By Victor Salazar
Edwin Rodriguez was ringside to watch heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder defend his WBC title for the third time with a devastating ninth round knockout of Polish challenger Artur Szpilka on Saturday night, live on SHOWTIME in front of 12,668 fans at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
With WBA, IBO and WBO Heavyweight World Champion Tyson Fury and Wilder's mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin watching from ringside, Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) impressed yet again in knocking out his 35th opponent in 36 fights.
It was a close fight until Szpilka walked into a brutal right to the chin while throwing a wide left at 2:24 of the ninth round. Szpilka fell onto his back and remained unconscious on the canvas for a few moments before responding to questions and stating he was fine. Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs) was conversing and moving all his extremities, however he was taken to Lutheran Hospital on a stretcher as a precautionary measure.
"He's doing good," said Szpilka's trainer Ronnie Shields. "He's awake and knows exactly where he is. He didn't want to go to the hospital, but he's going as a precaution. It's better safe than sorry."
Power was the difference for Wilder, a 6-foot-7 bomber who landed 42 percent of his power shots against the southpaw opponent. The 30-year-old briefly celebrated his victory before checking to ensure that Szpilka was going to be fine.
"I told him he was a great contender," Wilder said. "He came to give his all. He gave his all for Brooklyn. I always say two prayers. I say a team prayer and I say an individual prayer. I don't want to hurt a man so he can't go home to his family. We risk our lives every time we step in the ring. He's definitely in my prayers and I hope he's doing well.
"He was definitely a crafty guy," continued Wilder. "I haven't competed against a southpaw in three years. He was a tough competitor, but you're fighting for a world title. It's not supposed to be easy. I'm surprised it took that long, but we had 12 rounds and they can't all can't be pretty."
Fury, the outspoken British unified world champion, climbed into the ring after the fight and claimed he wanted to fight Wilder in a unification blockbuster.
"Any time, any place, anywhere. I'll fight you in your backyard after I beat (Wladimir) Klitschko again."
Wilder, the first American heavyweight champion in nearly a decade, dismissed Fury's antics while promising he was game for a showdown that is undoubtedly one of the biggest fights that can be made in boxing.
"We all know Fury is just a phony," Wilder said. "This is just an act. I'm not scared of anybody. We'll come to your backyard. This is just an act - you're not a real fighter. I don't play. This isn't wrestling. When you do step in that ring with me I promise you I will baptize you.
"I would love to fight him next, unfortunately, I have other mandatories due. Make the date Tyson, I promise you."