Wilder retains Title ; Cruz Edges Dillashaw


Deontay Wilder KO9 Artur Szpilka – Retains a heavyweight title

Dan Raphael


Records: Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs); Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs)

Rafael’s remarks: At 6-foot-7 and 229 pounds, Wilder, 30, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is a big man. He also has a big personality that could go a long way to making him one of boxing’s biggest stars eventually. And he also has a big punch — a really big punch — that is a fight- changer. It was that big punch, with his vaunted right hand, that absolutely erased Szpilka, 26, a former soccer hooligan who was aiming to
become the first Polish heavyweight to win a world title but instead left the ring on a stretcher.

Yes, it’s only January and the boxing year is in it infancy, but the next 11½ months will be hard-pressed to produce another such knockout of the year contender, one that happened with heavyweight legends Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, two of boxing’s greatest punchers, sitting ringside.

Punch Stats
Landed 75 63
Thrown 250 230
Percent 30% 27%
— Courtesy of CompuBox

The fight, headlining Showtime’s opening card of the year before a very enthusiastic crowd of 12,668 (mostly Polish fans rooting for Szpilka), was a pretty good one, albeit a bit sloppy. Wilder and Szpilka will never remind anyone of technically sound boxers with natural technique, but they come to fight and even if it’s a bit of a mess, they make it fun. Szpilka unquestionably was giving Wilder, who was
making his third title defense and fighting for the fourth time in 364 days, problems. But Wilder, with his long reach and quickness, never seemed truly bothered by Szpilka’s attack. So the fight was going on along nicely with Wilder seemingly having things under control and headed to a competitive decision victory — he was ahead 78-74, 78-74 and 77-75 on the scorecards going into the ninth round — when the
big blast happened.

Wilder and the 6-foot-3, 233-pound Szpilka were near the corner when Wilder landed a brutal right hand as clean and flush as possible smack on his chin. Szpilka never saw it coming. His arms flew up in the air and he crashed to the mat. He was out cold and referee Mike Griffin quickly stopped the count at 2 minutes, 24 seconds as medical personnel swarmed Szpilka. He was down for several minutes receiving medical attention before being removed from the ring on a stretcher and taken to the hospital as a precaution. Fortunately, Szpilka’s tests came back fine and he will be OK.

What happened after the huge knockout was almost as entertaining as lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs), who won the title by scoring a huge upset against long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 28, crashed the ring and Wilder’s post-fight interview. It was a scene right out of WWE as they trash talked each other, went nose to nose and professed a deep desire to hurt the other man. It was a wild scene and the fight would be massive. But it is not going to happen in the immediate future. England’s Fury has a rematch on tap with Klitschko in the late spring or early summer and Wilder is due to make a mandatory defense against worthy Russian contender Alexander Povetkin (who was also ringside) in a fight also likely to happen this spring or early summer. If Wilder and Fury can keep winning, perhaps they will eventually fight. Until then, hopefully their bouts can be as entertaining as their post-fight confrontation.


dominic cruz

Brett Okamoto
ESPN Staff Writer

BOSTON — Dominick Cruz is the new UFC bantamweight champion of the world, though “new” doesn’t feel like the right description.

In just his second appearance in four years, Cruz (21-1) reclaimed the UFC’s 135-pound championship by defeating T.J. Dillashaw via split decision Sunday at UFC Fight Night in TD Garden. The victory reunited Cruz with a belt he was stripped of in early 2014 due to injuries.

The five-round tilt was extremely close. None of the three judges gave the same scores — two gave the bout to Cruz by scores of 49-46 and 48-47, and the third had it for Dillashaw at 48-47.

The result made for a storybook return for Cruz. The San Diego native endured three ACL surgeries and a torn quadriceps in the past four years. He was 26 at the time of the first injury and was then considered one of the top pound-for-pound martial artists in the world.

“Honestly, nobody is retiring me except for me,” Cruz said. “I’ve been through too much. The only surprising thing was I had to show something to myself. That’s what this was.”

According to Fightmetric, the two fighters landed a virtually identical number of punches. Dillashaw had a slight edge, 144 to 136, but Cruz was credited with three takedowns. Prior to Sunday, Dillashaw had never surrendered a takedown in the UFC.
Dominick Cruz’s split-decision win Sunday marked his second appearance in the Octagon in four years. In that span, Cruz underwent three ACL surgeries and suffered a torn quadriceps. Al Powers for ESPN
Dillashaw, who left his longtime home at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento to train for this fight in Denver, said he felt he had done enough.

“Very disappointed, man,” Dillashaw said. “I thought I had that fight. I thought I was the aggressor, pushed the pace, scored the bigger shots. That’s the way it is. It’s a tough one to take. I feel like I won that fight.”

UFC president Dana White praised Dillashaw’s performance, but did not offer his score of the fight. He declined to say anything about who Cruz could fight next.

Coming into Sunday, it was expected that former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber (33-8) would get the next shot. Cruz and Faber have fought twice previously. The series stands at 1-1.

Dillashaw’s head coach, Duane Ludwig, took the microphone during a postfight press conference and asked White about the potential for an immediate rematch between Cruz and Dillashaw. White didn’t show his hand.

“Honestly, nobody is retiring me except for me. I’ve been through too much. The only surprising thing was I had to show something to myself. That’s what this was.”

Dominick Cruz
“I don’t know,” White said. “We’ll see what happens. I don’t even if [Cruz] is healthy.”

Cruz also declined to talk about his next fight.

“I just won the belt,” Cruz said. “I’ve said this so many times. Nothing really belongs to you. Right when you hold the belt up, Dana, [UFC CEO] Lorenzo Fertitta, the media, everybody in the world is already coming up with three other matchups for you. I haven’t even gotten a pat on the back for the win and you’re already asking who I’m fighting next.”

Dillashaw was the busier fighter, as he pursued Cruz throughout while attempting to string together combinations against his elusive opponent. He repeatedly finished combinations with head kicks in an attempt to corral the movement of the constantly shifting Cruz.

Cruz, who is also a former WEC champion, responded with counterpunching. He tried to mix in offensive wrestling as well, timing double leg shots as Dillashaw marched forward. Although he managed to take Dillashaw down, he wasn’t able to keep him on his back. Dillashaw was terrific in the scramble and nearly took Cruz’s back in the fourth round.

In addition to the head kicks, Dillashaw targeted Cruz with outside leg kicks. He had mixed success with the maneuver, though Cruz was visibly limping by the fifth round. He later said it was due to a prefight injury to his left foot.

Neither fighter scored a knockdown or really attempted a submission. Cruz went for one anaconda choke in the middle of a scramble in the third, but Dillashaw rolled out of it and nearly took top position before they rose to their feet.

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