In a year when a lot of fights that we thought we’d never see are being made and some are actually coming to fruition, there’s another one being thrown out that at one time was thought to be a pipe dream. And that’s WBC heavyweight title holder Deontay Wilder 38-0 (37) fighting Cuban defector Luis Ortiz 27-0 (23). If you believe what has been circulated by the promoter parrots, Wilder is going to defend his title against Ortiz in either late October or early November of this year.
At the moment Wilder has a mandatory defense against Bermane Stiverne, the only fighter to go the distance with him. However, there is talk of an agreement of step-aside money that would allow Wilder to fight Ortiz first. And the talk of Wilder putting the title up against Ortiz, who represents the best fighter Deontay will have faced, has boxing circles buzzing.
Ortiz knows that because of his late start and his age (38, and probably older), he’s not going to create much of a legacy. There will never be a genuine twitter debate over who ranks higher historically between Larry Holmes and Luis Ortiz and Luis knows it. Ortiz wants one thing and that’s a big payday. Sure, he wants a title shot, but more for the money that comes with it and defending it once or twice. Crafting a legacy as a great heavyweight champion isn’t on the radar for him….and I don’t think he makes any bones about it.
Deontay Wilder is a different story. He believes he’s the next great heavyweight and that one day he’ll be compared to Lennox Lewis and other more celebrated heavyweight greats. The fact that he believes it is great; the problem is his management doesn’t believe it. Outside of a handful of boxing fans and a few writers whose scope of knowledge is on par with a new fan, not many observers see Wilder as a fighter who can hold on to the title if forced to defend it against the most formidable contenders nipping at his heels. And that’s what makes the conundrum of him actually fighting Ortiz unrealistic – at least as I see it.
Sure, many have fallen in love with Deontay’s big right hand, and their belief that he’ll land it at some point in the fight is what they’re banking on. But that’s not a sound business strategy when there is one monumental fight in the offing for Wilder, and fighting Ortiz, unless something unforeseen is going on, could blow it up completely. The cold hard truth is that if you’re managing Deontay Wilder, there’s one fight that he must partake in before he suffers his first setback, and that’s against IBF title holder Anthony Joshua 19-0 (19).
Joshua is the fighter who can revive the heavyweight division, but Wilder can be an instrumental part of it……as a one-time opponent. Both Joshua and Wilder are perceived as destroyers with one punch KO power. AJ has stopped every opponent he has faced in an impressive fashion, and in the process has demonstrated that he’s tough, can adapt to varying styles and, maybe most importantly, doesn’t get rattled or lose confidence when things aren’t going his way. Wilder has stopped all but one opponent, with the difference between he and Joshua being that he was forced to go the distance with the most formidable fighter he’s faced in Stiverne, whereas Joshua stopped his biggest threat, Wladimir Klitschko, and did it impressively.
The one area where Wilder does have a little Joshua in him is that he has come back to win when things weren’t going his way. His last fight with Gerald Washington was a great example of that. Washington was clearly getting the better of Wilder until he stopped punching in the fifth round, enabling Wilder to get off one of the harder right hands he’s ever landed and that was the end for Washington. The takeaway is, Wilder should’ve never been trailing against a fighter as limited as Gerald Washington at the world class championship level.
Joshua being from the UK and Wilder from the U.S. makes for a great match-up. Until Lennox Lewis, who represented Canada at the 1988 Olympics, America’s elite big men had their way with Briton’s elite big men. This time the clear favorite will be the fighter from the UK, Joshua. Wilder’s team knows that he has one huge payday in store against Joshua, but Deontay must be undefeated going into the fight. I can’t see cutting him loose before he has that opportunity.
Luis Ortiz is big and strong, he’s a southpaw, and he can box and hit. He’s not that fast, but that won’t stymie him from getting his hands on Wilder. Of the two, Ortiz’s knockout of Bryant Jennings, who went the distance with Wladimir Klitschko, is more notable than any win Wilder has compiled. No, Ortiz isn’t the next Sonny Liston, but he’s too dangerous for a fighter that has shown the defensive liabilities and amateurish tendencies that Wilder still exhibits. If Ortiz were to ice Wilder, Joshua would have no use for Deontay and the road back would be long. And for that reason alone I don’t believe Wilder ever faces Ortiz until after he’s fought Joshua for a king’s ransom.
What I do believe is that with Wilder being so severely excoriated in the media for not having fought a truly worthy opponent, the Haymon faction is using Ortiz’s name in an attempt to sway the doubters into believing they have been trying to fight someone perceived as a threat — with the knowledge that they could be stripped by the WBC if Wilder doesn’t fight a rematch with Stiverne, or if Bermane doesn’t step aside, as a legitimate out.
I don’t believe for a minute the PBC had/have the slightest intent of matching Wilder against Ortiz…oh no, not until Wilder has shared a ring with Joshua, with their hope being that Deontay can get lucky and plant one big right hand on AJ’s chin before AJ takes him apart.
Lastly, just so there’s no confusion. I don’t believe Deonaty Wilder doubts that he can beat Luis Ortiz. But in the end the fighters seldom call the shots or have the final say regarding who they fight. It is my belief Wilder’s management considers Ortiz too risky….therefore they’ll prevent him from fighting Ortiz because it’s good business not to risk a loss before facing Anthony Joshua.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com