Deontay Wilder’s inexperience showed for much of his WBC championship bout against awkward Polish southpaw Artur Szpilka in what the punch stats said was a very even bout. But when he had to have it, Wilder beat a wide left hand from Szpilka with a bombshell of a right hand that stretched the challenger out cold on the canvas in scary fashion Saturday night at Barclays Center.
The end of Szpilka’s dream of becoming the first Polish heavyweight champion came at 2:24 of the ninth round. It was the third defense for Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs), and it marked the second time Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs) had been stopped.
Shortly after the end, English heavyweight Tyson Fury, who ended the long reign of Wladimir Klitschko with an upset unanimous decision in November, climbed into the ring to trade insults with Wilder. It seemed pointless because Wilder now faces a mandatory defense against No. 1 WBC challenger Alexander Povetkin.
“I don’t take the guy seriously at all,” Wilder said of Fury. “I wasn’t in the mood. We had a man on the ground hurt. I never want to hurt no one to the point so they can’t go back to their children.”
Szpilka was out cold for about two minutes in the ring and was taken out of the ring on a gurney with his neck immobilized. But promoter Lou DiBella later said the measure was precautionary and that Szpilka should be all right.
The Wilder-Szpilka bout was the second of two heavyweight title fights in front of a crowd of 12,668. American Charles Martin (23-0-1, 21 KOs) grabbed the vacant IBF title when he stopped Ukrainian Vyacheslav Glazkov (21-1-1, 13 KOs) at 1:50 of the third round when Glazkov suffered a torn right ACL injury while being knocked down.
But Wilder was the headliner, and he admittedly had trouble getting comfortable against the Polish southpaw, who had an 18-6 lead on power punches landed through the first three rounds, according to CompuBox. “I haven’t faced a southpaw in three years,” Wilder said. “It took me more time to adjust than I thought it would . . . His style was crazy awkward.”
Wilder was ahead on all three cards when the fight ended, but the CompuBox stats told a different story. Wilder landed only 39 power punches compared to 38 for Szpilka. But that extra one was a doozy.
In the eighth, a Wilder right landed flush, but Szpilka just stared at him like it was nothing. That changed in the ninth when Szpilka threw a looping left and Wilder ducked inside to crash the right flush on the challenger’s jaw.
Speaking of the shot in the eighth, Wilder said: “Most of the time when I hit him with the right hand, my position wasn’t right. I wasn’t stable enough to hit him. I was very cautious. I didn’t want to take risks.
“I knew when it was time for it to happen, it would happen. And it did . . . My right hand is a monster. I knew it was over immediately when I hit him.”
The WBC and IBF title bouts marked the first time in more than 115 years that a heavyweight championship had been staged in Brooklyn. The arena was alive with energy generated by large contingents of Polish and Ukrainian fans, but it wasn’t long before Martin and Glazkov turned those cheers to jeers for their lack of activity.
Early in the third, Martin landed a right that Glazkov weathered, but he fell a moment later in what was ruled a slip. But the next time Martin connected with a short right for a clean knockdown, Glazkov’s right knee buckled. The bout was stopped after Glazkov limped to his corner.
“I slipped and felt a sharp pain in my knee,” Glazkov said. “I’m very upset.”
At that point, Martin had only landed 26 punches to 19 by Glazkov, but suddenly, he owned the IBF belt. “He twisted his [knee] when I hit him,” Martin said. “Anywhere I landed it was a force. He didn’t even fight. I feel sorry for him.”