Dillian Whyte survived a ninth-round knockdown to overcome a dangerous Oscar Rivas and edge closer to a world title shot in a gripping bout at London’s O2 Arena Saturday night.
The British heavyweight came close to stopping Colombia’s Rivas in round two after a heavy right hand.
Aiming for a title shot at WBC champion Deontay Wilder, his dreams looked set to be scuppered when an uppercut floored him in the ninth.
But the 31-year-old regained composure to coast to a unanimous 115-112 115-112 116-111 decision.
Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and pop star Ellie Goulding were ringside, as was former world heavyweight champion Frank Bruno.
After a left-right combination sent 32-year-old Rivas staggering in round two, Whyte dictated range with a strong jab, nullifying the pressure Rivas looked to apply.
Whyte’s early power show seemed to discourage Rivas, who received an expletive-laden telling-off from his corner after the sixth as a result of his caution.
Rivas duly served up greater ambition and drama but could not quite build on his knockdown and Whyte came through a test which will surely pave the way to a first world title shot in the next 12 months.
“I went to move and crossed my legs and got caught with a punch,” said Whyte. “I won every round after that. These guys have had hundreds of amateur fights; I had seven.
“I had a hell of a camp, lots of things have been happening behind the scenes. I wanted a war and had a war.
“He’s a great fighter. He’s a tough man. I have a lot of respect for him.”