WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder made the first defence, at the Bartow Arena, Birmingham, Alabama, USA. Eric “The Drummer Boy” Molina, of Raymondville, Texas, the selected voluntary challenger. From Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Wilder won in the first-ever world championship contest in his home state of Alabama.
It was a ‘Cat and mouse’ type of fight in the opening few rounds, Wilder stalking and Molina moving. Molina was trying the occasional explosive counter and in the third had his best moment when a left hook stiffened the legs of the champion. Wilder regained composure and gained payback in the fourth, when a hard left at the end of the round dropped Molina. Eric rose and seemed fine, the bell ringing – so Wilder unable to follow up.
Two knockdowns followed in the fifth, Molina getting hurt and then turning his back and being put down. Molina had landed his own right hand a couple of times. The first knockdown came, when two Wilder right hands had the challenger visibly hurt and retreating to the ropes, where he turns his back and gets put over by a left hook.
Molina beats the count, then is forced into a hasty retreat as Wilder starts unloading and a vicious right uppercut does damage – Molina moves, turning away, and a right helps him find the floor. Between rounds, referee Jack Reiss warns Molina about turning his back.
A steady sixth round, with Wilder in total control. Seventh and pretty uneventful. Wilder missing with plenty and leaves his chin up in the air too often, luckily he’s fighting Eric Molina and not the likes of Alexander Povetkin or Wladimir Klitschko. Both boxers tired in the eighth, pace was pedestrian. The occasional pot-shot from both, though Molina had a good attack, at the end of the round, as Wilder rests, with high guard, on the ropes.
A hard right hand brought the knock-out finish, in the ninth, Molina on his back and the referee not needing to count.
Eric Molina was a huge underdog going into this fight, and most didn’t expect him to get past the first round. Yet, he did and staggered the champion in the third. “The Drummer Boy” went down several times and got up, though ultimately he was out-gunned. Deontay Wilder, needed rounds and he unexpectedly got them, he also got the chance to fully test his right hand, which was injured in his previous fight (against Bermane Stiverne).
After the fight, the defending champion acknowledged that he is still a “work in progress” and “still learning”. Let’s be honest, those statements are perfectly correct. Next up is his mandatory, against Russian Alexander Povetkin and if politics don’t get in the way; we will see Deontay Wilder truly tested and I’m not sure he’d pass. I’ll certainly be tuning in to find out.
New Professional records: Deontay Wilder 34-0, 33 KOs; Eric Molina 23-3, 17 KOs.