Deontay Wilder said before his maiden title defense that he wanted to start another knockout streak. Though it might not reach the gaudy 32 consecutive that he had leading into his fight with Bermane Stiverne in January, he got off to the right start on Saturday night.
Wilder took his time -- and dealt with some adversity -- in dispatching ultra tough challenger Eric Molina in the ninth round to retain his WBC heavyweight title. Wilder knocked Molina down four times in the fight, which headlined a Showtime Championship Boxing card in the Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala.
Molina hung tough during every second of the fight, even after he was dropped repeatedly. The rugged Texan actually rocked Wilder with a left hook in the third, but the reach and crushing knockout power of “The Bronze Bomber” was too much to overcome. Molina (23-3, 17 KOs) was dropped once in the fourth, twice in the fifth and then for a final time in the ninth.
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Molina was rocked by a sweeping left hand early in what was eventually the fight’s final round, and a crushing straight right hand flattened Molina. “Drummer Boy” fell face-first into the ropes and then onto his back, where veteran referee Jack Reiss quickly called it off. Reiss stated afterward that he didn’t like Molina’s body language when he was felled that final time and knew immediately that he had to stop it.
Molina protested at first, but when he bounced up and down to show that he was still OK, it was clear that Molina was groggy and likely out on his feet. Still, his toughness shined in defeat, something Wilder was shocked with.
“I definitely was surprised he kept getting up,” the defending champ said after the win. “This guy’s got heart. All the critics doubted him and the naysayers said he wouldn’t last but I am proud of him. I needed a guy with a heart, who would get back up and fight hard. I respect Eric Molina and thank him to accept this challenge.”
Wilder won officially at the 1:03 mark of the ninth, retaining his title and improving to 34-0 with his 33rd career stoppage. The 2008 Olympian bronze medalist was patient throughout the fight, but he said he wanted to test his right hand, which he broke in the Stiverne fight.
“I wanted to test my right hand, test the injury,” Wilder said. “It came out great. It held up pretty good.”
But Wilder also revealed that another reason why he didn’t gun for the early knockout as much as he usually does is because he wants to become a more complete fighter. He wants to continuously learn in order to get better, before he begins his mission of unifying all the heavyweight titles.
“We are trying to become a technician and not just a wild puncher,” he stated. “I’m always learning. I like to learn and I’m still a work in progress. I will still be a work in progress until I retire.”
Pedraza Captures 130-pound Title
It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication, but one of the most important goals of Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza’s professional career became reality tonight. Pedraza was sensational in the co-main event against Russia’s Andrey Klimov and won a lopsided unanimous decision to capture the vacant IBF junior lightweight title.
Pedraza was superb from the southpaw stance, befuddling his sometimes awkward foe with a terrific jab and sharp counters. Klimov, usually a high-volume puncher, was relegated to second-guessing himself and offered little offense. Pedraza stifled him throughout, busted up his face and cruised to a near shutout on the scorecards.
Two of the three ringside judges saw it 120-108 for Pedraza while the other had it 119-109. Sherdog also scored it 120-108 for Pedraza, who improved to 20-0 with 12 KOs with the win. The victory brought the 2008 Olympian into the illustrious class of Puerto Rican world champions, a list that is among the richest in boxing history.
Klimov, who fell to 19-2 with nine KOs, was vying to become the first Russian to win a world title at junior lightweight.
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