It was supposed to be a coronation for heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz 26-0 (22); instead it turned out to be an abomination. Prior to the bout, the HBO broadcast team detailed exactly why Malik Scott 38-3-1 (13) wasn’t supposed to make it out of the first round of the scheduled 12-round WBA-Intercontinental bout.
For the entire portion of the pre-fight, the HBO team detailed Ortiz’s situation. Viewers were informed how Ortiz is really good and powerful, but how he’s unknown and there is no money in fighting him, or no payoff if you beat him because of his lack of notoriety. Therefore, it’s hard for him to get the better known or elite fighters in the division to take him on. Then he was thrown a life raft by British promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom promotions. Hearn is the most progressive promoter in boxing and guides IBF champ Anthony Joshua. It was even mentioned that many thought Hearn signed Ortiz just so he could keep him away from his golden boy, Joshua.
After taking over the reins of Ortiz, Hearn didn’t waste any time getting him work. Within a week or so of taking over, Hearn added Ortiz to his card in Monte Carlo. His opponent, Malik Scott, brought with him a reputation of not being the bravest guy in the division. It was widely perceived that Ortiz would look like George Foreman in his prime by blasting Scott out of there in less than two full rounds. A sensational win in front of HBO’s audience was supposed to whet the fans appetite and leave them wanting to see more of Ortiz, like they do after each time Joshua fights. It was a massive buildup.
Instead, Ortiz was forced to go 12 rounds. Credited with three knockdowns, he won by a lopsided margin (120-105, 120-106, 119-106), but the knockdowns weren’t the type that you thought you’d see with Scott writhing on the canvas. In the main, both Ortiz and Scott stunk the place out, but for different reasons. Scott from the first bell was determined not to be an early round knockout victim. Malik had no intention to fight or to win. He was only concerned with not having himself plastered to the canvas. All he did was run, hold, clinch and avoid punching unless he was certain he had an escape route. And somehow Scott managed to survive on a night where he was obviously looking for a reason to quit.
For practically the entire 12 rounds Ortiz looked old and one-dimensional. He plodded forward and followed Scott around the ring looking to end the fight with one big left cross. His offense was so unimaginative that Scott didn’t need a high boxing IQ to figure out Ortiz was only looking for one shot. And Scott quickly picked up on, when he feigned to fight for real or cut loose with a big shot, that Ortiz was a bit concerned and ceased what he was about to do. On the other hand, Luis had to know Scott was only there to survive but he didn’t press the fight at all. Instead of trying to cut the ring off, Ortiz gave Scott too much room to escape him. And that was compounded by Ortiz not forcing Scott to have to fire back and leave himself vulnerable during the few exchanges they engaged in.
Knowing Scott was not going to fight, the onus was on Ortiz to get him to open up. He had to force the issue because Scott wasn’t going to do it for him. At one point, Ortiz dropped Scott with a beautiful body shot and didn’t follow-up. Any 8-round kid would have known what to do. And how many times during the fight did Ortiz have Scott on the ropes there to be finished – but stepped back too far and had to reset, thus giving Malik time and space to recover? And there were many times when Scott was against the ropes and Ortiz looked unsure of what to do.
What was most concerning was how Ortiz willingly let a guy go rounds with him who had no intention of winning. Scott didn’t do anything noteworthy other than land a couple right hand counters along with trying to spook Ortiz that he was going to cut loose with something big when he least expected it. And that was enough to keep Ortiz from going after him. Not only did Ortiz show that he’s very repetitive and, aside from his power, very ordinary offensively, but he also allowed Scott to get into his head.
Luis should’ve dictated the fight from the opening bell. I had thought that Ortiz’s delivery system was better than it is. He is not as reflexive or instinctive as I thought. And was it asking too much of him to feint, stutter step or change something up before he threw a bomb? Against Scott it was 1-2, 1-2….1, then a gap, then 2. Show an average pro that enough times and he’ll get a read on it and figure it out. There were flashes of Ortiz doing good things but they were sparse, so he’s got it in him, but he doesn’t seem interested in making any opportunities for himself.
In a way Ortiz reminded me of David Tua, a stalwart contender from the 90’s. Ortiz isn’t the big puncher that Tua was, but he can punch. What they share is that if their opponent stands there and decides to trade with them, they’ll thrive and win 99 times out of 100. However, if the opponent boxes them and moves, sprinkled with a con that they’re going to fight, Ortiz, like Tua, could be nullified. Tua was hampered by his height and reach and had to get on the inside before he could be effective, whereas Ortiz, being taller, can fight — or should be able to fight — on the outside to set up his finishing punches.
“Everybody comes to see a show and see someone fight and brawl. It made it hard for me. I’m a little disappointed because I wanted to knock him out, but he was moving around and made it hard,” said Ortiz after the fight.
And that will be the case every time he fights from here on out. Ortiz needs to fight with much more urgency when he’s confronted with an opponent who won’t stand there and try to beat him at his own game. In addition, he better learn how to cut off the ring and force skilled but unwilling fighters to open up against him. I’m not going to say Ortiz was exposed against Scott, because he dominated the fight, but he did look a little listless and frustrated down the stretch.
We learned this past Saturday night that Luis Ortiz needs to evolve his game offensively and perhaps emotionally, because he doesn’t have much time left. Hearn will get him another chance against a more willing opponent, and he’ll probably shine. But as we saw, there are holes in his game that need to be filled. At his age (officially 37, perhaps older), Ortiz should understand the business much better. He should have known that he was being given a showcase by Hearn and HBO. Squandering the opportunity was a foolish dollars and cents decision.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com