LAS VEGAS (AFP) – Deontay Wilder claimed the World Boxing Council heavyweight title with a dominating 12-round decision over Bermane Stiverne, becoming the first American to hold a major heavyweight crown since 2006.
Wilder won easily on all three judges scorecards Saturday in a fight that many were surprised went the distance instead of ending with the knockout finish that both fighters had predicted.
Wilder was able to back up his pre-fight trash talking by outpunching the Canadian champion and winning almost every round. Two judges scored the fight 118-109 and 119-108 while the third had it 120-107.
“I want to bring excitement back to the heavyweight division,” said Wilder, who became the first USA-born fighter to win a heavyweight world title since Shannon Briggs held the lightly-regarded World Boxing Organization belt for a brief time in 2006.
With the win in front of a crowd of 8,450 at the MGM Grand Hotel, Wilder kept his perfect record intact, improving to 33-0. This was the first time in his career the 29-year-old from Alabama failed to get a knockout and the first time he had ever gone past the fourth round.
“I answered a lot of questions tonight,” said Wilder, who won an Olympic bronze at the Beijing Olympics. “I already knew I could go 12 hard rounds and take a punch. I am just excited.”
It was also the first heavyweight title fight at the MGM since June 28, 1997 when Mike Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear.
The 2.01 meter (6-foot-7) Wilder came out with more aggression. Stiverne threw very little punches early, trying to feel out his opponent and maybe hoping the younger challenger might punch himself out looking for an early knockout.
The fighters engaged in a wild flurry at the close of the second round which ended with Stiverne taking down the challenger with a tackle.
In the seventh, Wilder staggered Stiverne with a left-right combination.
Stiverne, who was born in Haiti but grew up in Montreal, dropped to 24-2-1 with 21 knockouts.
Stiverne, 36, said he felt vulnerable and slow and absorbed too many punches.
“It just feels like I was flat in the ring,” Stiverne said. “I didn’t do what I know I can do. I need to go back and work on the mistakes.
“I couldn’t cut the ring. I couldn’t move my head like normal.”
Wilder has now established himself as the best heavyweight in the world not named Klitschko. His is hoping to get a chance to defend his title against Wladimir Klitschko who holds all the other major heavyweight belts.
In the main bout of the undercard, Leo Santa Cruz stopped Jesus Ruiz in the eighth round to successfully defend his WBC super bantamweight title.
San Cruz (29-0) trapped the challenger on the ropes and fired away with both hands before the referee stepped in to stop it.
The most spirited fight of the night saw Amir Iman recover from an earlier knockdown to defeat Fidel Maldonado in a junior welterweight contest.
Iman was knocked down by Maldonado in the third but came back to drop Maldonado twice later in the round.
He knocked Maldonado again in the fifth and the referee stopped the fight at 2:59 of the round.