BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It was set up to be that way. A knockout, that is. But, as the rounds kept passing and as Eric Molina remained standing, the hometown crowd in Birmingham, Alabama, seemed to relish in the sport of boxing.
Deontay Wilder knocked out Molina in the 9th round after landing a right hand to the temple, and the rest is history. Or, for Saturday night at least, the rest was history.
"This was a great evening of boxing here in Birmingham," Don King, Molina's promoter said during the post-fight press conference. "The big win tonight was by Alabama and the way that [Deontay Wilder] speaks of Alabama."
Kevin Iole of Yahoo said it would only go two to three rounds. Dan Rafael of ESPN concurred. So did Jonathan Snowden of Bleacher Report, Jake Donavan of Boxing Scene, our own Scott Christ at Bad Left Hook -- and so did every conglomerate of the media and every fan that showed up to Birmingham's energized arena.
Molina acknowledged that, saying, "He's a great champion, he's a hard hitter and people are going to want to take things away from him tonight [with the fact that it went 9 rounds], but the world had no idea what I was coming with in my heart. That could never be measured on paper or my résumé. I came with everything and I would've given trouble to anybody tonight."
That's what kept the crowd in-tune, that's what added buzz to an already buzzing arena, that's what made this title fight an exceptional showcase for boxing.
"Standing opposite of Deontay there, I compare it to the movie Gladiator," Molina said of the crowd when the "De-on-tay, De-on-tay" chant was echoed amidst the 9,347 fans in attendance. "It was an intense moment and it was something that I'll cherish just to be there and to hear that pride for Wilder. It actually was a rush for me as well."
After an undercard that featured Jose "Sniper" Pedraza's agility and quickness against Andrey Klimov's Russian strength, that crowd was undeniably ready. It lasted 7 hours for some who arrived at 3 p.m. for a 10-fight card, and for others, they should up just in time. For all, though, it was "fun." That was what many in attendance told me, "It was 'fun.'"
Wilder, too, had fun, saying, "I just wanted to stay calm tonight. I wasn't worried about getting tired, I wasn't worried about my shape, I was just worried about having fun. I don't care about the rounds, if I have to go rounds let's do it. It feels good to give the people what they wanted to see, like tonight. And they loved it."
Nice crowd at UAB for #WilderMolina. Boxing doesn't put on nearly enough fights in locations that can draw a crowd for a hometown guy.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) June 14, 2015
Love is what Jay Deas has for Deontay Wilder. He began with Wilder at his Skyy Boxing gym in Tuscaloosa and hasn't looked back. Deas, an advocate for boxing in "The Heart of Dixie" for years, agreed with Chris Mannix's tweet, saying, "If you go back to my day, Tony Lopez in Sacramento, Virgil Hill in North Dakota, Roy Jones in Pensacola, the local thing can really happen and we have 20 years of groundwork that we've laid here and Deontay really put that through the roof."
The roof tonight -- the bar as some might call it -- was set extraordinarily high, again, by Wilder. The promotion was entertaining, the boxing mirrored that and it engaged the fans with the sport they love or now will love.
"Everything went just like I wanted it to go," said Wilder. "I'm happy with the performance, I'm happy with the crowd, as far as everything that was involved, I'm happy."
In closing, he asked, "Y'all want some more, right?"
Directed to the fans but indirectly sent to the sport, boxing needs some more of nights like these.