SAN DIEGO, Calif., November 20, 2019 – It’s heavyweight title fight week in Las Vegas, Nevada, an early Thanksgiving present for boxing fans. Fair warning, the main dish might be a little overcooked though still enjoyable.
No one will argue the first heavyweight championship fight between Deontay Wilder of Tuscaloosa, Alabama (41-0-1, 40 KOs) and Luiz Ortiz of Florida via Cuba (31-2, 26 KOs) in March 2018 was a thrill ride with several twists and turns before coming to an end.
Is it worth seeing again? Has the ride gotten boring overnight? Fans will find out on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, with the bout airing as part of a Fox Pay Per View event starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Sorting out the heavyweight division sweepstakes
“This is what it’s all about in the heavyweight division,” said Wilder. “The big boys. It’s the heavy hitters where one hit can end everything no matter how hard a person has worked, no matter how many weeks, how many months. One fight, one night, one blow can end it all. And we already know I’m the hardest hitter, probably in boxing history period. I’m coming to keep my title. November 23 will be a great moment and I can’t wait.”
“Wilder is the best heavyweight of this decade and until someone beats him, he will remain the top dog,” said Ortiz. “We have a different strategy in place that I believe will be the difference in this rematch. I have plans to end this fight before the final bell, but if we need to go the distance, I’m well prepared to take it all the way.”
Ortiz points out that everyone in the heavyweight division punches hard. I’ve had 500 fights including my amateur fights. At heavyweight, everyone has power. Sometimes it feels like a horse is kicking you. Wilder has a lot of strength, but I’m going to show what I know and what I can do.
“Like I said before, and Deontay said too, this is not going 12 rounds. One of us is getting knocked out. I wish there were no bells between rounds so we could just keep going.”
“I’m the best in the world and I say it with confidence,” said Wilder. “With that being said, I have to give the fans what they’re hungry for. That’s exciting fights. The heavyweight division was in a dark place, but now it’s on fire and I must keep it going.”
Wilder: ‘I want to bless him’
In the first meeting, Wilder dropped Ortiz in the fifth round. Ortiz gathered himself and returned fire in the ninth round. Wilder barely avoided the same fate. Wilder turned the fight back in his favor and used the equalizer weapon, AKA his right hand, to stop Ortiz, sealing his seventh successful defense of his WBC World Heavyweight title.
Since then, Wilder one-upped himself on the big drama show scale with another wildly entertaining, unpredictable fight against Tyson Fury. No one can begrudge Wilder his easier outing against Dominic Breazeale in May, needing just one minute to send the Californian back to the dressing room.
Wilder needed to find a dance partner to stay active and remind fans he’s in the mix. With several other players waiting just offstage, it seemed like there were many worthwhile options from aging warhorse Alexander Povetkin to perennial opponent Joseph Parker, to ambitious contender Adam Kownacki, even Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev. What a shame Oleksandr Usyk. Filip Hrgovic, and Joe Joyce aren’t quite ready to rumble.
So, Ortiz got the nod. Wilder says he granted the Cuban a rematch in part because he deserved a second chance, and because of their shared affinity as fathers with daughters both facing medical challenges.
“Ortiz has a family. I grew a great bond with Ortiz the first time with his child and my child, as she was born with a disorder as well,” said Wilder. “So I know personally how hard it is and how much it takes to take care of a child with a disorder. It takes a lot of money and it takes a lot of care and I grew a great bond with him.
“I have seen him as one of the top guys in the heavyweight division and I want to bless him. You need money to support them and I wanted to bless him again for not only for him being a great warrior, one of the best in the world, but also for his family. I wanted to bless his family and put him on pay-per-view,” explained Wilder.
But don’t mistake Wilder’s kindness for lack of fire in the ring. “This might be his last at 40 years old. Coming in we all know when you fight Deontay Wilder I take something from you. I take years from your life. And that is me going to him again to get some more.”
Ortiz: ‘I believe I’m the best’
“I have absolutely nothing personal towards Deontay,” agreed Ortiz. “I respect him as a man, father, human being and that’s got nothing to do with nothing. It’s all about being a world champion, coronating myself that night on the 23rd, achieving my goal since I was 10 years old.”
“Deontay Wilder is a throwback fighter like me, and we both want to fight the best,” said Ortiz. “I believe I’m the best and that’s why I’m getting this rematch. I’m focused on this fight and this fight only and doing everything to have my hand raised Saturday night.”
Ortiz and trainer Herman Caicido moved his training camp from Miami to Las Vegas for the past three months, adding coach Larry Wade and nutrition advisor Victor Conte of SNAC to the team. At a media workout on October 31, Ortiz appeared in the best shape of his life and far younger than 40 years old. He said he has not lost weight but has taken off more fat, and is using different training techniques including more work in a pool.
Wilder blames a case of the flu for struggling to take Ortiz out in their first fight, but promises it won’t happen again this time. “I know when we were in the ring the first time he hit me with everything in the kitchen sink, stuff that he knows that he usually hits opponents with and they go down.
Prediction: Wilder makes it an early night
“But I’m a different beast and with that being said I have got a lot of things that I have got to do. I’m fighting for one champion. One face. One name. That’s the unification and nothing is going to get in my way of that. Nobody.”
Anything can happen in this division where one punch can change a fight. At the time of the stoppage in the first fight, Wilder was up a single point, 85-84 on all three scorecards.
Ortiz is in terrific shape and demonstrates he’s motivated to change his fortunes. He is a solid counterpuncher. His experience across his amateur and professional career is light years above Wilder.
Wilder didn’t have much of an amateur career. He has learned his craft in the ring, and some of his fundamentals are still rough, especially his footwork and balance. It leaves him out of position and vulnerable at times.
But Wilder has two things Ortiz can’t overcome: youth and the best single punch in boxing in his right hand. The equalizer punch lets Wilder get away with more mistakes than most other fighters could. Ortiz also has the misfortune of being a southpaw, the ideal foil for a powerhouse right hand.
All Wilder needs to do is stay smart, use his distance early, watch for the counterpunch, and then move in. Ortiz is another year and a half older and it’s doubtful he has anything new to offer. Wilder should plow right through Ortiz the way most people expected in the first fight. We call for a knockout win within five rounds.
Wilder will then move on to a planned fight with Tyson Fury in late February, assuming Fury gets medical clearance after suffering a wicked cut in his last fight against Otto Wallin in October.
Before it happens, Wilder needs to develop a Plan B. A big right hand won’t be enough against Fury. But no need on Saturday. To date, Wilder has always been able to make Plan A work: boxing’s best straight right hand. Maybe it really is enough.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on social media at@PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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