One man's positive drug test is another man's golden opportunity.
When Poland's Andrzej Wawrzyk tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol in two random urine drug screens conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on Jan. 15 and Jan. 16, and whose results came in last week -- the A and B samples were both positive -- he was dropped from a heavyweight world title challenge against Deontay Wilder.
On Monday, Gerald Washington, the presumed favorite to land the bout as soon as Wawrzyk was dropped, was announced as the replacement opponent to challenge Wilder for his belt in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions (Fox and Fox Deportes, 8 p.m. ET) on Feb. 25 at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, Wilder's home state.
"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.''
In July, Washington (18-0-1, 12 KOs) knocked out long-faded former heavyweight title challenger Ray Austin in the fourth round on the undercard of Wilder's eighth-round knockout of Chris Arreola at Legacy Arena. Washington, 34, of Vallejo, California, is a U.S. Navy veteran and an outstanding athlete who came to boxing late after playing tight end and defensive end at the University of Southern California.
Wawrzyk is the second initial opponent in a row to fail a VADA drug test before a fight with Wilder and have it canceled. Wilder was supposed to fight Alexander Povetkin last May but he also failed a drug test, the bout was called off and Wilder faced Arreola instead on a rescheduled date.
Wilder is pleased Washington agreed to take him on.
"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,'' said Wilder, who will be making his fifth title defense. "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.''
Wilder (37-0, 36 KO), 31, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, broke his right hand and tore his right biceps against Arreola and had surgery, which kept him out of the ring for the remainder of 2016.
There are many who believe Washington will make for a better fight with Wilder than Wawrzyk would have, including Wilder promoter Lou DiBella.
"In this case, losing an opponent has resulted in a much better matchup for fight fans," DiBella said. "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."
Tom Brown of TGB Promotions, who represents Washington, is happy that his guy is getting such a big opportunity, even if it's on shorter notice than what would be ideal.
"Despite the unfortunate circumstances that have allowed Gerald Washington to have this opportunity, I am confident he will be making the most of it,'' Brown said. "Getting to fight a great champion like Deontay Wilder on national television is every fighter's dream. Feb. 25 will be a great night for American heavyweights. Gerald is in amazing shape and he's coming to win."
The card will also feature a junior middleweight world title elimination bout between Tony Harrison (24-1, 20 KOs) and Jarrett Hurd (19-0, 13 KOs) and a 10-round heavyweight scrap between former world title challenger and 2012 U.S. Olympian Dominic Breazeale (17-1, 15 KOs) and Izuagbe Ugonoh (17-0, 14 KOs).