by Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Two years ago today, Gerald Washington was about to be presented with an unforeseen opportunity of a lifetime.
The former USC football player tried his best to exploit that heavyweight championship chance. As it turned out, Washington, only 4½ years into his pro career, just wasn’t ready for that type of fight.
Washington was ahead on one scorecard through four rounds, even on the cards of the other two judges. That’s when Deontay Wilder caught Washington with a right hand that changed the course of their fight for Wilder’s WBC title in February 2017.
Before he knew what hit him, the 6-feet-6 Washington was on the wrong end of a fifth-round technical knockout at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. The 36-year-old Washington lost his following fight, too, another TKO defeat to Jarrell Miller in July 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Washington (19-2-1, 12 KOs) will return to the site of his loss to Miller on Saturday night to fight one of Miller’s closest friends, Adam Kownacki (18-0, 14 KOs).
“He’s a very tough, strong-willed fighter,” Washington told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Thursday at Barclays Center. “He’s gonna come forward. He’s gonna bring the action, and it’s up to me to do my job on that night. I’m looking forward to it. We prepared well. We had a great training camp. We put in a lot of hard work, hard hours, and we’re just prepared physically and mentally. We’re ready for Saturday.”
Kownacki wants his own shot at Alabama’s Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs), if Wilder emerges victorious from his immediate rematch with Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) at some point in May or June. The Polish-born, Brooklyn-bred heavyweight hopes to get by Washington, win another fight in June and challenge Wilder later this year.
Washington wants to earn a second title shot, yet the 36-year-old contender realizes this is a fight he cannot afford to lose.
“Do or die, sink or swim,” Washington said. “That’s our situation. We’ve gotta look at every opportunity like that. But at the same time, I’m grateful and I did everything in my power to prepare for this fight. I didn’t take this fight lightly. I did all my homework, I did all the sparring, I did all my conditioning. I prepared mentally and physically, and I’m ready for Saturday. I know it’s like that for everybody in their career. If you win, you go up. If you lose, you go down. And my goal is to go up and be the champion of the world, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Five of Kownacki’s past six fights have taken place at Barclays Center. In his last outing, Kownacki out-pointed former IBF champion Charles Martin (25-2-1, 23 KOs) by unanimous decision in an action-packed, back-and-forth 10-rounder.
“I think he did his thing, you know?,” Washington said of Kownacki. “I mean, he did enough to win. It’s just about being busy. He was pressing the action kind of keeping it going. But he definitely got touched. In all his fights he gets touched. But like I said, he’s a strong-willed fighter and he keeps coming.”
Kownacki-Washington will be one of three bouts broadcast by FOX, starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
In the main event, often-injured Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC), of Clearwater, Florida, will fight for the first time in 22 months. He’ll defend his WBA “super” world welterweight title against Josesito Lopez (36-7, 19 KOs, 1 NC), of Riverside, California, in a 12-rounder.
Mongolia’s Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9 KOs) and the Dominican Republic’s Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17 KOs) will fight for the vacant IBO world featherweight crown in the other televised bout.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.