By Keith Idec, photo by Ryan Hafey/PBC
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Whomever Deontay Wilder fights next, his surgically repaired right hand won’t be an issue leading into it.
Wilder was beyond pleased with how his hand responded Saturday night in his first fight since having another surgery on it nearly seventh months ago. The undefeated Wilder was anxious before beating Gerald Washington by fifth-round knockout because he wasn’t certain how his chronically sore hand would hold up.
The knockout artist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, had screws replaced during the second surgery he has had on his right hand, necessitated by multiple fractures and dislocations sustained during his technical knockout defeat of Chris Arreola on July 16 in Birmingham.
“My hand feels wonderful,” Wilder said following the fifth defense of his WBC heavyweight title. “What the doctors told me, it lived up to what they said. I’m very happy about that. And as you can see, I still have power in it. No matter what round I go, like I’ve said, I’ve been blessed with Alabama country power. So whether it go the first round or the 12th round, nobody’s safe when they’re in the ring with me.”
The 6-feet-7, 222-pound Wilder drilled Washington with a right hand that dropped Washington with 1:42 to go in the fifth round. The 6-6, 239-pound Washington (18-1-1, 12 KOs) reached his feet, but Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs) hit him with several clean left hooks that caused referee Michael Griffin to stop their scheduled 12-rounder 1:45 into the fifth at Legacy Arena.
Before Wilder landed that fight-changing right hand, it seemed as though he was reluctant to throw it. That prompted speculation that Wilder had hurt it again earlier in the fight.
“The hand is great,” said Jay Deas, Wilder’s head trainer. “He told me right after the fight his hand was no problem. He said, ‘Hands feel great.’ I don’t think it was a matter of him not throwing it as much as probing and trying to find the right moment, so that he could land it effectively.”
Deas credited Washington with fighting in a way that neutralized Wilder’s right hand for much of the first four rounds.
“I don’t think he was reluctant,” Deas said of Wilder throwing his right hand. “I think it was a case of that you’ve got a big, strong guy [in Washington], who’s extremely athletic. And it’s gonna take a little time to wear that guy down to the point where your punches can land. Gerald Washington had a lot to do with that. You’ve got another guy in the ring, who’s there to win, has a good game plan, good training and so there are two sides to the story. You can’t just always do exactly what you wanna do.”
Wilder was pleased with how his right biceps felt during the fight, too. He also had surgery to repair a tear in it after defeating Arreola.
Coming out of this fight without any injuries should allow Wilder time to attempt to make a mandatory defense of his title against Bermane Stiverne before pursuing the championship unification fight he seeks. The WBC ordered a Wilder-Stiverne rematch Sunday in the aftermath of Wilder’s victory Saturday night.
Wilder defeated Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs) by unanimous decision to win the WBC title two years ago in Las Vegas. Canada’s Stiverne is the only opponent to take Wilder the distance during his eight-year pro career.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.