The former USC football player has developed into a heavyweight contender—who with a win vs Adam Kownacki this Saturday night on a PBC on FOX card in Brooklyn—would move one step closer to regaining another world title shot.
Heavyweight Gerald Washington is different from other football players-turned-boxers in at least two ways.
One, he had some boxing experience as a child at the Boys and Girls Club in his hometown of Vallejo, California. And, two, he has staying power.
Washington bristled when he was asked whether he considered retiring after back-to-back knockout losses to Deontay Wilder and Jarrell Miller in 2017, clear evidence of his commitment to stay the course.
“I ain’t walking away from nothing,” Washington, 36, said in an “I’ll show you” tone. “That never even crossed my mind. I’ve worked way too hard to be thinking about that. Nothing is out of reach for me. I learn and I move forward.
“I’m not a quitter. I don’t give up.”
Washington faces another tough test when he takes on unbeaten Adam Kownacki in the co-feature of the Keith Thurman-Josesito Lopez FOX card on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
Washington, (19-2-1, 12 KOs), has beaten the odds before. He played only one year of football in high school yet, after a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy, became an All-American tight end at Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga, California, earning a scholarship to play under Pete Carroll at USC.
He then took part in OTAs for both the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks of the NFL but, in part because of injuries, didn’t make the teams. That opened the door to his true calling.
“I fell in love with boxing again,” Washington said. “I boxed as a little as a kid. It was the first sport I ever did. When I got back into it, I was 6-6, around 260 pounds. I got in the ring and sparred a couple of times and started decking guys because of how big and strong I was. And I had some skills from when I was a kid. I remember telling myself, ‘I can do this.’ So, I went for it. I turned pro.”
That was in July 2012, after he had turned 30. He had only 10 amateur fights as a child, he estimated, and four more shortly before becoming a professional.
Washington plowed through his early opponents because of his size and unusual athleticism. He started his career 18-0-1 (with 12 knockouts), the only blemish being a draw with capable Amir Mansour.
As a result of his late start, he learned as he went along, first under Mike Perez, then John Pullman and now Shadeed Suluki, the trainer who guided Lamon Brewster to his upset of Wladimir Klitschko.
“I’ve definitely learned on the job,” Washington said. “Every time I go into the ring it’s a new experience for me. Everyone has a different style, a different way of fighting. I’ve tried to prepare for everything.
“Yes, I feel I’ve had to play catch up to some extent but now I feel very confident in my abilities.”
Suluki acknowledges the prevailing wisdom that a late start can work against a fighter throughout his career but believes there are also advantages.
“ Yes, I feel I’ve had to play catch up to some extent but now I feel very confident in my abilities. ” Heavyweight Contender Gerald Washington
“I come from a different school,” he said. “A lot of times late is good. You have no wear and tear on the individual. Fighters who have a lot of amateur and pro fights have a lot of wear and tear on their bodies. Those who start late don’t.
“And, remember, Gerald’s an athlete. He played at USC. I don’t think starting late has been a problem for him.”
The losses to Wilder and Miller derailed Washington’s persistent dream of winning a world title but, as he so passionately pointed out, he is as determined now as he was before the setbacks.
Washington takes solace in three respects when it comes to the Wilder fight, in which he was knocked down and stopped in the fifth round. He was fighting the WBC titleholder on even terms until he was stopped; the fight ended with Washington on his feet, which few Wilder opponents can claim; and, as a late replacement, he had only 25 days to prepare for the fight.
He went down as a result of a short right but got up quickly. He then endured a barrage of punches from Wilder that prompted referee Michael Griffin to stop the fight – perhaps too early.
“I was looking for a Tyson Fury-type performance against Wilder,” Washington said. “I wanted to keep him off balance, touch him, not allow him to get off anything, to keep him at bay. Then I just got caught. I really hate that the referee jumped in and stopped it the way he did. I’ve seen the devastating knockouts, of (Luis) Ortiz, (Bermane) Stiverne, the way he knocked Fury down. I was on my feet trying to stop him from punching me. When the dude stepped in and stopped it, I thought, ‘What the heck is he doing?’ I feel like he took something from me.”
Against Miller, Washington couldn’t figure out how to fend off a fellow heavyweight who threw – and landed – a high volume of punches, which earned Miller a victory when his exhausted foe couldn’t answer the bell to start Round 9.
Washington took 11 months off and then bounced back with a unanimous-decision victory over John Wesley Nofire last June, which set up his meeting with the durable Kownacki (18-0, 14 KOs) on Saturday.
With a win, Washington climbs back into the top 15 of the sanctioning body rankings – and closer to his objective of winning a title.
“Everything is within arm’s reach,” Washington said. “I’m fighting the best in the world, top quality opponents. If I go in there and do my thing, go in and do the job, then, hey, I move on to a better opponent and I’m a step closer to my dream.
“I’m doing everything I can to accomplish that. I have no wife, no kids, no obligations other than boxing. I’ve said what I want to do and I’m doing to do it.”
Those who doubt him might be surprised, Suluki added.
“Gerald is a lot better than some people realize,” he said. “Not many people know him, not many know his ability. I didn’t know until I started working with him. I knew he was good but once I started working with him, I thought, ‘This guy is really something.’”
For a closer look at Gerald Washington, check out his fighter page.
- Gerald Washington