Starting in early July this past summer rumors began to emerge that WBC heavyweight title holder Deontay Wilder 38-0 (37) was going to defend his title in late October or early November against former interim WBA title holder Luis Ortiz 27-0 (23) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The prospect of Wilder-Ortiz had the boxing world frothing with anticipation. I too was excited, although I suspected it was too good to be true and would never be realized.
Wilder, 31, has held the title since winning a 12-round unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne back in January of 2015. Stiverne (pictured on the right) was the first opponent to go the distance with Wilder. Since then Deontay has made five successful defenses of the title, winning all by stoppage.
Wilder turned pro in 2008. In spite of being a pro for nine years and holding a world title, many aficionados question how authentically good he really is, with the prevailing thought being that his pristine record is more a reflection of careful matchmaking than him being an outstanding fighter. It’s been my belief Wilder’s management knows of his vulnerabilities and are purposely keeping him away from the better heavyweights on the scene until after he fights IBF/WBA champ Anthony Joshua 19-0 (19) for millions of dollars.
Ortiz, 38, is an imposing southpaw from Cuba. He’s a very fundamental boxer with good form and knockout power in both hands. He’s had a hard time getting big name opponents to fight him because he’s not well known outside the realm of hardcore boxing fans. The only contender who accepted the challenge, Bryant Jennings, was TKO’d by Ortiz in the seventh round after having gone the distance with heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko in his previous bout. That further endorsed the belief Ortiz is too dangerous to fight unless it’s for a lot of money or a world title.
With Wilder close to fighting Anthony Joshua, it made no sense for him to fight the best opponent of his career with nothing to gain and so much to lose. On July 20th I wrote a piece for TSS stating that I thought the talk of Wilder-Ortiz was subterfuge and the fight would never come to fruition. Then, on September 20th, there was a press conference announcing the fight. At the time it looked as if I was wrong, but nine days later it was revealed that Ortiz failed a drug test and the fight was in jeopardy.
On Wednesday October 4th, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman released the following statement: “The WBC has withdrawn its sanction of the Deontay Wilder vs. Ortiz fight, and Wilder will fight next his mandatory fight against Bermane Stiverne.”
Stiverne was slated to fight Dominic Breazeale on the undercard of Wilder-Ortiz. Now Wilder will defend his title against Stiverne, his longtime mandatory challenger, who I never doubted would be his opponent. This is the third time a potential Wilder challenger has failed a drug test and the fight fell through. The first was Alexander Povetkin who failed a drug test nine days before their May of 2016 scheduled bout, followed by Andrzej Wawrzyk who was replaced by Wilder’s last opponent, Gerald Washington. Isn’t it ironic how many heavyweights test positive for “performance enhancing drugs” when they’re on the cusp of facing Deontay Wilder?
The Wilder-Ortiz bout falling through shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers of this column. In the July 20th article I said…
“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.”
Wilder facing Ortiz before fighting Joshua never made sense on any level because of Wilder’s obvious deficiencies. He’s been wobbled and hurt in a few of his bouts, he’s easy to hit and has bad balance, he doesn’t put his punches together fluidly, and he leaves himself open after he punches when he’s under duress. Wilder’s biggest weapons are his powerful right hand and his awkwardness. In his match with football player turned boxer Gerald Washington, he lost the first four rounds and had no defense for Washington’s pedestrian left jab. In the fifth round Washington curtailed his punch output which gave Wilder a clear path to close the distance. Having inched Washington back against the ropes, Wilder dropped him with a quick counter right. Washington beat the count but was on unsteady legs when he got up. Wilder went after him in a reckless manner resulting in the referee stopping the fight. Yes, he got the job done and won the fight, but he looked sloppy and more like a golden gloves champion than the WBC champ.
Deontay Wilder, aside from his powerful right hand, is a limited fighter. He and his management team have done a great job protecting him. But in every fight he looks as if he’s no more than a punch or two away from losing. Luckily for team Wilder there are more than a few boxing fans who believe he’s Joshua’s equal, and that translates into he and Joshua being one of the more anticipated fights for 2018.
Joshua vs. Wilder, an undefeated British heavyweight title holder who has knocked out every opponent he’s fought, facing an undefeated American title holder who has stopped all but one of his 38-opponents, is a natural. There’s a ton of money on the line for both as long as both remain undefeated. And for that reason alone it was unwise to allow Wilder to fight the most avoided and perhaps dangerous fighter in the division. A loss to Ortiz would have killed any chance for Deontay to face AJ with a small fortune as a purse. I have no doubt Wilder believes he would have defeated Ortiz – I just don’t think his management shares his sentiment, at least not enough to chance it.
Bermane Stiverne 25-2-1 (21) has only fought once since losing his WBC title to Wilder. Weighing 15 pounds more than he did for Wilder, he won a 10-round unanimous decision over Derric Rossy, who dropped him in the first round. By the time Stiverne gets in the ring with Wilder on November 4th, he will be 24 months removed from the Rossy bout and will be 39 years old. This time Wilder will separate himself from Stiverne and win by stoppage, the perfect jump start to Joshua-Wilder.
As for Anthony Joshua, look for him to stop Kubrat Pulev in his upcoming bout on October 28th. Then he’ll no doubt attend Wilder’s bout against Stiverne the following week to stimulate the fans regarding the inevitable clash between he and Wilder.
This was the plan all along. There never was a chance Wilder was going to take on Ortiz before he shared the ring with Anthony Joshua. Not with so much money at risk.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.