Deontay Wilder gets his KO but it takes longer than expected
Eric Molina ended up exactly where almost everyone thought he would. It just took a lot longer than anticipated.
Deontay Wilder put the challenger down four times and won the first defense of his WBC heavyweight title by a knockout in the ninth round Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama, about an hour’s drive from Wilder’s hometown of Tuscaloosa.
The emphatic ending didn’t tell the whole story, though. Wilder survived a serious scare and had to work very hard to win.
Wilder (34-0, 33 knockouts) spent the first few rounds pumping his jab and trying to land his vaunted right hand, which has instantly ended so many of fights. However, Molina, not terribly active but cagey, managed to duck under almost all of the rights and land a few of his own power shots.
The scare came in the third round, when a left hook to the chin from the strong, 6-foot-4 Texan clearly hurt Wilder. However, Molina, perhaps fearful of being countered or unaware of Wilder’s state, didn’t follow up with enough urgency and the danger passed.
Then, like the Crimson Tide at the University of Alabama, Wilder began to roll.
A left hook put Molina down in the final seconds of Round 4. In Round 5, a big right hurt Molina again and he hit the canvas a second time. He got up but quickly went down again as the result of a barrage of hard punches that was punctuated by a clubbing right to the head.
Molina still wouldn’t give up, though. He not only survived but, somehow energized, continued to look for that big shot that would stun the world. It never came.
Instead it was Wilder who finally gave his supporters what they came to see: a perfect, short right hand to the chin that forced Molina to pitch forward, hit the ropes and then flip over on his back as the crowd at Bartow Arena went wild.
At that moment, referee Jack Reiss had seen enough. He waved off the fight without counting, giving Wilder his victory at 1:03 of the round.
Wilder didn’t throw many shots, as the punch stats bear out, but he certainly made the most of the ones on which he connected. Wilder landed only 141 of 303 total punches but 66 of 118 power shots — an impressive 56 percent. He also landed 75 of 185 jabs. Molina landed only 49 of 188 punches overall, 43 of 116 power shots and 6 of 72 jabs.
Afterward, Wilder was asked whether he was surprised that Molina lasted as long as he did and he admitted he was. He also said he was grateful that Molina proved to be resilient.
“To be honest, I was definitely surprised,” Wilder said. “It does my heart so good to stand in front of him right now to say, man, this guy got heart. All the critics doubted him. All the naysayers said he wouldn’t be able to last. But I’m so proud of him. He got my support from this point on.
“This is the first ever title defense in any weight division in the state of Alabama. What I needed was a tough guy. I needed a guy that had heart. I needed a guy that was going to get dropped but come back up and still fight. I needed that and, Eric Molina, I got that out of him.
“It wouldn’t have done the state of Alabama no good to see a quick knockout because half of them ain’t never been to a boxing match and for some it was the first time. So, man, I respect him and I thank him for ÔÇª accepting the challenge and putting on a great show for the state of Alabama.”
Wilder said his main concern going into the fight was his surgically repaired right hand, which was broken when he took the title from Bermane Stiverne by decision in January, but it held up fine on Saturday night.
“One of the reasons I wanted to shoot my right hand (early in the fight) so much was that I wanted to test it,” he said. “that was one of the biggest things in my mind ÔÇª to see if my hand would hold up. It came out great. He was doing a lot of ducking [but] I got some shots in and was still trying to test it. ÔÇª
“That was the only doubt I had in my mind each and every time. I was like, ‘All right, let me try this round, let me try that round.’ It turned out real great. We’re a thinker; we like to think in the ring. We don’t like to rush in there. You saw I was calm, I was cool, collected. I was picking my shots. That’s what it’s all about.
“I used to be Wild because my last name is Wilder. Right now we’re just a technician, we’re trying to become a technician and box instead of being the hardcore puncher. We know the punches will come; we’re just taking our time with it.”
Wilder went on: “I’m definitely still a work in progress and learning. I always tell myself that once I stop learning, I don’t want to be in this sport no more. I have fun when I’m learning. When I’m a know it all, there’s nothing else to learn. That’s no fun.
“I think I’ll still be a work in progress until I collect all the belts. I’ll still be a work in progress until I retire.”
Molina offered no excuses.
“I told you guys I would come and bring everything I got. I gave everything I got,” he said. “ÔÇª It wasn’t the result I wanted but what can I do?”
Nothing. It didn’t go exactly as expected but, in the end, it was Wilder’s night.