By Sean Crose
“If you’ve got two guys who can box, the bigger guy’s gonna win.”
So rising heavyweight Gerald Washington (16-0) told me in early 2014. Now, closing in on two years later, Washington will be headlining a Fox Sports 1 card when he goes up against the formidable Amir Mansour (22-1) Tuesday night in Washington state.
While it’s true Washington at 6’6 is significantly taller than the 6’1 Mansour, Washington’s opponent has only lost on a single occasion, and that was to the very experienced and game Steve Cunningham. Mansour also shouldn’t be underestimated because of his advanced ring age of 43 years.
The man took over nine full years off from the ring, after all, thanks to a prison sentence, only to come back and earn thirteen wins in under five years. What’s more, one of Mansour’s more recent fights ended with a brutal seventh round knockout of Fred Kassi. With an impressive knockout ratio, Mansour brings both power and experience into the ring with him.
Indeed, there are those who have been vocally uncertain about Washington’s chances of winning the Mansour fight this week. This, however, is the kind of bout Washington needs if he intends to keep climbing up the heavyweight ladder. A former NFL player, Washington appears to know the seriousness of his current profession, and how rising to the top of it simply cannot be a haphazard affair.
“Defense is number one,” he’s stated. “I don’t care if I get booed.” Still, he’s made it clear that knockouts are a bit part of the game, as well, an assertion evidenced by the fact that Washington has earned well over half of his victories via knockout.
“Like a shark,” he has said, “I go for the kill.”
Should Washington prove to be impressive Tuesday evening, he may soon find himself in line for far bigger things. As an Al Haymon fighter and member of Premiere Boxing Champions’, Washington is part of a relatively small world which will grow ever smaller if Haymon decides to essentially turn PBC into a league of its own, as some suggest the man might.
That means there will be considerably few opponents out there for PBC heavyweight kingpin – and WBC champ – Deontay Wilder. Even if Haymon doesn’t decide to keep things entirely in-house, an impressive win for Washington on Tuesday will undoubtedly prove to be a significant win as far as the man’s future is concerned.
Is the guy ready to really step it up, though? Wilder may be a fighter who still needs to grow, but he is quite talented nonetheless. What’s more, primary heavyweight titlist Wladimir Klitschko is literally Hall of Fame material. Is Wilder coming close to presenting a legitimate challenge to such men? What about notable contenders like Tyson Fury, or impressive up and comers like Britain’s Anthony Joshua?
The answer to those questions remains to be seen. Fans and analysts alike, however, may get some indication on Tuesday. Give Washington this, he isn’t taking the easy way up the ladder. And in a sport filled with overly-careful matchmaking, that’s nothing but a good thing.