By Keith Idec, photo by Ryan Hafey/PBC
NEW YORK – Deontay Wilder wants to find out how his surgically repaired right hand and right biceps respond in a real boxing match before facing a top heavyweight.
That’s why he picked Poland’s Andrzej Wawrzyk as his next opponent, and then Gerald Washington once Wawrzyk failed a pre-fight test for a performance-enhancing drug. The 6-feet-7, 225-pound Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) is a 16-1 favorite over the 6-6, 245-pound Washington (18-0-1, 12 KOs), a 34-year-old former USC football player who didn’t make his pro debut until 4½ years ago.
Like it or not, Wilder won’t apologize for his cautious choice of opponents for this optional defense of his WBC heavyweight title. The way Wilder sees it, having an injury impact what’s supposed to amount to tune-up fight Saturday night in Birmingham, Alabama (FOX) just wouldn’t have amounted to smart business.
“I’m anxious,” Wilder told a group of reporters recently. “I’m ready to get back up in the ring. I’m ready to test it out. That was one of the reasons why we chose Wawrzyk for the fight, you know? Only a crazy man would come back, not knowing what the result’s gonna be with the hand, and try to fight a killer up in the ring. That’s stupid. And we all know boxing is a business. It’s a business first. No matter what fans wanna see, no matter what anybody wanna see, boxing is a business. It started out as a business when it was created. It’s still a business to this day. If you don’t understand the business, it’s gonna be confusing.”
The 31-year-old Wilder wants even his strong supporters who are growing impatient with his level of opposition to know, though, that bigger fights are in his immediate future.
The Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native intends to fight newly crowned WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker (22-0, 18 KOs) in a unification fight if New Zealand’s Parker defeats England’s Hughie Fury (20-0, 10 KOs) in a mandatory defense April 1 in Auckland, New Zealand. Wilder doesn’t think Fury would fight him if Fury upsets Parker, but he also would be willing to face Fury next, assuming Wilder overcomes Washington.
Ultimately, Wilder wants a full unification fight against Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs), though that’ll require England’s Joshua, the IBF title-holder, to beat Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) on April 29 in London and continue winning.
“I tell people, ‘You’ve gotta have patience,’ ” said Wilder, who had surgeries six months ago to repair fractures to his right hand and a torn right biceps. “And that’s something that’s a virtue. You have to have patience. I’m the fighter, at the end of the day. I have patience, so can everybody else. The fights is gonna come, what people wanna see. You know? I’m a fighter, so I’m not scared of no one, nor would I run from anyone.
“But at the same time, I have a team established. And if nobody’s in agreement on the team, nothing can’t work. And that’s how I established myself. In that case, I’ll just be by myself and just do whatever I wanna do by myself. I wouldn’t need a team. I’d just fire everybody and just do my own thing. But fortunately, I love my team, I love who I’m with. And as long as everybody’s on the same page, that’s what we’re gonna go with, no matter what nobody may feel about it.”
Washington replaced Wawrzyk as Wilder’s upcoming opponent last month, after Wawrzyk (33-1, 19 KOs) tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. The Wilder-Washington fight will headline FOX’s tripleheader from Legacy Arena.
The telecast also will include Detroit’s Tony Harrison (24-1, 20 KOs) and 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.