Unanimous decision… 118-109, 119-108, 120-107 all for DEONTAY WILDER, the new WBC heavyweight champion.
Deontay Wilder has – surely – ended the American heavyweight title drought. He boxed sharply throughout and should be well ahead on the cards after 12 rounds. “Who can’t go 12?” Wilder barks.
The ‘Bronze Bomber’ doing as he pleases in there, and kudos for dispelling doubts about his stamina. Stiverne shows some life as the 10th round concludes but this looks increasingly like Wilder’s night. Two rounds to go and – outrageous judging aside – Stiverne needs a knockout to retain his title.
Wilder boxing very well in the ninth and answers questions about his stamina. Stiverne, meanwhile, looks tired. Few people – our very own Nick Bond aside – predicted a points win for Wilder but, at this stage, it’s looking the most likely conclusion.
Wilder is back behind his jab and not showing any fatigue. Stiverne explodes on the inside, lands two blasts. Wilder’s head swings back but he doesn’t appear to be hurt. Quiet round. Wilder well ahead after eight. 12 minutes of action, potentially, await. The championship rounds will be absolutely crucial.
Stiverne’s face is swollen but he tanks forward, seemingly content he can’t be hurt. Well, he can – a massive right hand connects and he staggers back. Wilder loads up on every shot and fails to drop the solid champion. He’s in danger of punching himself out. Wilder, one senses, could be in trouble if he doesn’t finish Stiverne. Astonishing durability from the 36-year-old champion.
Is Stiverne expecting Wilder to tire? Wilder wobbled from left hook. The challenger smiled but his unsteady legs belied the bravado. The champion is energised, and the contest could be about to turn. Stiverne looks strong at the end of the sixth and suddenly it looks like a long night ahead for Deontay.
They’re talking to each other in there but struggle to get attention with their punches. Wilder’s jab remains impressive but boos are heard for the first time from the blood thirsty crowd. The combatants respond and exchange shots. Wilder’s are clearly the bigger and lands several huge right hands. The champion refuses to budge. Exciting end to the round. This is poised.
Wilder quick from his stool and meets Stiverne in the centre of the ring. Stiverne lands left hook as Wilder threatens to dominate. Neither man will be causing Wladimir Klitschko to lose any sleep but it’s an engrossing spectacle. Stiverne starting to look threatening. Lands right hand and closes the round as the aggressor. Wilder about to enter the fifth round for the first time in his boxing career.
The challenger in charge and his jab is the key. Sensibly he refrains from unloading his arsenal. Stiverne dutifully follows his opponent but has been largely ineffective after nine minutes. Wilder, who ends the round on his toes, is surely three rounds ahead.
Wilder respectful and steady. Lands uppercut. No effect on Stiverne who yells at his rival. Wilder in control but the champion remains dent-free so far… Wild end to the round. Wilder lands one-two that staggers Stiverne. Wilder hurls in power shots and Stiverne slumps to the canvas after the bell. As the referee jumps in, all three end up in a messy heap. Here we go…
After ignoring each other during the referee’s instructions, they focus on each other. They’re off. Wilder lands two jabs. Stiverne eyes his enemy, chugs forward. Wilder attempts his first right hand midway through the session. It misses. Stiverne attacks with 30 seconds remaining in the round but he’s off target. Wilder lands right hand at the close of session and attempts to follow up. Quiet round, but the fireworks are close at hand.
That crazy 83-year-old Don King stands alongside Jimmy Lennon Jnr. Whatever your opinion on the veteran promoter, it’s good to see him back in an American ring, flags in hand, hair in the air, for a world heavyweight title fight.
Now it’s the turn of the champion, Bermane Stiverne to enter proceedings. He’s lost in his thoughts and could be about to spoil this party.
Well, son. The future of American heavyweight boxing is on your big old shoulders. No pressure at all, Mr Wilder… He enters the ring in gold mask. The future could indeed be bright and lucrative.
Deontay Wilder will soon enter the ring at the MGM Grand for his challenge to WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne. Are we about to see the birth of a new superstar? If Wilder wins, and wins convincingly, he will be just that. Bring it.
Well, it’s all over. Leo Santa Cruz hurls a massive right that lands flush in the eighth. Jesus Ruiz resists the call from the canvas but staggers to the ropes and invites the champion to land more. He does, and referee Kenny Bayless steps in to rescue the brave challenger. He argues it’s too soon, but his fire had gone out, and there was nothing coming back.
When the going gets tough, champions get going. Santa Cruz whips in long, slashing right hands. Ruiz starting to stumble, perhaps tiring, and is unable to return fire. A sweet left hook at the end of the session threatens to drop Ruiz.
Santa Cruz started to look ragged in the sixth. A clash of heads opens a cut above his right eye, and his advantages in reach being negated by the onrushing Ruiz.
The crowd cheers as Evander Holyfield – the last man to win a world heavyweight title fight staged at the MGM Grand – is introduced. Mike Tyson chewing his ear remains one of the most astonishing moments in sporting history.
Ruiz again lively in the fourth. Some generous onlookers might have him sharing the spoils after as we complete the opening third.
Well, this is not the plain sailing many expected for Santa Cruz after three rounds. He’s ahead, probably, but Ruiz charging on the inside, hurling hooks to head and body. The favourite having to work exceptionally hard to retain control.
Leo Santa Cruz looks sharp in the opening session of his WBC super-bantamweight defence against a spirited Jesus Ruiz. The champion popping out long spears from high guard, tagging Ruiz – who refuses to be dominated – from range. Good stuff.
Amir Imam scores the victory over Fidel Maldonado in round five. Imam completely in control, scores four knockdowns in total. The highly-touted starlet has been compared to Henry Armstrong, Joe Gans and Felix Trinidad by various members of his team and though those boots are far too big, he’s certainly one to watch. Kudos to Maldonado, too, for his part in the crowd-pleasing brawl.
“Show me something,” the referee demands in the interval. So Maldonado delivers a crisp left that floors Imam to open the third. Imam regains control quickly, scoring another two knockdowns to edge the round. Hopefully, a taste of things to come.
Phew. What a scorcher. The highly touted Amir Imam takes his time to figure out southpaw Fidel Maldonado in their light-welterweight 10-rounder, but steps in with delightful, short crunching right hand at the end of the second. Maldonado hits the deck heavy and is grateful for the bell that comes to his rescue.
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