I started this write-up by looking for a synonym for “clumsy.” I didn’t find one that fit, unfortunately. Tonight at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala. on Premier Boxing Champions on Fox, Deontay Wilder (38-0, 37 KO) notched another victory to the thrill of his local crowd (everything is local in Alabama, trust me). Wilder scored a 5th round knockout over a fighter who hadn’t turned pro until he was 30 years old. Somehow, though, Gerald Washington (18-1-1, 12 KO), now 34 years old, won the first four rounds.
It was a clumsy, utterly boring affair that was only redeemed by the outcome because it was over. Wilder wobbled around the ring on his stilt-thin legs looking for a punch he was never in a position to throw. Washington worked with some efficacy, but between the punches was a great deal of lunging and clinching.
The first four rounds dragged like hell, then a minute into the 5th round, Wilder landed a giant right hand followed by a left hook that sent Washington sprawling. Washington got up, but Wilder spastically pounced on him, as referee Michael Griffin tried to decide if the fight was over. Griffin was in out like a prairie dog, but finally saved Washington from further punishment at 1:45 of the 5th round.
Wilder is an argument against the sanctioning bodies in human form. No matter how many times PBC runs a commercial wherein he declares his desire to become the ONE true champion, anyone who’s seen him fight knows that anyone with a pulse scheduled to fight him will mysteriously (or not so mysteriously Alexander Povetkin) get busted for performance enhancing drugs. Wilder is an insult to the term “Heavyweight Champion.”
The co-feature pitted junior middleweights Tony Harrison and Jarrett Hurd against one another for the alphabet strap the other Charlo vacated when he moved to middleweight. It was an often tense, but equally frustrating bout. The rounds were very easy to score, though.
Harrison (24-2, 20 KO) spent the first six rounds circling effectively, if not gracefully, while Hurd (20-0, 14 KO) walked after him. This was not a display of lateral movement or ring generalship, but every time Harrison slowed down or stepped forward, we got chippy exchanges with Harrison almost almost getting the best of the action. Many times, Hurd just wandered aimlessly after Harrison and ate sharp punches for his inability to use angles.
Starting in the 6th round, though, Harrison decided to step forward. Nothing I had seen prior suggested this was a bad idea, but it was. Hurd began landing hurtful punches. Harrison was still landing his own, but the hopelessness Hurd had shown previously evaporated. By the 9th round, Hurd was chugging forward hurting Harrison regularly. Halfway through the round, Harrison was clearly hurt by an uppercut and Hurd kept throwing with urgency until a beautiful straight right dropped Harrison hard. Harrison beat the count, and indicated that he wished to continue. Then he spat out/dropped his mouthpiece. That was all referee Jim Korb needed to see. Hurd won by knockout at 2:24 of the 9th round.
The opening bout was a wonderful, sloppy, sometimes skill-less, but always dramatic slugfest between heavyweights Dominic Breazeale and Izuagbe Ugonoh that ended in a brutal stoppage in the 5th round.
Ugonoh (17-1, 14 KO) opened by punishing the flabby, uncoordinated, slow Breazeale (18-1, 16 KO) with a vicious body attack. Always wary of the much larger man’s power, Ugonoh worked tactically, but exchanged with relish.
Then came the 3rd round. And it was absolutely fucking stellar. No, it wouldn’t please a purist. It was two “huge friggin guys” beating the hell out of each other. Ugonoh began by standing Breazeale up with a crushing right hand and following up with a swarm of bees flurry as the bigger man backpedaled. Suddenly, Ugonoh was on his ass, having been clipped with a big shot from Breazeale. Here, it looked like Ugonoh might succumb, but he gained his bearings and came roaring back.
Ugonoh continued his crunching body work in the 4th round, and Breazeale was clearly bothered. Then Breazeale was on the canvas and the fight looked like the tide had finally shifted for good. The two traded, exhausted.
Dominic Breazeale entered the 5th round looking a little lost, a little exhausted, but still confident in his punch and heft. He had reason to be. Breazeale landed two excellent right hands that dropped Ugonoh hard. Ugonoh beat the count, but was on wobbly legs as Breazeale slung more punches before landing a clean combination that sent Ugonoh crashing through the ropes. Referee Jeff Dodson waived it off without a count at 0:50 of the 5th round.
BIRMINGHAM, AL – FEBRUARY 25: Izu Ugonoh (L) and Dominic Breazeale (R) fight in a heavyweight bout at Legacy Arena. (Photo by David A. Smith/Getty Images)