LOS ANGELES (AFP) - American Deontay Wilder recovered from a seventh-round scare to retain his World Boxing Council heavyweight title on Saturday (March 3) and keep intact his record of knocking out every opponent he has faced.
Wilder knocked down Cuba's Luis Ortiz three times in the fight, finishing off the previously unbeaten challenger with a right uppercut as the referee stopped the fight with 55 seconds left in the 10th round.
"I figured out a way to come back. A true champion always finds way. That's what I did tonight," Wilder said.
The 32-year-old Wilder improved to 40-0 with 39 knockouts as he made the seventh defence of his heavyweight title.
Wilder knocked Ortiz down in the fifth and twice in the final round but Ortiz made him work for the victory at Barclays Center arena in New York.
He barely survived the seventh after Ortiz surprised him with a right hook and left hand combination and followed it up with a barrage of his own.
"He hit me with flurry of punches but it wasn't hard," Wilder said of Ortiz. "He knocked me off balance. I just had to get my fundamentals back and I did."
This was the first career title fight and first loss for the stout Ortiz who weighed in at 109kg, almost 13.6kg heavier than the taller Wilder, standing at 2.04m.
Wilder has been trying unsuccessfully to get a unification fight with two-belt title-holder Anthony Joshua and now hopes this win is a stepping stone to more heavyweight hardware.
But with no date set to fight England's Joshua, Wilder had to face the dangerous counter-punching Ortiz (28-1).
Wilder hopes to next fight the winner of the Joshua-Joseph Parker unification title fight on March 31 in Cardiff, Wales.
Together they are all part of a crop of new fighters who are trying to bring the heavyweight division back into the boxing spotlight.
"I am ready right now. I want to unify. I am ready whenever those guys are," Wilder said.
Wilder did most of the damage on Saturday with his right hand, landing some heavy blows that would have knocked out lesser skilled opponents.
But Ortiz proved to be a crafty counter-puncher with better boxing skills than Wilder.
Late in the fifth round, Wilder knocked Ortiz down by landing a straight right hand on the nose of the challenger.
Sensing he had Ortiz in trouble, Wilder bolted forward and landed another right to the side of Ortiz's head that put him down on the canvas.
Ortiz got up and was saved by the bell before Wilder could do any more damage.
He then wobbled Ortiz again with right hand one round later before Ortiz got his revenge in the seventh.
Ortiz scored with a right hook-left combination and followed it with a barrage of rights and lefts as Wilder stumbled around the ring ducking and trying to hold on.
Wilder managed to stay on his feet but it took him another couple rounds to shake off the cobwebs and score the TKO win late in the 10th.