Barclays Center, Brooklyn - WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder survived a pummeling from Luis Ortiz, then knocked out the challenger in the 10th round Saturday night to retain his crown.
Befitting the undefeated champion from Alabama, it was a wild affair for the final few rounds after a dull series of pawing and gesturing by Wilder gave Ortiz a solid lead.
Even after Wilder knocked down Ortiz in the fifth round, the bout remained in the Cuban's favor.
Instead of folding, Wilder closed the ninth with two hard rights, and then a series of vicious combinations in the 10th started Ortiz's downfall.
"Wilder was definitely saved by the bell. I thought I had him out on his feet. But you have to give him credit, he weathered the storm," Ortiz said.
It was over with 55 seconds to go in the 10th after Ortiz went down for the second time in the round from a right uppercut and referee David Fields stopped it.
Wilder, 32, is 40-0 with 39 knockouts. This easily was his toughest bout. Somehow, he was ahead on all three judges' scorecards.
Ortiz, 38, is 28-1. He couldn't have come much closer to becoming the first Cuban heavyweight belt holder after finally getting his match with Wilder. Their initially scheduled bout was in November, but Ortiz twice tested positive for a banned substance, a diuretic.
He was ready Saturday, but not quite resourceful enough to put the champion away when he had him in trouble.
"In this sport, any punch can end a fight," Ortiz said. "In the ring anything can happen."
What boxing doesn't know is how this performance will affect the division. Wilder's sights have been set on Anthony Joshua, who defends his WBA, IBO and IBF crowns at the end of the month against WBO champ Joseph Parker.
Wilder's toughness and ability to take a punch can't be questioned.