Undefeated World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder will learn Saturday if his surgically repaired right hand still has the knockout power that helped make him a feared fighter.
The 31-year-old American enters the ring before a hometown crowd in Birmingham, Alabama, against undefeated compatriot Gerald Washington to defend his crown for the fifth time.
But it's the first since Wilder broke his right hand and suffered a torn right bicep muscle in an eighth-round stoppage of US veteran Chris Arreola last July.
"I'm looking forward to testing out my hands and my bicep and I am looking forward to bringing more skills to the table with the left hook and stuff like that," Wilder said.
"From the time I got into the ring, I wanted to focus on the aspects of my game that needed improvement, not my injuries. I knew everything would take care of itself if I kept working hard. There's enough on your mind in the ring without worrying about an injury.
"If I had doubted myself because of injuries, then I wouldn't be here. At this point, I'm ready to go. If I'm not ready then I'm in trouble. When Deontay Wilder steps in the ring, no matter if he has got a broken hand, torn bicep or even if my legs come off, I'm going to go to work."
Wilder, 37-0 with 36 knockouts, won the title in 2015 with a unanimous 12-round decision over Haitian-born Canadian Bermane Stiverne in his first bout beyond four rounds.
Washington, 18-0 with one drawn and 12 knockouts, is a fill-in foe for the second consecutive fight after Wilder's intended opponent testing positive for banned substances.
Poland's Andrzej Wawrzyk failed a doping test last month and Russia's Alexander Povetkin tested positive last May. Wilder's training was interrupted for a week earlier this month so he could attend a New York trial in which he won $7 million over the planned Moscow fight being cancelled.
"Washington might be my most athletic opponent. That should make it interesting and even better than my previous opponent," Wilder said. "Everything works out the way it's supposed to."
Wilder has a slight edge in height and reach but Washington is counting on his athleticism and grit to carry the day.
"I have a lot that Deontay hasn't seen before," Washington said. "I'm an unorthodox fighter and I know how to use my size. I'm more athletic than all of the guys he has been in the ring with.
"I'm big and strong and I can punch. Deontay won't be able to hit me from outside. It's going to be a matter of who has better fundamentals, who's sharper and remembers that defense wins championships."
The fight could set the stage for Wilder to try and unify titles against rival champions.
Britain's unbeaten Anthony Joshua and Ukraine's Wladimir Klitschko meet April 29 in London for the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles while unbeaten World Boxing Organization champion Joseph Parker of New Zealand is set to face Britain's undefeated Hughie Fury on April 1 in Auckland.
The undercard also features unbeaten Jarrett Hurd against fellow American B for the vacant IBF junior middleweight title.