and the perpetually agitated air of a man who woke up on the wrong side of a bed of nails. He looks like the kind of guy a dark alley would cross the street to avoid. All of this has Gerald Washington very, very stoked.
“This guy’s scary,” Washington says, sounding like a kid who got a box of tarantulas for Christmas and is thrilled about it. “He likes to knock guys out. He’s big and strong. This guy is going to bring it. This is just exactly what we want.”
Washington is seriously enthused as he analyzes Mansour, who he squares off with Tuesday night in Shelton, Washington, in a headlining slot on Premier Boxing Champions' Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays on Fox Sports 1 (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Now, plenty of fighters are eager to talk up the next guy they’ll be facing in the ring, both to sell the bout and enhance the public impression of their record should they defeat someone seen as formidable.
“It’s exactly the type of fight I like,” Washington says. “My last fight, this guy was just moving around, running, bending down. He wasn’t trying to engage. It’s hard to get a guy out of there who’s doing that. It makes you look bad. It’s just very frustrating. I love to fight. I love to get down. I love when guys exchange.”
Nevertheless, Washington’s words may initially convey the wrong impression of how carries himself in the ring.
Tall and ripped at 6 feet 6 inches, and weighing in Monday at 246 pounds, he’s a sharpshooter skilled at boxing from the outside, picking his spots judiciously, setting up his opponent before attempting to topple him, Jenga-style.
He’s a sniper, not a bulldozer; a scalpel as opposed to a meat cleaver.
Mansour, who hit the scale Monday at 221 pounds, is the opposite: shorter at 6-1 and a more hard-charging presence, the kind of inside fighter who wants you to feel his breath on your face before he smashes it.
“I’m a smart, technical fighter, so I’m not going to go in there reaching out for him and risk getting caught. I’m not going to fall into the trap,” Washington says. “He’s going to have to come in to me and open himself up with punches. When he does, I’m going to be right there waiting for him.”
Still, keeping a guy like Mansour at the end of your jab and controlling the distance in the fight is easier said than done.
Look at the fits that the much shorter Fred Kassi was able to give 6-7 Dominic Breazeale in their recent heavyweight scrap, where Kassi played the human battering ram, frequently negating Breazeale’s reach advantage by forcing him to trade up close.
Mansour, too, might benefit from this kind of strategy, although Washington says he’s cognizant of not forsaking his physical advantages.
“Just because you’re blessed with gifts doesn’t mean that you know how to use them,” he says. “I know how to keep my range. I might have my hands down, but I know my spacing.
“You can’t just jump out and hit me at any time because I know I have the proper distancing. That’s been my key to success. If you watch me, I don’t get caught up in firefights. I usually keep my fights pretty clean. That’s how I like them.”
Another thing that Washington likes is that Mansour will be the first left-hander he’s faced since he took on Jerry Forrest a little more than two years ago.
“If you look at my record, my two most devastating knockouts have been against southpaws,” Washington says. “The two southpaws I fought, I put those guys to sleep.”
He aims for Mansour to be the third.
But whether he gets the knockout or not, Mansour is the kind of fighter that Washington needs at this point in his career: a determined, durable veteran who’s never been stopped, who knocked out the aforementioned Kassi, beat former prospect Dominick Guinn and whose only loss came against former 200-pound champ Steve Cunningham, who Mansour had down twice in their 2014 clash.
A win for Washington would be the big man’s biggest yet.
“This is going to take us to the next level where I want me and my team to be,” he says. “It’s time to go. I’m so looking forward to looking this man in the eye and saying, ‘Let’s get it on.’”
For full coverage of Washington vs Mansour, visit our fight page.