Enough with the delays and the distractions. Deontay Wilder just wants to get back in the ring and defend his heavyweight title again.
After breaking his right hand and tearing his right biceps during his win over Chris Arreola in July, Wilder knew he would be out for the rest of 2016 so he could heal up.
Everything looked to be in order in late December when it was announced that he would return to action later this month in a title defense against Polish contender Andrzej Wawrzyk. However, things don't always go according to plan—especially when it comes to Wilder's opponents.
For the second time in less than a year, Wilder had to shift his focus to a replacement opponent when Wawrzyk tested positive for a banned substance in January.
Enter unbeaten Gerald Washington (18-0-1, 12 KOs), who will challenge Deontay Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) for his heavyweight title on February 25 at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (FOX, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
“Gerald Washington is a big guy I’ve seen fight a few times,” Wilder said of the 34-year-old Navy veteran and former USC football player. “I don’t think he’s ready for me, but he thinks he is.
“My preparation stays the same, even with the opponent change. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to change a lot after an opponent dropped out, but Gerald being as good as he is and similar to Wawrzyk makes it easier. They have different styles, but we’ll work on how to break him down.”
Wilder, 31, finds himself prepping for a replacement opponent after his original challenger tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs for the second straight fight. The 6-foot-7 Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native was scheduled to face Alexander Povetkin in Moscow last May, but the bout was called off a week before the fight when it was revealed that the Russian had failed a drug test in April.
That drama continued into this week when a jury in U.S. federal court in New York ruled Monday in Wilder’s favor in a civil suit against Povetkin and his promoter.
“ I definitely feel 100 percent. When I’m in the gym doing work, I feel great. But we’ll see what it’s going to feel like in the ring when I apply this force to a human skull. ” Deontay Wilder
Wilder’s co-trainer, Jay Deas, said the brief trip to New York didn’t take away from the champ’s preparations for Washington.
“Deontay didn’t have to go, but he wanted to go to show he means business,” Deas said. “Fortunately, the trial fell during our non-sparring week. [Co-trainer and former world champion Mark Breland] being from New York, they were able to keep a good maintenance program of mitt work until Deontay got back.”
Wilder didn’t seem fazed by the switch in opponents last year, as he scored one knockdown of Arreola before the challenger’s corner stopped the fight after Round 8. Even though Wilder injured his right hand and bicep early in the bout, “The Bronze Bomber” proceeded to pummel Arreola with his left until gaining the stoppage.
The injuries sustained against Arreola marked at least the third time Wilder has broken his right hand. The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist had pins inserted into it after his first-round TKO of Travis Allen in his seventh pro fight in August 2009. He then refractured the hand when he beat Bermane Stiverne to win his world title in January 2015, although he didn’t need surgery afterward.
“I never really let my hand properly heal until this injury, because the biceps takes longer to heal than the hand,” Wilder said. “The time gave me an opportunity to really improve my left hand.
“I definitely feel 100 percent. When I’m in the gym doing work, I feel great. But we’ll see what it’s going to feel like in the ring when I apply this force to a human skull. It’s all about adjusting. Each time I go through something, inside or outside of the ring, it just makes me better and better.”
For a complete look at Wilder vs Washington, visit our fight page.