Luis Ortiz Must Shine – Interim WBA heavyweight title holder Luis Ortiz 24-0 (21), based on his seventh round stoppage of Bryant Jennings this past December, is considered by many to be the most formidable fighter in the division. Due to his sheer destruction of Jennings who went the distance with Wladimir Klitschko eight months earlier in his previous fight, Ortiz owns the most impressive win among the top five or six contenders and title holders in the division.
Yes, Tyson Fury won a unanimous decision over Klitschko in Wladimir’s next bout, but to borrow a phrase from Muhammad Ali, Fury and Wladimir looked like two “washer-women” flailing away at each other. WBC title holder Deontay Wilder 36-0 (35), looked decent but not all-world beating former title holder Bermane Stiverne in his title winning effort back in January of 2015. And IBF title holder Charles Martin 23-0-1 (21) is a sizable underdog in his upcoming bout versus Anthony Joshua 15-0 (15) next month. Joshua is by far the most powerful and dangerous fighter Martin will have ever shared a ring with. As for WBA title holder Ruslan Chagaev 34-2-1 (21), he’s already lost to the two best opponents he’s ever fought, Wladimir Klitschko 64-4 (53) and Alexander Povetkin 30-1 (22). Without the title, Chagaev is an afterthought and a non-player at the top of the heavyweight division.
At age 36, soon to be 37, Luis Ortiz is well past the age where he should be fighting for vapid belts. The 6-foot-4, 235 pound Cuban defector has the size, boxing aptitude and punching power one thinks of when picturing what an elite heavyweight looks like. Taking the fight to him, even in spurts, looks to be suicide, as Jennings found out. But in fairness to Jennings, he was trying to move away and counter Ortiz – it’s just that he was giving up too much ground and Luis was walking right through him and smashing him with left uppercuts to the chin and hurting him.
When Ortiz fights 44 year old Tony Thompson on HBO Saturday night, his goal is to win impressively enough so those who see the bout start taking serious notice and consider him the top heavyweight. Thompson 40-6 (27) has only been stopped twice in his career, both times by Wladimir Klitschko. The first was in 2008 when the 36 year old made it deep into the fight and wasn’t halted until midway through the 11th round. Four years later, Thompson didn’t fare quite as well and was stopped at 2:56 of the sixth round with Tony on his feet after going down earlier in the round. At that time Thompson was coming off a 13 month period of inactivity and wasn’t the same fighter who challenged Klitschko the first time.
Since losing the rematch with Klitschko, Thompson has fought seven times, winning four and losing three. In his last two bouts he is 1-1, beating an overweight and out of shape Odlanier Solis, who quit after the eighth round because he was exhausted…..and then in his last bout losing a unanimous 10-round decision to Malik Scott 38-2-1 (13). Thompson looked slow and lethargic during the bout, but did manage to drop Scott with a right hook in the ninth round.
The table couldn’t be better set for Ortiz to shine. Thompson is on the decline, his speed, whatever he had, has evaporated and he’s a big target. In the main Ortiz should have his way and do basically whatever he wants. And that’s why he has to blow him out early and in an impressive fashion. In the heavyweight division, perception is reality.
As of this writing, Ortiz has his age going against him and everybody is focused on Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua. This is why Luis must steal some of their thunder by emphatically disposing of Thompson. Right now Ortiz doesn’t have many bargaining chips. He’s good, he’s big and powerful, and he can box. That makes him a valid threat to the Fury’s, Wilder’s and Joshua’s lurking at the top of the division.
“This fight is just another stepping stone on my path to becoming the unified heavyweight world champion,” Ortiz said via ESPN.com. “I came to the United States to chase my American dream, and fighting at the nation’s capital is a dream come true. My life is coming full circle, and I know that this fight will put me a step closer to achieving everything I have worked so hard for in my career.”
Yes, Thompson is a stepping stone for Ortiz. But he won’t get much credit for beating him if he doesn’t demolish him. Anyone reading this knows the trinity of Fury, Wilder and Joshua are going to try and wait Ortiz out and will avoid fighting him at all cost unless there is a public demand for it. And at 37, it may be that the only thing Ortiz can do is impress the public so much that they’ll demand that one of the trinity defends his belt against him…..and that will create interest in the fight and big money will be a byproduct.
The clock is ticking for Ortiz. And in all likelihood, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ortiz is older than what he says. Some of the fighters who have defected to the United States from Cuba have stretched the truth about their age, so you never know. All that we know is Ortiz is old for a blossoming heavyweight. Right now there’s no reason for Fury, Wilder, Joshua or Charles Martin to look Ortiz’s way. The money is low and the risk is high. And that’s why he needs to stimulate the fans Saturday night with a George Foreman or Mike Tyson-esque knockout win. If he can do that, then the name Luis Ortiz will be better known and he’ll be thought of as being a deserving challenger to one of the title holders. But if he labors and the fight with Thompson looks like a waltz and goes deep, he’ll have set himself back a year at a time when there aren’t many years left to make his move.
If Luis Ortiz is an elite heavyweight, he’ll knock out Tony Thompson in a spectacular and decisive fashion Saturday night and on Sunday morning he’ll be all the talk in most boxing circles!
Check out a results video for this fight at The Boxing Channel