Dillian Whyte survived a ninth-round knockdown to overcome Oscar Rivas and edge closer to a world title shot in 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 composed himself 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 previously undefeated Rivas, such risk was made clear. Having been floored, Whyte took another heavy shot but found the spirit to rally with his own work in the closing 20 seconds of the ninth, drawing huge roars around the arena.
“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.