Deontay Wilder landed 9 power shots in fifth round after landing just 11 in the previous four rounds. Was it ring rust (224-day layoff- longest of his career) or apprehension over throwing surgically repaired right hand? Or both? Wilder averaged just 8.6 power shots thrown per round (4 landed) vs. Gerald Washington after getting off 16.6 (9.5 landed) in his previous five fights. Washington's feinting and overall strength bothered Wilder before the end came.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - In the main event, Deontay Wilder proved his surgically repaired right hand is still a devastating force — once he unleashed it.
Wilder returned from right arm injuries to stop Gerald Washington in the fifth round and retain his WBC heavyweight title Saturday night in a fight that heated up quickly after a quiet start.
Wilder (38-0, 37 knockouts) seemed mostly cautious with his right in the early rounds but staggered Washington (18-1-1) and sent him down with a hard one followed by a left in the fifth at Legacy Arena. He came right back at the former USC football player and Navy mechanic, pummeling him against the ropes with both hands.
Referee Mike Griffin stopped the fight at 1:45 of the fifth after Wilder punctuated his barrage with a left uppercut. An unsteady Washington wobbled against the ropes on the opposite side after the stoppage.
It was the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native's fifth title defense but Washington held his own before getting caught by the big shots. Two judges had the challenger from California ahead going into the fifth.
Last year, Wilder, 31, broke his right hand and tore his right biceps in a knockout win over Chris Arreola, a replacement after Alexander Povetkin's disqualification for testing positive for meldonium. Wilder spent part of his training camp in a New York courtroom, where he won a unanimous decision in seeking the $5 million payday from the Povetkin fight.
Washington replaced Polish challenger Andrzej Wawrzyk in easily the biggest fight of the 34-year-old's career. Wawrzyk had become the second scheduled Wilder opponent in the last year to test positive for a banned substance.
He is hoping to face WBO champion Joseph Parker this summer with the big prize potentially being the Wladimir Klitscho-Anthony Joshua winner. Parker, who faces Hughie Fury in May, attended the fight.