By Sean Crose
There’s two things you should know about heavyweight prospect Gerald Washington. The first thing is he’s a nice guy. Not a phony, just a decent guy. The second thing you should know is he’s serious about boxing. Just ask his eleven opponents. He’s beaten every one of them and knocked out all but three. When the California native says he want to bring the heavyweight title back to America, he means it.
“Right now we don’t deserve the heavyweight title,” he says. “It’s not easy to be the champion. You have to live right and work hard.”
Hard work is something Washington is quite familiar with. The product of both African American and Mexican culture, he went to school in Mexico, before joining the American navy. After his stint was done, the military veteran earned a scholarship to USC, where he played football. A natural athlete, Washington went all the way to the NFL, where he was a member of the Buffalo Bills.
Yet the young man was always drawn to the fight game. He speaks of how he “grew up with boxing gloves,” and battled with neighborhood kids for fun during his youth. After becoming an adult, Washington’s fondness for the sport morphed into a promising career.
“I grew up with Tyson and Chavez,” he says. As time went on, however, Washington realized he had to study fighters who were closer to his size. At 6’6, the 250lb boxer therefore began to observe the likes of Lennox Lewis, who he credits with creating a “blueprint” for super-sized heavyweights.
For size, as Washington’s learned, can have it’s advantages. He uses Tyson Fury’s victory last year over Steve Cunningham as an example. The English brawler was put on the canvas early, but as Washington points out, Fury eventually used his superior height and frame to overwhelm Cunningham and emerge the victor.
“If you’ve got two guys who can box,” Washington explains, “the bigger guy’s gonna win.”
Yet size and talent don’t make a fighter invincible. It’s a fact Washington is well aware of. He once tried to finish an opponent off too soon, only to find himself winded. “Now I take my time and box,” he says. Not that he doesn’t like to go for the strong finish. His knockout ratio is over 70%, after all. “Like a shark,” as he explains it, “I go for the kill.”
Still, the man’s not going to risk getting hurt in order to be a crowd pleaser. “Defense is number one,” he says. “I don’t care if I get booed.” Not that he has to worry about it. Just last week he polished off Arron Lyons within five rounds (his third knockout in as many fights). And he did it while focusing on his defense. “I barely got touched three times” he states with satisfaction.
There are still things for the up and comer to work on, though. As happy as he is with his success, Washington understands he is still a work in progress. It’s all a part of what he describes as “learning on the job.”
In fact, Washington is quite candid about his development. “I’m just learning that all my punches don’t have to be hard,” he exclaims. “I can be just as effective being sharp.” There’s no doubt such openness is refreshing. It would be unwise, however, to take it as a sign of weakness. “If I can stay safe (in the ring),” Washington states with confidence, “I can beat you.”
Aside from his honesty, Washington is also unique in that he has absolutely no interest in acting the part of the bad boy. That sort of thing might be fine for the likes of Adrien Broner or Tyson Fury. Washington, however, prefers to take a different route. “I’m a gentleman,” he admits. “I try to play to that.” And those opponents who might want to talk trash? Washington has just one thing to say: “I’ll see you in the ring, buddy.”
There once was a time when everyone wanted to be a hero. Now, it seems, everyone wants to be a villain. That makes Washington a unique alternative in today’s often nasty fight world. “I want to be the guy, he exclaims, “who represents the United States. I want to be the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion. I want to be the people’s champion, a true champion. I want to be the hero.”
All the bad boys out there looking for easy pickings best beware. For Al Haymon himself has taken Washington under his wing. If that’s not a sure sign of Washington’s potential, then it’s hard to say what is. His nickname, after all, is El Gallo Negro – The Black Rooster.
“Because roosters fight to the death.”
*Follow Gerald Washington on Twitter and Instagram @gwgallonegro