Don’t Begrudge Thompson – As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Cuban sensation Luis Ortiz 24-0 (21) will defend his WBA interim heavyweight title against former title challenger Tony Thompson 40-6 (27) on HBO this coming March 5th. Thompson is a last minute replacement for Russian Alexander Dimitrenko 38-2 (24) who withdrew from the bout even after being extended more money than initially offered by Golden Boy Promotions who represents Ortiz.
Ortiz is riding high at the moment, having scored the most impressive win of his career last December when he stopped the willing and durable Bryant Jennings in the seventh round on HBO. As per a report on ESPN.com, the fighters who turned down fighting Ortiz consisted of Andy Ruiz, Andrey Fedosov, Carlos Takam, and former title-holder Bermane Stiverne. The reasons given for them not accepting the bout were either the money was too short or they weren’t allotted enough time to train and get into top shape. Both reasons are completely plausible. Then again, that’s big time boxing at the world class level; fighters need to be ready for big opportunities that often come on short notice.
Enter former title challenger Tony Thompson who last week injected himself into the mix. Quite frankly, I didn’t think Thompson would be given the go by HBO when I wrote last week…..”It’s up in the air as to whether HBO would approve Thompson, 44, a 6-foot-5 southpaw with no power and best known for being stopped by former champ Wladimir Klitschko twice in title bouts in 2008 and 2012. Thompson also lost his last bout via decision to Malik Scott in October of last year, so it’s easy to glean why Thompson is willing to get paid for being a sacrificial lamb knowing that he’s never going to get another shot at the ultimate prize in boxing again.”
Well, HBO approved Thompson because they need a live body for Ortiz, 36, to beat on so they can continue to build interest in Luis fighting the Fury-Klitschko II winner. And they’re smart to keep Ortiz in the public’s eye fully aware of the attention he garnered after impressively stopping Jennings. Prior to stopping Jennings, not many boxing fans knew of Ortiz or just how formidable he is. Now that they’ve seen him there’s heightened interest in seeing him fight again.
This leads us back to Tony Thompson. As anticipated, most fans are disappointed that Thompson is the fighter who will be across the ring from Luis Ortiz on March 5th. But keep this in mind – Thompson is the only fighter who stepped up, when others were offered the same fight and high profile exposure. And sure you can say that he’s being paid for taking the fight, and to that I say, he’s a professional fighter and pros get paid when they fight. I have no idea how much Thompson is making, but keep this in mind, it’s nowhere near enough and he’s in a virtual no-win situation.
Thompson has never embarrassed himself or the sport of boxing. No, he’s not the most gifted or biggest punching heavyweight to come along, but at one time he was a legitimate contender. He’s always been a hard worker and has swapped punches with some of the best fighters of his generation. Not every fighter can be great and if they were, then greatness wouldn’t be so special. Thompson is going into the ring against one of the most dangerous fighters he’s ever faced in Ortiz. Luis is peaking and his confidence has never been higher coming off of the signature win of his career against Bryant Jennings. Tony knows to win a decision he’d have to beat Ortiz half to death — something that wouldn’t have happened on Thompson’s best night during his prime. In fact the only way Thompson can win is if he lands a lucky punch, and the odds of that are minuscule.
I’m glad Tony Thompson is getting a farewell payday. He’s been one of the good guys in boxing. On top of that, you can tell he’s genuinely appreciative of the opportunity…
“I’m happy to be back on HBO fighting for another world title,” Thompson said. “If you look at my competition and his [Ortiz], it’s not even close. This isn’t the amateurs. I’m going to use my experience as a professional to take him places he’s never been. Odlanier Solis was a great Cuban amateur, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and I beat him twice. Ortiz thinks he has it tough. I’ve been avoided for my entire career. Just about all my fights have been on short notice and in foreign countries. If I fought the guys Ortiz fought, I’d be undefeated too. If Ortiz is King Kong, I’m Godzilla; Godzilla coming to whoop some ass!”
Based on Thompson’s words, he still believes in himself. And I seriously doubt he’s showing up to fall down and make it look good. Tony is fully cognizant that if he were to upset Ortiz, he can rebuild his career and get another big money bout, perhaps for the title. And you know what, he deserves it. Fighters who aren’t great fight for money. Thompson isn’t one of the greats, and since no one else was willing to fight Ortiz, he deserves every cent of his purse, and I for one don’t begrudge him a bit. I just hope that he doesn’t get hurt.
The fight amounts to a simple business arrangement. Ortiz gets to make a few dollars against a credible opponent, while staying sharp. It gives Thompson, a good guy who everyone likes, a nice little payday. It’s not like fighters are breaking down Ortiz’s door to fight him.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Check out this video where Montell Griffin talks about Luis Ortiz at The Boxing Channel