Las Vegas, NV (SportsNetwork.com) – Deontay Wilder became the first American to win a heavyweight title in more than eight years when he earned a lopsided decision over Bermane Stiverne for the WBC belt on Saturday night.
In a fight that wasn’t expected to go the distance, Wilder (33-0) seemed in control for most of the 12 rounds against Stiverne (24-2-1) at MGM Grand.
The scorecards reflected that. Wilder easily won on each of them, capturing his first major title by scores of 120-107, 119-108 and 118-109.
It was the first time in his 33 bouts as a professional that Wilder fought past the fourth round and the first time he didn’t knock his opponent out.
Wilder, known as the “Bronze Bomber” for the medal he won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is the first American heavyweight champion since Shannon Briggs held the WBO title from 2006-07.
The 29-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, showed why each of his previous bouts ended in early knockouts. He stunned Wilder with a combination in the second round that started with a hard right hand and was interrupted by the bell.
Stiverne tackled Wilder into the corner as he went down, though Wilder wasn’t credited with a knockdown.
He jawed at Stiverne as they were down on the mat.
In his third bout in 10 months, Wilder rarely looked in trouble. Stiverne had him up against the ropes after a good left hand in the sixth round and Wilder later withstood a good combo.
But he came back with a combo that shook up Stiverne in the seventh — a jab followed by a hard, straight right on the chin. Stiverne stumbled into the ropes later in the round after coming up short on a punch.
Stiverne, 36, fought for the first time since his sixth-round TKO of Chris Arreola last May 10 gave him claim to the vacant WBC belt.
The title had been vacated in December 2013 when Vitali Klitschko retired to pursue political ambitions in Ukraine.
On the undercard, Leo Santa Cruz stopped Jesus Ruiz in the eighth round to retain the WBC world super bantamweight title.
Santa Cruz (29-0-1, 17 KOs) stunned Ruiz (33-6-5) with a right hand and had him against the ropes when the fight was stopped. It was his fourth successful defense of the title.