The opponent change comes after Wilder’s original foe, Andrzej Wawrzyk, tested positive for a banned substance.
“I’m very happy to get this opportunity to fight for my first world championship,” Washington said. “I know that I’ll be fighting Deontay Wilder in his backyard, but that adds more excitement to the fight for me. I’m looking forward to going to Birmingham and coming away with a victory just like I did in my last fight there.”
Washington, a 34-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who also played tight end and defensive end at the University of Southern California, scored a fourth round knockout over former title challenger Ray Austin in his last fight. It came on the undercard of the same show in Birmingham where Wilder suffered a torn right biceps muscle and fractured his right hand against Chris Arreola on July 16, 2016. Wilder won on a 9th round TKO, but needed several rounds of surgery to repair the damage and has spent the last six months in rehabilitation.
“I was disappointed when Wawrzyk tested positive for a banned substance and wasn’t available to fight. I didn’t want to disappoint my loyal fans in Birmingham, who have always supported me,” Wilder said. “I’m glad Gerald Washington stepped up to the challenge and allowed us to go forward with the show. He’s a tall heavyweight (6-foot-6) with a good jab and the kind of test that I need coming back from surgery on my biceps muscle and my right hand. I’m looking forward to putting on a good show for all my fans.”
“In this case, losing an opponent has resulted in a much better matchup for fight fans,” said Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. “Gerald Washington, one of the highest rated American heavyweights, is a huge man and a physical specimen. A U.S. Navy veteran, Washington is a tremendous athlete who played football at USC and was on the practice squads of both the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills. He’s made a successful transition to boxing, and has been working toward his shot at Deontay Wilder and a heavyweight championship. This is the challenge that Deontay wanted and those that come out to the Legacy Arena or tune into Premier Boxing Champions on FOX and FOX Deportes will be the beneficiaries.”
“Despite the unfortunate circumstances that have allowed Gerald Washington to have this opportunity, I am confident he will be making the most of it,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions, Washington’s promoter. “Getting to fight a great champion like Deontay Wilder on national television is every fighter’s dream. February 25 will be a great night for American heavyweights. Gerald is in amazing shape and he’s coming to win.”
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment and TBG Promotions in association with Bruno Event Team, start at $25 (not including applicable fees) and are on sale now. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster and by visiting AlabamaTitleFight.com.
Washington calls himself “El Gallo Negro” (The Black Rooster) to honor his African-American father and Mexican-American mother. He turned pro in July 2012, following a brief amateur career. He has risen steadily in the ranks after each fight and is now poised to take on the biggest challenge of his professional career. If he defeats Wilder, he will become the first Mexican-American heavyweight world champion.
Televised coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and features a pair of exciting matchups as rising super welterweight contenders Tony Harrison and Jarrett Hurd meet in a 12-round world title eliminator, plus hard-hitting Dominic Breazeale battles undefeated Izuagbe Ugonoh in heavyweight action.