The heavyweight division in its current landscape is a division stacked with undefeated fighters, Anthony Joshua, Joseph Parker, Lucas Browne, Jarrell Miller and even the absent Tyson Fury. It therefore seems all the more ridiculous that these fighters can claim to be the best in the division when there is an evident lack of the top matchups being made.
One could claim one or two years ago that the fighters coming through were still prospects, that they weren’t ready for the big shots on the big stage, but the change from the old guard to the new is now complete and the heavyweight division is now firmly back on the public consciousness with scintillating matchup’s being rumoured discussed and predicted. The lack of mega fights at heavyweight is why this fight between Deontay Wilder 40 (39 KOs)-0-0 and Luis Ortiz 28 (24 KOs)-1 (1 KO)-0 was so anticipated, setting the tone for an unofficial tournament where fighter’s 0s will have to go.
Luis Ortiz was the first victim. Prior to the fight it was assumed that Ortiz would be looking to feint and use a southpaw jab to get inside where he could use sharp shots and impose his size on the Alabama man. However he elected to be extremely respectful of the power of Wilder using his lead right to look to set up straight lefts to the body and occasionally go upstairs. In fact the first four rounds were too respectful for the crowd who seemed displeased with the abundance of lead hand jostling and the lack of punches thrown. Wilder gave away the first four rounds not because Ortiz was doing anything particularly awe inspiring but because he was giving up the centre of the ring and not doing anything of note as Ortiz was closing the gap.
This changed in the 5th where Wilder, who was having a poor round landed a straight right that sent Ortiz crashing down, he was lucky that there was no more time left in the round because the fight could have easily ended there and then if Wilder had the opportunity to follow up. From this point on Wilder did seem to start to time Ortiz. Though he lost rounds following the 5th he seemed more intent on landing the shots, and mixed with Ortiz doing great work countering the right with his straight left, it lead to some very tasty exchanges. The most notable being in the 7th where a counter right and a follow up of shots meant Wilder was almost out on his feet, and his tendency to lose his shape under pressure almost cost him with the bell again coming to the fighter’s safety.
Ortiz however while doing some great work would fail to hear the final bell, with him marginally ahead on points on my scorecard he looked to throw a double jab left combination. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was superior athleticism, or maybe it was just concentration but Wilder stepped back and landed a great right hand to Ortiz’s chin which staggered the Cuban, and following two knockdowns the fight was stopped.
Wilder did show many things in this fight, he’s still raw who at 32 isn’t as young as many people think, he has a tendency to lose his shape under pressure, and he can be outboxed, but like when Joshua faced Klitschko he showed more nuanced skills, the ability to adjust, the ability to be hurt in a fight and stick it out and more importantly the ability to drag out a win. While many will pick holes in Wilder’s performance here it’s important to give Wilder the credit he deserves for taking a fight that many would have shied away from, and with a fighter beating another who had previously tested positive for performance enhancing drugs twice one could say that the outcome yesterday is one that can only be good for boxing as a whole.
Also on the card Andre Dirrell 26 (16 KOs)-3 (1 KO)-0 failed to come out of his corner after the 8th round in a rematch against the Venezuelan Jose Uzcategui 27 (23 KOs)-2 (0 KOs)-0 for the Interim IBF World Super- Middleweight title.