Deontay Wilder outclassed Bermane Stiverne over 12 rounds Saturday night to lift the WBC heavyweight title by unanimous decision. Wilder (33-0, 32 KO’s) dropped the now-former champion at the end of round two, though it was not ruled a knockdown, and controlled the fight thereafter. Official scores were 120-107, 119-108 and 118-109.
InTheCorner.net scored the fight 116-111 for Wilder, eight rounds to four, with one two-point round.
The fight started slowly, despite the widespread expectation of a firefight, and business didn’t pick up till the waning seconds of round two. With Wilder controlling the action behind a solid jab and good movement, he connected with power shots that rocked Stiverne in the final seconds. Stiverne (24-2-1, 21 KO’s), wobbled forward and slipped as Wilder moved back towards a corner to try to get more punching room. Several power shots landed and Stiverne went down as the bell sounded and referee Tony Weeks ruled it was not a knockdown. All three judges scored the round 10-8 for Wilder, however.
With many expecting Stiverne to come out wobbly for round three, the defending champ righted the ship and fought well. But a pattern of Stiverne following Wilder around the ring was established and was a factor throughout the fight. While Wilder clearly had a strategy of jabbing, moving, setting up big power shots and staying out of trouble, Stiverne appeared to have just one plan for victory: land a huge shot.
It didn’t happen often, but Stiverne did land some powerful shots, especially a lethal left hook, but Wilder took them well. Despite never fighting past four rounds in his career, Wilder had the stamina to control the fight all the way to the end of 12 rounds.
Mark Breland clearly did a fantastic job preparing Wilder for this fight. There was never a point when Wilder looked like he was in over his head and he masterfully stayed out of dangerous situations, including the final round when he smothered Stiverne for long periods to prevent a last-minute game-changer.
In an earlier fight, Leo Santa Cruz (29-0-1, 17 KO’s) retained his WBC super bantamweight title with a TKO8 over Jesus Ruiz (33-6-5, 22 KO’s). There were no knockdowns, but the fight was waved off at the 29-second mark of the round with Ruiz under duress.
And Amir Imam (16-0, 14 KO’s) won the vacant WBC Continental Americas super bantamweight title with a TKO5 over Fidel Maldonado Jr. (19-3, 16 KO’s). There were five knockdowns in this fight, Maldonado Jr. four times and Imam once. Official time of the stoppage was 2:59 of the fifth round.