Deontay Wilder knocked Eric Molina out after nine rounds in Alabama to retain the WBC world heavyweight championship.
The 239-pound Texan had already been knocked down on three occasions but managed to get up every time before Wilder delivered the final big blow with 1:03 left in the ninth.
Tuscaloosa-native Wilder, 29, was defending the belt he won from Bermane Stiverne in January in what was the first-ever world championship fight in his home state of Alabama.
“This is what it’s all about,” he told Showtime. “This is the first of many title fights in Alabama.”
On Molina, he added: “To be honest, I definitely was surprised. It does my heart so good even standing in front of him right now and say this guy has heart.
“All the critics doubted him, all the naysayers said he wouldn’t last but I’m so proud of him.
“He has my support from this point on because this is the first ever title defence in any weight division in the state of Alabama.
“What I needed was a tough guy, I needed a guy that had heart, I needed a guy that was going to get dropped but come back up and still fight. I needed that. And Eric Molina, I got that out of him.”