Heavyweight contender Luis "King Kong" Ortiz, hoping to earn a rematch with world titleholder Deontay Wilder or a shot at unified titlist Anthony Joshua, was forced to go the distance for a rare time in his career, but he won his third fight in a row as he claimed a unanimous decision against Christian Hammer on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The judges scored the fight, which was the co-feature of the Brian Castano-Erislandy Lara junior middleweight world title bout, 100-90, 99-91 and 99-91.

Ortiz suffered the lone loss of his career by 10th-round knockout challenging Wilder for his world title last March 3, also at Barclays Center, in a fight of the year candidate but has been active since in an effort to earn another opportunity.

Although Ortiz is one of boxing's fiercest punchers, he couldn't knock out Hammer, but he did dominate the fight.

"The fight wasn't what I was expecting. It was a hard fight and my corner really had to work with me. It was a hard fight," Ortiz said through an interpreter. "After I got the rhythm, I heated up a little bit. Every heavyweight out there should know that I still have it at [almost] 40. Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, I'm ready. I fought a fight that I hadn't for years, which is box and work, so I'm not disappointed I didn't knock him out. I showed some of my boxing skills tonight."

Ortiz, the far superior boxer and puncher, nailed Hammer with a left to the body that hurt him in the second round. By the fifth round, Hammer's nose was bleeding, but he also bloodied Ortiz's nose and backed him up with a right hand.

But Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs), a 39-year-old southpaw fighting out of Miami, controlled the fight with his power, jab and movement, and Hammer (24-6, 14 KOs), 31, a Romania native fighting out of Germany, landed some powerful right hands but rarely followed up with anything behind it.

According to CompuBox, Ortiz landed 140 o 610 punches (23 percent) and Hammer connected with 84 of 403 (21 percent). Coming into the bout, Hammer had won two fights in a row since a decision loss to Alexander Povetkin in December 2017.

"Ortiz is a very good and experienced fighter," Hammer said. "He's technical and smart, but he's not as intimidating as people say he is. I respect Ortiz, but I don't think he's the best fighter I've ever faced. I'm very confident going forward. I know that I can go the distance with anyone and I'm willing to fight anyone. People thought I'd get knocked out, but I proved them wrong."

Eduardo Ramirez, left, stopped Bryan De Gracia in Round 9 in a featherweight eliminator. Al Bello/Getty Images
Featherweight Eduardo Ramirez stopped Brian De Gracia in the ninth round of a competitive title elimination fight.

The fight was added to the card to open the Showtime broadcast when the 12-round bout between junior lightweights Ricardo Nunez and Edner Cherry was canceled because Cherry fell ill, and Ramirez took advantage of the exposure.

With the victory, Ramirez earned a mandatory fight with secondary world titleholder Xu Can (16-2, 2 KOs), a 24-year-old from China who won a unanimous decision to take the belt from Jesus Rojas on Jan. 26 in Houston.

Ramirez (22-1-3, 9 KOs), 26, a southpaw from Mexico, badly hurt De Gracia (24-2-1, 20 KOs), 25, of Panama, but was trailing on two scorecards going into the ninth round before he landed a left uppercut. He continued to pound away at him, and when he landed a heavy right hand to the head during the follow-up attack, referee Benjy Esteves stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 10 seconds. De Gracia was up 77-75 on two scorecards and the fight was 76-76 on the third scorecard at the time of the stoppage.

"I'd like to dedicate this fight to my deceased grandfather. This win is in memory of him," Ramirez said through an interpreter. "I definitely knew it was close, but my corner kept telling me to keep going and going, and that's when I caught him. I didn't just come here to fight. I came here to do something and I did it."

According to CompuBox, Ramirez landed 154 of 570 punches (27 percent) and De Gracia landed 126 of 793 (16 percent).