As the rounds went by, Deontay Wilder waited like a lion in the grass watching a herd of gazelle, anticipating the right time to strike against Artur Szpilka.
Making the third defense of his world heavyweight title on January 16 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Deontay Wilder continually pressed forward looking to score his 35th knockout in 36 professional fights.
Artur Szpilka was the first southpaw to face Wilder in nearly three years, and the Polish challenger kept the "Bronze Bomber" largely at bay early in the bout using his mobility and working behind his jab.
As the fight progressed, though, Wilder's desire to land a crushing blow never wavered-and he finally found his opening late in Round 9.
With the round winding down, Szpilka lunged forward and ducked his head as he attempted to blast Wilder with a wide left hook. As Szpilka let his punch go, the champ promptly countered with a mammoth straight right that caught his opponent square on the jaw and sent him flailing to the canvas.
Wilder danced across the ring in celebration without even looking back at Szpilka, who ended up flat on his back with his arms outstretched over his head and his eyes staring blankly toward the arena rafters.
"It was a devastating right hand," Wilder said in his locker room after the fight. "I knew from the time it landed that it was over."
The lights-out punch continued Wilder's reign as heavyweight champion. It also gained the nod from the staff of Premier Boxing Champions as PBC's Knockout of the Year for 2016.
The crushing KO beat out Thomas Williams Jr.'s second-round blast of Edwin Rodriguez on April 30, Adonis Stevenson's fourth-round stoppage of Williams on July 29 and Murat Gassiev's first-round finish of Jordan Shimmell on May 17.
"[Szpilka] was trying to be a little slick, doing his job of moving, so it took a little bit longer than I expected to adjust to him," Wilder said after the fight. "But no fighter can withstand my right hand for a long period of time. It just took the right moment."
After the spectacular knockout, Szpilka was carried out of the ring on a stretcher and taken to a hospital for further examination before being released.
"When you get hit solid with this right hand, it's bad news," Wilder said. "When I got his coordination down, where he was going to be when I threw a punch and where he was going to put his head, it was over."
Coming Thursday: the PBC Fight of the Year. For all of our year-end honors, follow our Best of PBC 2016 entries.
*This article originally ran on the Premier Boxing Champions website