By Keith Idec, photo by PBC
NEW YORK – Deontay Wilder’s surgically repaired right hand hasn’t given him any trouble during training camp.
The unbeaten WBC heavyweight champion still won’t feel completely confident in it until he lands a hard right hand on Gerald Washington’s head Saturday night in Birmingham, Alabama (FOX). Wilder long has had problems with his right hand, but badly damaged it during his technical knockout win against Chris Arreola on July 16 in Birmingham.
The 6-feet-7, 225-pound Wilder had surgery to repair three fractures and two dislocations in his right hand two weeks after he defeated Arreola. Wilder also tore his right biceps muscle against Arreola. He had that injury repaired during a separate surgery the same day he underwent the procedure on his hand.
More than sixth months have passed since the surgeries, and Wilder is anxious to make sure his hand and arm are as close to normal as possible.
“It definitely feels 100 percent, just like the doctor said,” Wilder told a small group of reporters recently. “But, you know, we’re gonna see when I get into the ring, what it’s gonna feel like when I apply force to a human skull. You know? It’s one thing to just have surgery and go every day without hitting that thing, nothing hard. But it’s gonna be another thing when I have to apply pressure to it.”
Wilder considers the biceps injury almost a blessing in disguise because the recovery time from that surgery forced him to let his hand heal for an amount of time he previously hadn’t allowed.
The Tuscaloosa, Alabama native first had screws inserted in his right hand to repair fractures following a first-round knockout of Travis Allen in August 2009. Wilder fought just three months after that surgery.
He broke his right hand again during a unanimous-decision win against Bermane Stiverne in January 2015, but didn’t need surgery after winning the WBC title in that fight. His hand was worse after the Arreola fight, so bad that those screws were replaced during his most recent surgery.
“I ended up bending it, too,” Wilder said of his right hand. “All the screws had to be replaced out of there because it was messed up in there. … I’m anxious. I’m ready to get back up in the ring, ready to test it out.”
Above all else, Wilder benefited from not using his right hand for any boxing-related activities for more than four months after the surgery.
“The thing about it is I have a high tolerance [for] pain,” Wilder said. “It allows me to be impatient, especially when it comes to the fight game. Because it used to be a time when I would hit something, and I would feel a little bit [of pain], and I would think it was because of my injury, when I broke my hand it’s never the same after that.
“But what really was the fact was that I never really let my hand properly heal. I always felt like I’m ready to go. If I can punch, if I can take that, that’s normal, and I would still fight. But in this situation, I had no choice but to let it heal. Because the bicep takes longer than the hand to heal, so even if I wanted to get back in the ring, it was impossible for that to happen.”
While Wilder couldn’t use his right hand in the gym, he used the time to sharpen his left hand by working on his jab and left hook.
“That allowed me to get a better relationship with my left hand,” Wilder said. “There’s things I could do with the left hand that I didn’t have the skill [to do] earlier in my career. Or if I did have it, it wasn’t as polished as it is now. Each and every time it’s a better, better relationship. It’s amazing how I could throw a jab and come up with the hook, just like that.”
The scheduled 12-round bout between Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) and Washington (18-0-1, 12 KOs), a former USC football player from Vallejo, California, will headline FOX’s tripleheader from Legacy Arena.
In the two other televised fights, Detroit’s Tony Harrison (24-1, 20 KOs) and Jarrett Hurd (19-0, 13 KOs), of Accokeek, Maryland, are set to meet in a 12-round fight for the vacant IBF junior middleweight title and Polish heavyweight prospect Izuagbe Ugonoh (17-0, 14 KOs) is scheduled to battle 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.