It seems like it's becoming more difficult for Deontay Wilder to find clean opponents than it is to knock them out.
Originally set to defend his heavyweight title next month against Polish slugger Andrzej Wawrzyk, Deontay Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) will now square off against undefeated Gerald Washington (18-0-1, 12 KOs) after it was learned last week that Wawrzyk tested positive for a banned substance.
The bout, which was formally announced today, will still take place February 25 at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, and be aired live in prime time on Fox (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
It’s the second time in less than a year that Wilder has had a scheduled title defense disrupted because his opponent failed a drug test. Last May, the 31-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was set to face Alexander Povetkin in Povetkin’s home country of Russia, but the fight was canceled when the challenger’s positive test was revealed a week before the contest.
“I was disappointed when Wawrzyk tested positive for a banned substance and wasn’t available to fight,” Wilder said. “I didn’t want to disappoint my loyal fans in Birmingham, who have always supported me.”
After his bout with Povetkin was scrapped, Wilder was allowed to make a voluntary title defense on July 16, when he overcame a broken right hand and torn right biceps to stop former title challenger Chris Arreola in eight rounds, also at Legacy Arena.
On that same card, Washington earned a fourth-round knockout of Ray Austin. That followed an eight-round lopsided unanimous decision over Eddie Chambers in April.
A 34-year-old Navy veteran and former college football player who turned pro as a boxer in July 2012, Washington will be getting his first shot at a world title when he squares off against Wilder.
“I’m very happy to get this opportunity to fight for my first world championship,” said Washington, a lifelong Northern California resident who fights out of Vallejo, California. “I know that I’ll be fighting Deontay Wilder in his backyard, but that adds more excitement to the fight for me.
“I’m looking forward to going to Birmingham and coming away with a victory just like I did in my last fight there.”
Washington stands 6-foot-6 and sports an 82-inch reach, making him one of the few opponents to match up stature-wise against Wilder, who stands 6-foot-7 and has an 83-inch reach.
“I’m glad Gerald Washington stepped up to the challenge and allowed us to go forward with the show,” Wilder said. “He’s a tall heavyweight with a good jab and the kind of test that I need coming back from surgery on my biceps muscle and my right hand. I’m looking forward to putting on a good show for all my fans.”
For more on Wilder vs Washington, check out our fight page.