Fights on Fox Saturday: Wilder vs. Washington, Harrison vs. Hurd

American heavyweights Deontay Wilder and Gerald Washington may be upstaged by two rising stars of the junior middleweight division.

Deontay Wilder (left) and Gerald Washington fight for the WBC heavyweight title on Fox Sports Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo: Ryan Hafey, Premier Boxing Champions

SAN DIEGO, February 25, 2017 –February 25, 2017 – Boxing fans are growing impatient with Deontay Wilder.

They are eager to see the American WBC heavyweight champion carry on the legacy of great American heavyweights of the past, including the fellow Alabama native whose moniker he followed to fashion his own, “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis.

The modern day “Bronze Bomber,” for his 2008 Olympic medal, Wilder gets criticized for not facing top level opposition. He returns to the ring tonight after a seven month layoff at home in Birmingham, Alabama against fellow American challenger Gerald “El Gallo Negro” Washington of California.

Deontay Wilder hits mitts with trainer Mark Breland as he prepares for his title defense against Gerald Washington in Birmingham. Photo: Ryan Hafey, Premier Boxing Champions

Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) is coming off a broken right hand and torn right bicep after a brawl with another Californian, Chris Arreola. Arreola was a substitute for his planned opponent and his most significant to date, Alexander Povetkin, but Povetkin was busted for performance enhancing drugs. He meant to return much sooner to the ring, but Wilder’s scheduled opponent Andrzej Wawrzyk, got busted as well for failing a drug test. What gives? Wilder was frustrated, but says he looks at the bigger picture and hopes it sends a message boxers can’t do this and risk someone else’s health. “I don’t feel how a man can live with himself to get to the top and know he didn’t do it the right way, he needed help … “It’s time to put away all this cheating, because that’s what it’s called, it’s called cheating.”

In steps Washington (18-0, 12 KOs), who was training for a fight with Dominic Breazeale on the undercard and is a gym rat always in fight ready condition. It is a tremendous opportunity for Washington. He knows it, and he became emotional about it during a pre-fight news conference this week.

Like Wilder, who started boxing after an injury ended his hoop dreams and football hopes, Washington came to boxing after dreams of stardom in another sport. Washington, age 33, is a U.S. Navy veteran who played tight end and defensive end at USC. His most significant opponents were Eddie Chambers, who fought and lost to Wladimir Klitschko, and Amir Mansour, who gave Washington hell in a draw.

Wilder, age 31, says he is eager to fight the big names, but they are the ones ducking him. Fight fans have their fingers crossed for a showdown with the winner of the Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko bout in April, and it is Joshua who most fans consider the favorite and heir apparent to the world heavyweight crown.

Deontay Wilder and Gerald Washington fight for Wilder’s WBC belt in front of Wilder’s hometown Birmingham fans. Photo: Ryan Hafey, Premier Boxing Champions

In the meantime, Wilder hopes to once again please his fans and put on a show. A simple victory isn’t good enough at this stage of his career. Washington has nothing to lose. A good showing makes him a desirable opponent for others in the division and he would not be out of the mix, especially if he has “a moment” in the fight as my colleague Michael Wilson puts it and hurts Wilder.

Wilder will be testing his punching power for the first time after returning from his injuries. “We’ll see if it’s 100 percent when I meet fist to face,” said Wilder. With Wilder’s right hand and arm injuries, observers are eager to see whether he took advantage of the time to develop his weaker skills with the left hand.

A former USC football player and U.S. Navy veteran, Gerald Washington will attempt to become the first heavyweight champion of Mexican-American descent when he challenges Deontay Wilder on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Hafey, Premier Boxing Champions

Wilder is the prohibitive favorite, but Washington has a puncher’s chance. He needs to stay disciplined and not get anxious or emotional. Wilder will use his long reach and snapping jab to fight from the outside for several rounds, trying to wear Washington out. Washington should not take the bait to move inside and remain patient or his face will meet a Wilder power punch. Wilder is the faster man of the two, and Washington also needs to get his timing just right if he’s going to score.

