A quick jab and a powerful straight right was all WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder needed to drop challenger Eric Molina in Saturday night’s title fight in Birmingham, Alabama. Now all eyes are set on whether or not Wilder will next face fellow heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko to unify all four belts in the division.
Molina, who was considered a major underdog before the bout, took the third round by rocking Wilder with a power shot. But eventually Wilder supplied a vicious one-two combo with 1:57 left in the ninth round. It was the fourth knockdown of the night for Wilder, and the right hand he broke against Canada’s Bermane Stiverne for the crown back in January held up.
"I actually shot [my right hand] a lot to test it,” Wilder afterwards. “[I wanted] to see if it would hold up to injury and I think it held up pretty good."
The 29-year-old and undefeated Wilder improved his record to 34-0, and his knockout total to 33, once again proving he not only has the size to hang with Klitschko, but also the power to inflict damage on a fighter who hasn’t tasted defeat in 11 years.
It was the first time Wilder put his belt on the line. Technically, he first has a mandatory defense against Russian challenger Alexander Povetkin. But the 6-foot-7 statuesque Wilder was actually fielding questions about Klitschko before he rendered Molina unconscious.
“Well, I'm going to put it like this, that fight is titled not if it's going to happen, but when it's going to happen,” Wilder said to ESPN about Klitschko. “Of course, that's something I think about, but at this moment in time, I'm not focused on him. He will get his turn as well too, and last time I checked, I have the most prestigious, most well-known, most precious, beautiful belt in all of boxing, something that's been around for a very long time, and that's the WBC crown, it's something that everybody wants.”
Klitschko’s yet to face a significant challenge throughout most of his much-heralded reign atop the division. The 39-year-old Ukrainian’s won 21 straight over the last 11 years, tallying 13 knockouts. And after largely fighting over in Europe, Klitschko also made his return to the United States back in April and claimed a unanimous decision over American Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Now it appears Wilder’s rise to prominence is timing up well with Klitschko’s apparent desire to fight in the U.S. The potential combatants are likely each other’s equals at this point in their careers, and the bout would likely be one of the more anticipated and hyped in the heavyweight division in years. It would be a test of Klitschko's tactical and efficient punch selection against Wilder's impressive punching power.