Why rugged heavyweight Gerald Washington brands himself a chicken

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No man who steps into the ring to trade blows with another man qualifies as a chicken. And yet, that’s what Gerald Washington calls himself. To be fair, though, it’s a pretty badass bird.

Gerald Washington

Gerald "El Gallo Negro" Washington, left, carries himself in the ring the way his namesake does when confronted by another rooster.

“El Gallo Negro,” the boxing nom de plume of Gerald Washington (16-0, 11 KOs), translates to “The Black Rooster.”

Now, roosters are indeed a disagreeable lot, the animal kingdom’s version of the DMV worker—at least in terms of temperament.

Remember how mad your roommate got that one time you swiped his prosthetic leg, filled it with Cheese Whiz, then used it as a dip bowl for your Halloween party?

Well, that’s pretty much how roosters carry themselves each and every day.

Washington found out as much as a kid.

When he was 13 years old, the future heavyweight contender briefly moved from his native California to Mexico, the birthplace of his mother. His aunt had a ranch down there, and he would go to work with his cousins after school.

“I learned about roosters,” he says. “I learned that a rooster is supposed to take care of his coop and all his hens. When he sees that other rooster, they puff up and they’ll fight to defend what’s theirs. That’s how it is when you get in the ring. It just embodies so much of the sport of boxing.”

There’s also a deeper, more personal meaning behind Washington’s handle.

“My father’s African-American and my mother’s Mexican,” he explains, “so I just felt like that was a perfect fit.”

He could say the same about his relationship to boxing itself.

Washington first ventured into the ring as a young boy. At the time, he wanted to be the next Karate Kid, which he recalls with a laugh, but there were no karate outlets in his area, so he settled for the boxing program at the local Boys & Girls Club instead.

The sport fit him as snuggly as the gloves that hugged his fists.

Then one day while Washington and his cohorts were training at a local park, they had their Cobra Kai showdown moment.

“We were running around this park, and this group of guys was like, ‘You ain’t nothin.’’ These are like street kids. My coach was like, ‘OK, come up to the gym,” Washington remembers. “We got done with our run and here those guys come, strolling into the gym. I said, ‘Oh, man.’

“I was like the biggest kid,” he continues, “but I was only 10, 11 years old. They’re like, ‘Gerald, put your stuff on.’ I get in there, and I start moving around and it’s like magic.

“The stuff that we practiced actually worked. It was like, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing!’ I knocked the dude down a couple of times, knocked him out of the ring. He got all mad, slammed the headgear down and stormed out of the gym. It was like, ‘We conquered our fear.’ I was hooked.”

Nearly two decades later, Washington is ready for the biggest fight of his career when he takes on one-loss bruiser Amir Mansour (22-1, 16 KOs) in Shelton, Washington, on Tuesday night (Fox Sports 1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m PT).

“El Gallo Negro” knows it time to ruffle some feathers.

“Those birds, they’ll fight to the death to stake their claim,” Washington says. “That’s how I feel when I’m in the ring.”

For full coverage of Washington vs Mansour, visit our fight page.

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