Both Wilder and Washington are enrolled in VADA testing as part of the Clean Boxing Program.

A vacant 154-pound title will be at stake when Tony Harrison (left) meets undefeated Jarrett Hurd at Legacy Arena in Birmingham. Photo: Ryan Hafey, Premier Boxing Champions

Rising stars Tony “Super Bad” Harrison of Detroit (24-1, 20 KOs) and Jarrett Hurd of Accokeek, Maryland (19-0, 13 KOs) both want to make a statement while winning the vacant IBF junior middleweight title up for grabs. The belt became available a week ago when Jermall Charlo relinquished the belt and announced his intention to fight at middleweight going forward. Credit the IBF for not fooling around and making the title immediately available to the winner here, turning it from a title eliminator to a title fight.

Hurd was our 2016 Prospect of the Year. The 26-year-old hopes to again make the most of an opportunity, as he did last June with an unexpected chance to fight as the co-main event on the undercard of Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter on CBS. Hurd knocked down undefeated Mexican Olympian Oscar Molina and dominated the rest of the fight, scoring a tenth round TKO. Hurd then took on Jo Jo Dan on the Danny Garcia vs. Samuel Vargas undercard on November 12. Hurd stopped Dan in six rounds with his speed and skills.

Super welterweight Jarrett Hurd (left) wore down a tough Oscar Molina in Brooklyn Saturday. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime
Super welterweight Jarrett Hurd (left) wore down a tough Oscar Molina in Brooklyn in June. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime

Harrison is on a winning streak since his single loss to Willie Nelson in 2015. Harrison carries the legacy of Detroit’s glory years in boxing, and is among the remaining students of the late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward. Harrison, who has arguably fought stronger opposition so far than Hurd, knows it’s time to make a statement.

“I was already excited about the fight when they called me about fighting Hurd,” said Harrison. “I said yes immediately. I started this off wanting to be the best and to do that, I have to beat the best. When I got the call that it was going to be a title fight, I knew that this was going to be a legacy fight.”

Hurd is equally enthusiastic. “We were excited when we first got the fight with Tony Harrison and we were even more excited when we found out it would be for a world title. This is every champion’s dream and I get a big opportunity on a big network. Everyone gets to see who Jarrett Hurd is.”

Both men are power punchers, so the defining factor could be Hurd’s boxing skills. Harrison has been down twice as a professional; Hurd has not and it raises a question mark if Harrison should connect. Hurd will get the chance to prove if the hype about him is real tonight.

The junior middleweight division is one of the most competitive in boxing going into 2017, and Hurd should have an opportunity to test himself against top talent including Julian Williams, Erickson Lubin, Demetrius Andrade, and especially Jermell Charlo, whose twin brother held the title Hurd and Harrison hope to win tonight. The Charlos, like the Klitschkos, vowed never to fight each other, and now there are no worries being in different divisions. Most of the talent at 154 pounds is in the PBC stable which makes matchmaking easy peasy.

Born in Poland to Nigerian parents, Izuagbe Ugonoh makes his North American debut Saturday against Dominic Breazeale. Photo: Ryan Hafey, Premier Boxing Champions

Fans will see a heavyweight fight to open the broadcast. 2012 U.S. Olympian and former world title challenger Dominic Breazeale (17-1, 15 KOs) of Los Angeles will face Poland-born Nigerian Izuagbe Ugonoh (17-0, 14 KOs) making his American debut. Ugonoh started in kickboxing but shifted to boxing as a teen. He trains in Las Vegas with Kevin Barry, fights in New Zealand – and returned to Poland last year to compete in Poland’s version of “Dancing With the Stars” advancing all the way to the final two rounds.

See for yourself as Ugonoh dances a Paso Doble with pro partner Hanna Żudziewicz to – what else? – “Eye of the Tiger.”

Breazeale’s only loss was a beat down by Anthony Joshua in seven rounds last June.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News when quoting from or linking to this story.

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