BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Deontay Wilder has taken the first step toward claiming another heavyweight title belt by year's end.
Now, all the WBC champion can do is wait and hope for a much more high-profile fight than he's had lately.
Wilder stopped challenger Gerald Washington in the fifth round Saturday night at Legacy Arena in his return from surgeries to repair a broken right hand and torn right biceps. Much more marketable matchups potentially await, eventually.
Patience worked out well for Wilder in the ring. Now, he can use some outside it.
WBO champion Joseph Parker, who was ringside for Wilder's fight, is scheduled to fight Hughie Fury though a date hasn't been announced. Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko meet April 29 at London's Wembley Stadium for Joshua's IBF title and the vacant WBA crown.
"Out of that mix, you've got three guys that are going to come out," said Wilder's trainer, Jay Deas. "Deontay's already come out, so he's in the winner's bracket. Now, you've got either Fury or Parker are going to win and Klitschko or Joshua's going to win. Whoever comes out of that mix is the other two. We want whichever one's available first, and we'll go anywhere."
Wilder (38-0, 37 knockouts) has clearly targeted Parker (22-0, 18 KOs) for a summer bout that would mark his sixth title defense. He said he'd be open to traveling to New Zealand for Parker's fight with Fury, Tyson Fury's cousin.
"If we made a deal, I'm there," Wilder said. "I think my people and Joseph Parker's people know what each other wants. I want to unify."
His last two scheduled opponents -- Alexander Povetkin and Andrzej Wawrzyk -- both tested positive for banned substances, forcing Wilder to find substitute opponents.
Washington (18-1-1) held his own with Wilder for the first four rounds and led on two judges' scorecards before the fateful fifth.
Wilder uncorked his right hand and knocked him down, then forced a stoppage with a barrage of blows on the ropes.
It was far from a dominating performance despite the impressive finish but the most positive sign for Wilder's camp: He reported no problem with his hand or biceps.
"It was important to get past this guy and look to the future," promoter Lou DiBella said. "It was also important to make sure Deontay's hands were good and make sure that his hands were healthy. It took him a couple of rounds to loosen up and get comfortable but we wanted to make sure everything was OK, and everything's OK."
The 31-year-old Wilder had to wait some seven months to get back in the ring after the injuries sustained before stopping Chris Arreola last July. He could face a similar wait before his next bout, just under very different circumstances.
The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist has long stated the goal of unifying the title but doesn't see himself continuing in the ring into his boxing dotage.
"I want to unify the division, defend it a couple of times and I'm out of here," Wilder said. "The thought of getting hit in the head by small gloves or even me knocking my guy out or seeing his eyes go back or seeing his legs shake -- 2017, I really feel that I'm going to really, seriously injure someone to the point there they're going to have to put a red tag on his toes.
"This is no joke. I really, really feel that way. The more experienced I get, the more dangerous I become."