Big-time boxing is evolving nicely after the tedious reign of Floyd “Money” Mayweather draws to a close, and heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder confirmed that on Saturday.
Wilder was expected to make short work of Mexican challenger Eric Molina in Birmingham, Alabama, but it took him nine eventful rounds to retain his WBC title at the Bartow Arena in front of 9,000 adoring fans.
Unlike Mayweather, who boxes a maximum of twice a year – and only at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Wilder wants to be a busy champ and spread his love across North America before venturing further afield. He won the title by outpointing Bermane Stiverne in Las Vegas in January.
Despite re-injuring his right hand – which has steel pins from surgery six years ago – Wilder intends to be in action again on Sept. 26, this time in Montreal, or possibly Biloxi, Mississippi.
His record is now an unblemished 34-0, including 33 knockouts, and the ultimate aim is a match with Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, who holds all the other significant heavyweight belts. Wilder must face mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin of Russia at some point, but that is unlikely to happen until next year.
Fellow Americans Tony Thompson and Chris Arreola are the most likely opponents, although Wilder would love to face unbeaten Brit Tyson Fury, who has been taunting him for months.
There is more top level boxing this weekend.
Unbeaten former super-middleweight king Andre Ward returns after almost two years out in a non-title catchweight bout against brave but limited Brit Paul Smith in Oakland on Saturday.
On the same night, Shawn Porter and Adrien Broner square up in a non-title welterweight bout in Las Vegas, and in Montreal, Hassan N’Dam fights David Lemieux for the vacant IBF middleweight crown.
Jamaica no longer has a world champion boxer, although he remains unbeaten.
Nicholas “The Axeman” Walters took his record to 26-0, including 21 knockouts, but although he unanimously outpointed Colombian Miguel Marriaga, the WBA featherweight title becomes vacant because Walters was a pound over the 126-pound limit at the weigh-in the day before.
Had Marriaga beaten him, he would have become the new champ. Walters put Marriaga down in the ninth round at New York’s Madison Square Garden, but he was stripped of the belt for being overweight and will have to pay a hefty fine.