Dillian Whyte survived a ninth-round knockdown to overcome Oscar Rivas and edge closer to a world-title shot after a gripping bout at London’s O2 Arena.
The British heavyweight was smart early on and was close to stopping Colombia’s Rivas in round two after a right hand.
Whyte, 31, has campaigned for a shot at WBC champion Deontay Wilder but his dreams looked set to be dashed when an uppercut floored him in the ninth.
He found composure to land a unanimous 115-112 115-112 116-111 decision.
Whyte has been ranked as the WBC’s number one heavyweight – behind champion Wilder – for more than 600 days and many have questioned his decision to repeatedly take high-risk fights when a defeat could take his hopes of a title shot away.
In a split second against 32-year-old Rivas such risk was made clear as after being floored Whyte took another heavy shot before unloading his own shots in the closing 20 seconds of the ninth, drawing huge roars around the arena.
The likes of former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and pop star Ellie Goulding were ringside, as was former world heavyweight champion Frank Bruno, who was repeatedly out of his seat encouraging Whyte.
After a left-right combination sent Rivas staggering in round two, Whyte dictated range with a strong jab, nullifying the pressure Rivas looked to apply.
His early power show seemed to discourage the travelling fighter, who received an expletive-laden telling off from his corner after the sixth as a result of his caution.
He duly served up greater ambition and drama but could not quite build on his knockdown and Whyte again came through a test which will surely pave the way to a first world title shot in the next six months.
More to follow.