On Saturday night in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the most dangerous punchers in boxing returned to defend their belt and did so in the only way they know how.
WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (38-0, 37 KO’s) was fighting his first fight since undergoing surgeries to repair a broken right hand and torn right biceps. Understandably, he started slow but went on to knock out challenger Gerald Washington (18-1-1, 12 KO’s) in the fifth round.
Also on the card, Jarrett Hurd (20-0, 14 KO’s) stopped Tony “Superbad” Harrison (24-2, 20 KO’s) in the ninth round to claim a vacant junior middleweight world title. And in the opening bout, heavyweight Dominic Breazeale (18-1, 16 KO’s) knocked out Izu Ugonoh (17-1, 14 KO’s) in a thriller.
Here we will grade the performances of each fighter on this very good card.
Deontay Wilder (38-0, 37 KO’s) TKO5 Gerald Washington (18-1-1, 12 KO’s)
Retained WBC Heavyweight Title
The pride of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has returned from a pair of gruesome injuries that he suffered in his last bout against Chris Arreola (36-5-1, 31 KO’s) and experienced some ups and downs.
Wilder, 31, looked very hesitant in the first four rounds of this fight with Washington, 34.
The champion threw very few right hands and often just threw out jabs to keep Washington at a distance. Washington did some good work on the inside, as he landed several solid body shots on the champion. The former USC Trojan football player also did very good work with his jab against Wilder and outboxed him in the opening rounds.
But in the fifth round, “The Bronze Bomber” unleashed his lethal power.
Wilder nailed Washington with a left hook and right hand that dropped him. Washington showed the resiliency to get up but was ambushed with a flurry of hard shots and the fight was waved off.
Wilder looked shaky to start this fight. It was hard to tell if the injuries were the cause or if Washington was, simply, outboxing him. Based on past fights, the latter could certainly be true and I believe that Washington’s stock rose in defeat.
He displayed great athleticism and size to go along with a good jab and solid power. He could be a problem for some top heavyweights, perhaps. But the colossal power of Wilder showed us why he is one of, if not the best, big man in the world.
Wilder’s grade: B
Washington’s grade: C+
Jarrett Hurd (20-0, 14 KO’s) TKO9 Tony Harrison (24-2, 20 KO’s)
Hurd wins vacant IBF junior middleweight title
This was a matchup between two 26-year-old contenders that possess a lot of talent.
And afterJermall Charlo vacated his IBF junior middleweight title to move up in weight, this fight became a world title fight and golden opportunity for these young fighters.
Harrison, of Detroit, started off strong. He was using his hand speed to give Hurd issues through th first six rounds and looked very sharp.
But in round seven, the tide turned.
Hurd’s power and boxing skills began to take a toll on the tiring Harrison. Hurd, of Accokeek, Maryland, repeatedly hurt Harrison with hard shots in rounds seven and eight.
And in round nine, Hurd closed the show.
He dropped Harrison with a hard right hand and even though Harrison got up, the fight was waved off as he was badly hurt by the shot.
This was a coming-out party for Hurd, who now emerges as a hot name in a talented division and is in the same PBC stable as fellow titleholders Erislandy Lara and Jermell Charlo. The future is bright for Hurd, who has star potential.
Hurd’s grade: A
Harrison’s grade: C-
Dominic Breazeale (18-1, 16 KO’s) KO5 Izu Ugonoh (17-1, 14 KO’s)
This was an absolute barnburner.
Breazeale, a former college football player, was fighting for the first time since being knocked out by Anthony Joshua when challenging for a heavyweight title belt. He is a big, tough, power-puncher that puts on exciting fights.
And this one was no exception.
He faced off against Ugonoh, an undefeated prospect that was virtually unknown heading into this bout. But both put on a great show.
They were throwing heavy leather from the opening bell. But round three is where things really got wild.
Ugonoh was really taking it to Breazeale in the round, including landing some punishing body shots, before being dropped by a big Breazeale right hand. In round four, Ugonoh returned the favor and dropped Breazeale and apepared on the cusp of victory.
But Breazeale, miraculously, cmae back in round five the drop Ugonoh twice and finish the fight, as the crowd went wild.
This was a great showcase for both fighters. Ugonoh got exposure as an exicting, fan-friendly fighter in the loss and Breazeale picked up a great KO win and positioned himself for another significant fight.
Who knows? Maybe one day, he will step in with Wilder.
Breazeale’s grade: B+
Ugonoh’s grade: C+