By Keith Idec
Lou DiBella wouldn’t worry if Deontay Wilder was preparing to fight Andrzej Wawrzyk on Saturday night.
Despite Wawrzyk’s 33-1 record, DiBella is confident Wilder would’ve knocked out the Polish contender in his first fight following surgeries to repair his fractured right hand and torn right biceps. Wilder is heavily favored to beat Gerald Washington, too, but DiBella doesn’t feel quite as sure about the nationally televised Wilder-Washington fight for Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title in Birmingham, Alabama (FOX).
Washington replaced Wawrzyk as Wilder’s opponent last month because Wawrzyk failed a test for a performance-enhancing drug. The undefeated former USC football player is inexperienced compared to Wilder, but at 6-feet-6 and 245 pounds is almost as tall and heavier than the 6-7, 225-pound Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs).
“I’m a little nervous about the main event – like totally seriously,” DiBella told BoxingScene.com. “Deontay’s coming off two opponents in a row that changed at the last minute. And the trial with Povetkin was at this period of time. I know that Deontay is the hardest-punching heavyweight in the world and I have full faith in his ability.
“But I just think that all of a sudden you’re substituting in an opponent who’s as big as Deontay, who’s a high-character guy, who did four years in the Navy, who was a professional athlete [on NFL practice squads] and a standout athlete at USC. So you know the guy’s an athlete and he’s got nothing to lose. He could come in there, loosey-goosey, and try to use his size and athletic ability, and see what he can pull out of his hat.”
Most media and fans are overlooking Washington (18-0-1, 12 KOs), but DiBella insists he won’t breathe easy until the Wilder-Washington fight is over.
“People have been calling me and asking, ‘What’s next? What’s next?’ Gerald Washington is next,” DiBella said. “I really am not sitting here and acting like this is a fait accompli. To be honest, I didn’t see any risk in Wawrzyk. But I see risk here.”
That said, DiBella does expect Wilder to win in his return from the aforementioned surgeries 6½ months ago. Wilder suffered those injuries during a technical knockout victory over Chris Arreola () on July 16 in Birmingham.
The 31-year-old Wilder, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, realizes that heavyweight championship unification fights hinge on him beating Washington. Even though his opponent changed midway through this training camp and he spent eight days in New York to attend the civil trial for his breach-of-contract lawsuit against Alexander Povetkin and promoter Andrey Ryabinsky, DiBella believes Wilder is taking Washington as a serious threat.
“Here’s why I feel OK about it – because I don’t feel Deontay’s sleeping on him,” DiBella said. “But I’ll be happier about this when we’re talking after it’s over. Even if Deontay knocks him out and looks sensational, I just think a guy like this brings a challenge. He’s an athlete and a big, physical specimen who’s a strong-ass man. And he has nothing to lose, and everything to gain. He hits the lottery if he wins.”
Wilder-Washington will headline FOX’s tripleheader from Legacy Arena.
FOX also will televise a 12-round bout between Detroit’s Tony Harrison (24-1, 20 KOs) and Jarrett Hurd (19-0, 13 KOs), of Accokeek, Maryland, for the vacant IBF junior middleweight title. In another televised fight Saturday night, Polish heavyweight prospect Izuagbe Ugonoh (17-0, 14 KOs) is set to meet Dominic Breazeale (17-1, 15 KOs), of Eastvale, California, in a 10-rounder.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.