A rematch nearly three years in the making turned into a quick, decisive statement for Deontay Wilder, who knocked down Bermane Stiverne three times en route to a first-round knockout win at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday night.
It was an utter mismatch, as Stiverne hardly threw a punch before Wilder erased him. The knockout came with one second left in the ring when Wilder dropped Stiverne with a hammer right hand that knocked the 39-year-old out cold.
Showtime Boxing has the highlight:
ESPN's Dan Rafael and Rappler.com's Ryan Songalia reacted to the end of the fight:
Wilder retained his WBC world heavyweight title with the victory, a belt he took from Stiverne in January 2015 in a unanimous-decision victory and has defended six times since. The knockout win also means Wilder has stopped everyone he has faced, as Stiverne is the only person to have gone the distance with him in his career.
Following the bout, Wilder made it clear he wants to fight Anthony Joshua next, per the Showtime broadcast. Joshua holds the IBF, IBO and WBA belts and has established himself as perhaps the premier boxer in the division with his win over Wladimir Klitschko earlier this year.
Wilder was originally going to fight Luis Ortiz in Saturday's fight, but the latter tested positive for two banned substances, leading to Stiverne's fulfilling his mandatory-challenger status and getting the bout. Stiverne stepped in with about a month's notice, but he was clearly not the test Wilder had in mind.
Bad Left Hook felt the Alabama native was making a statement with his ruthless display:
Songalia noted Stiverne came in 16 pounds heavier than their first meeting, one in which Stiverne said he felt sick and was not up to his usual standard. He came into this second bout with Wilder having been out of the ring for two years and looked completely overmatched and unprepared.
Wilder made his intentions clear from the start, snapping a powerful jab into a stock-still Stiverne, doing little more than bobbing his head, with ease and regularity. A straight right hand earned Wilder the first knockdown, and then a series of hooks to the head sent Stiverne to the canvas for a second time.
RingTV.com's Douglass Fischer didn't like what he saw from Stiverne:
By that point, the bout was a matter of when Wilder would knock Stiverne out, not if. The decisive blows came a few seconds later, an exclamation point on an easy night of work for Wilder as he looks ahead to a blockbuster bout with Joshua.
Wilder has made it abundantly clear he wants to take on a premier fighter like Joshua. The knock on him is that he hasn't fought many fighters of note in amassing his impressive record, though with the likes of Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin failing drug tests before taking him on, it's not for a lack of trying.
Simply put, Wilder-Joshua is the fight to make in the heavyweight division. Considering both men's reputations as fearsome knockout artists, their global appeal (Joshua from England, Wilder from Alabama) and the potential for a unified heavyweight champion, it could be the best bout the sport can put together in 2018.