Deontay Wilder's title defence against Gerald Washington brings a new set of problems for WBC king
By Richard Damerell
Last Updated: 02/02/17 3:00pm
As Deontay Wilder prepares for his heavyweight battle with Gerald Washington, live on Sky Sports, we analyse a potentially dangerous WBC title defence.
WBC heavyweight champion Wilder will be expected to produce another knockout victory against Washington in his home state of Alabama, but preparations have been far from ideal and he faces an unbeaten fighter with ambitions of his own.
Wilder-Washington live on Sky
Deontay Wilder's WBC heavyweight title defence against Gerald Washington is live on Sky Sports
Here are five talking points ahead of Wilder-Washington...
Difficult time for Deontay?
The 31-year-old will be making his return from a six-month absence after suffering a broken hand and a torn bicep in his stoppage win over Chris Arreola last July.
His training plans have already been disrupted as original opponent Andrzej Wawrzyk tested positive for a banned substance, and Washington stepped up as a replacement challenger this week.
Washington offers a fresh set of challenges with his sheer size and Wilder's physical and mental scars could be severely tested in his first fight back from serious injuries.
Why pick Washington?
Washington has a more impressive record than Wawrzyk, with wins over titles contenders Eddie Chambers and Ray Austin, the latter coming in devastating fashion at the same venue of his upcoming fight with Wilder.
At this late stage in his career, Austin was a faded force, but Wilder's promoter Lou DiBella admits Washington has done little wrong in his career.
Asked about the Austin knockout, DiBella said: "That didn't hurt. That fight also occurred in Alabama, where we happen to be for this next fight.
"Washington has been on US TV multiple times. He's another American heavyweight and a good athlete."
Battle for hearts and minds?
Wilder's determination and mental toughness cannot be questioned as he has shrugged off serious injuries and harsh criticism throughout his professional career.
But in Washington, he could be facing someone with similar inner resolve, as the former U.S Navy veteran has also been written off as a contender and relishes the challenge of silencing his critics.
They love him out there, that's their hometown boy, and I'm going to go in and take care of business.
The Californian was also a talented former American football player and is not fazed about taking a title fight in front of Wilder's fans.
"I know I'm fighting in his home state," he said. "They love him out there, that's their hometown boy, and I'm going to go in and take care of business."
A wild shootout?
'The Bronze Bomber' always brings excitement with his knockout power, but can allow himself to be drawn into a dangerous firefight.
Wilder fully admits he is still a work in progress and gives the occasional glimpse of defensive frailties, which could be exposed by a patient opponent in Washington.
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The 34-year-old likes to probe for openings with his long arms and suggests he will gradually pick apart the champion.
"I just want to step to him, hurt him, and eventually wear him down and take him out," said Washington. "I don't want to leave it in the hands of the judges."
Joshua looming large?
There is plenty at stake for Wilder, who continues to be mentioned as a future opponent for IBF champion Anthony Joshua.
The unbeaten Londoner, with equally destructive fists, boosted his profile at a press conference in America this week and US fight fans are eagerly awaiting his debut in the States.
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Promoter DiBella does not want his fighter to overlook Washington, but believes a unification clash with Joshua would be "massive" if they wait until all the world titles are at stake.
He said: "If down the line, you're looking at Joshua and Deontay, two good looking, well spoken, massive heavyweights with tremendous credentials were to meet for a total unification of the heavyweight division - that's a massive fight."