Nothing reveals a combatant’s character quite like adversity. The truest measure of a warrior’s worth is the response to a less than favorable situation; they can say heart, grit and fortitude are part of their DNA, but you never really know until you’ve seen it on display.
Saturday, March 3rd, WBC Heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder, was pushed to the brink, back against the ropes and to the proverbial wall by the more experienced, higher skilled Luis Ortiz. Nonetheless, Wilder was resolute, illustrating the spirit of a fighter and a limitless supply of moxie, in route to a career defining 10th round stoppage win. A crowd of over 14,000 watched from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, while millions more tuned in Live tor Showtime Championship Boxing.
Wilder (40-0, 39 KO’s), nicknamed the “Bronze Bomber”, had the explosiveness of a wet firecracker in rounds 1-4. That’s because “King Kong” Ortiz (28-1, 24 KO’s) stalked behind a southpaw jab, lefty 1-2 combination and counters, which reduced Deontay to pawing with his own jab, blocking/evading more punches than he’s probably accustomed to, and constantly giving ground, fighting off his back foot. Wilder, a bronze medalist for the U.S. at the 2008 Olympics, tried to be more aggressive in the 4th and was put right back in his place by a double jab-left cross from the Cuban amateur star.
Round 5 came, and just when it seemed Wilder was without answers or adjustments, probably showing too much respect and on the fast track to getting schooled, a pawing jab-right hand combo made Ortiz do the Stanky Leg. A follow-up right hook to the neck/shoulder region forced Ortiz to the canvas, but he beat the count and the bell ended the stanza without any other blows thrown or landed. Right then, right there, the fight was on! If the first half had been underwhelming, perhaps even disappointing and undeserving of the pre-fight hype, the second half would more than make up for it, taking its rightful place as a “Fight of the Year” candidate for 2018.
Ortiz pounded his gloves together, signaling he was far from done, after being grazed by a Wilder right in the 6th. From there, a wild exchange ensued, with neither landing anything substantive. Ortiz regained control of the bout by the 7th when he froze Wilder with a counter right and staggered him after a follow-up left/ chopping right connected. Wilder was badly hurt, desperately trying to hold on and absorbing left crosses, flurries to the body and approximately 30-35 unanswered blows, all told. Wilder made it back to his corner at the bell, albeit drunkenly. He couldn’t have been dominated worse without being dropped, in that frame.
But the Cuban’s moment was fleeting and by the end of the 9th, he was wobbled by a right to the temple. A right cross placed Ortiz in serious trouble in the 10th, so much so, he was flung to the canvas out of a clinch. No knockdown, but the writing was now on the wall. A wild, looping right-left upside the head dropped Ortiz to his hands and knees. Up at the count of 9, Luis would assume a similar position seconds later, courtesy of two winging rights and a right uppercut, that rendered him unable to continue. In the immediate aftermath, Wilder readily acknowledged Ortiz was the best he’d ever faced, and paid homage to his daughter who, like Deontay’s, suffers with a medical ailment. Wilder also added, “King Kong ain’t got nothing on me”, borrowing Denzel Washington’s famous line from the movie “Training Day”.
Just as Anthony Joshua’s mettle was tested in his back and forth war with Wladimir Klitschko, so to was Wilder’s, as it pertains to Ortiz. The PED scares were for naught as Ortiz was administered at least 10 pre-fight urinalyses, with 2 more scheduled post-fight. He showcased the vaunted boxing acumen and know-how Cuban fighter’s have come to be known for, and was well on his way to winning this fight. But the punching power of Wilder changed that outcome. It’s bordering on otherworldly and all it takes is one well placed shot to alter fates.
As for the aforementioned Joshua, a significant amount of pressure has now been heaped upon him to share a ring with the “Bronze Bomber”. 40-0, 39 KO’s vs. 20-0, 20 KO’s; who doesn’t want to see that? After “A.J.’s” unification with Joseph Parker, there’s no other heavyweight fight to be made. Wilder-Joshua harkens back to the divisions glory days; Tyson-Holyfield, Ali-Frazier. In actuality, it’ll likely play out as George Foreman-Ron Lyle did; an epic slugfest that saw both men on the canvas and an early rounds finish. One things for certain, there’s a 0% chance of Wilder-Joshua going 12 full rounds.
Winner by KO!