By Shaun Brown
This Saturday night may be Deontay Wilder's first fight back in seven months, but the WBC heavyweight champion wants to use it as an opportunity to remind his rivals that he is still a major player in the division.
The 31-year-old "Bronze Bomber" makes the fifth defence of his coveted green belt when he takes on late replacement Gerald Washington, a bout which takes place in Wilder's home state of Alabama.
BoxingScene.com asked Wilder if he plans to use Saturday's fight as a chance to show fellow heavyweight champions Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker that he is back, and back to his best.
"Oh, you're damn right. You are damn right," he responded.
"This is the fight to make a statement, to let everybody know that Deontay Wilder is not playing around.
"2017, hopefully everything can come together because years in the past we've always had plans, but sometimes things don't go as planned. We're looking for 2017, and everything that we have planned, that God is going to grant us our wishes and 2017 turns out to be a beautiful, beautiful year."
Wilder's absence from the sport came after needing surgery in the wake of his TKO victory over Chris Arreola last July. A broken right hand and torn right bicep put Wilder on the shelf for the rest of 2016, and beginning of 2017, and the WBC champion is keen to answer some questions of himself after his time away from boxing.
"This is going to tell me, as a whole, what I am as a fighter (and) where I stand. With this injury that I've taken, overcame and healed we're going to see if everything is okay. If my left hand got better because I had to sit out with the right. Does the right still possess as much power, or more than what I had? There's going to be a lot of questions of myself that I need to answer.
"Many times throughout my career I didn't question myself because I already knew the answer. Nobody knows you better than yourself. That's how it should be. In this fight there's a lot of questions of myself that I need answers to, and the only way that I'm going to have answers is if I give 110% into whatever I'm doing, and to get the knockout and look good doing it.
"There are a lot of other fights we plan on making down the line, it's going to be very important that I look good in this fight."
Gerald Washington, unbeaten in 19 starts, but a huge underdog with the bookmakers, may be standing in the way of a champion who not only wants to look good but who wants to put the last seven months behind him. Injuries come and go, and can be dealt with. Frustration is something else entirely. And it's something that Wilder may look to get out of his system against Washington after Alexander Povetkin and Andrzej Wawrzyk [who Washington replaced] were pulled from fights against Wilder after failing drug tests for banned substances.
"I just shook my head," when 'Scene asked him how he reacted to the news that Wawrzyk had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
"I just don't understand what is wrong with these fighters. I think some of them have a habit of they're used to doing it, because if they wasn't they wouldn't be so eager. They wouldn't be so bold to do it and not get caught.
"Somewhere along the line they've been doing this in their career and there's been a window opening somewhere, and closing. And now when you get to a certain level the testing is something very serious, especially now more than ever. Those windows that was opening is no longer opening for them. If it does open for them, it's closing down on them, and I'm so happy about that situation.
"Now, the next step is to put punishment towards the ones that have been caught. I think suspend them indefinitely, especially with the types of drugs they use. With all that situation I was happy it wasn't two weeks before my fight or a week before the fight that we found out. We had enough time to get up on it, keep training and we got Washington. We trained for a month as well as he. It's on an even playing ground and I'm happy about that."
Follow Shaun Brown on Twitter @sbrown2pt0