By Keith Idec, photo by PBC
Gerald Washington is focused on a bigger task, literally and figuratively.
But as the former USC football player prepares to challenge Deontay Wilder for the WBC heavyweight title Saturday night, Washington wants those who might be unfamiliar with his boxing career to know that the lone blemish on his record doesn’t belong there. Washington (18-0-1, 12 KOs) is certain he deserved a decision over hard-hitting Amir Mansour (22-2-1, 16 KOs), with whom he settled for a draw in a televised fight 16 months ago in Shelton, Washington.
Washington won that 10-round fight on the scorecard of judge Adalaide Byrd (97-93) and lost on judge Steve Morrow’s scorecard (96-94). The third judge, Pat Russell, scored the Washington-Mansour match even (95-95).
“I definitely feel I won the fight,” Washington told BoxingScene.com. “If you watched the fight, you see Mansour did not land any of his punches on me. He did not land any of his big punches on me. I was poking him. I was landing more punches than him. He was trying to chase me around the ring. That’s fine, but he wasn’t landing any shots. I was landing all the shots. Boxing is hit and don’t get hit.
“People look at me and they expect me to be Lennox Lewis. They don’t understand I’ve only got 14 amateur fights. I was learning on the job. I was learning how to fight as I’m fighting. That was a lesson I needed to learn. I learned it and I improved from it and now I could move on.”
The 6-feet-6, 245-pound Washington used his height and reach advantage to out-box Mansour for much of the first half of their fight. Mansour made adjustments in the second half, though, and often got inside Washington’s jab as Washington seemed to tire.
Washington fought Mansour when Mansour was 43, but the powerful southpaw still was the most dangerous opponent Washington has faced since he turned pro in July 2012. The 34-year-old Washington considers the Mansour fight a turning point in his career.
“That was a great learning lesson for me,” Washington said. “I learned so much in that fight and I’m very grateful for Amir Mansour, because if you watch the fight you don’t see me getting hit at all in the fight. It’s not a matter of me getting hit. It’s just a matter of me standing my ground and finishing the fight.
“You know, you’ve gotta keep your focus from the first round, all the way to the end of the fight. That’s what I learned in that fight. And you’ve gotta step to them. You’ve gotta recognize the moments when they’re hurt and you’ve gotta take advantage. Ever since that fight, it change my attitude toward boxing and put me in a better state of mind to be in the ring.”
Since the Mansour match, Washington has beaten onetime heavyweight contender Eddie Chambers by unanimous decision in an eight-rounder and knocked out faded former contender Ray Austin in the fourth round. Washington replaced Poland’s Andrzej Wawrzyk (33-1, 19 KOs) as Wilder’s opponent last month, after Wawrzyk failed a test for a performance-enhancing drug.
The scheduled 12-rounder between the heavily favored Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) and Washington, the No. 10 contender for his title, will headline FOX’s tripleheader Saturday night from Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
The broadcast also is set to include Detroit’s Tony Harrison (24-1, 20 KOs) against Jarrett Hurd (19-0, 13 KOs), of Accokeek, Maryland, in a 12-round fight for the vacant IBF junior middleweight title. Another televised fight will pit Polish heavyweight prospect Izuagbe Ugonoh (17-0, 14 KOs) against 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.