In one of the most anticipated heavyweight fights on American soil in years, two undefeated pugilists — Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) and Luis Ortiz (28-0, 24 KOs) — collided at boxing’s hottest new venue, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Someone’s “O” had to go (pardon the cliche) and it would be Ortiz’s ledger that was blemished.
Ortiz said this fight would be like two trains colliding head-on. Wilder’s trainer Jay Deas said, “I think it’s going to be fairly tactical fight.”
Through the first four rounds, Deas had the right notion. The fight wasn’t only tactical, but dull. Neither man landed a clean punch. But then things got woolly and before it was over it took on the coloration of the Joshua-Klitschko rumble, the 2017 Fight of the Year.
In round five, after missing with a right uppercut, Wilder dropped Ortiz with a right hand, sending the Cuban to the mat for only the second time in his pro career. The next round was action-packed with both men going for the knockout. A big exchange near the end of the round had the crowd cheering.
In round seven, the tide turned dramatically in favor of the Cuban. He stunned Wilder with a blistering right hook and hammered away. Wilder was all at sea as he returned to his corner. He was lucky to survive the round.
Round eight was a clear round for Ortiz who despite being the older man by at least seven years, looked fresher. But Wilder came back in round nine, staggering Ortiz with a right hand near the end of the round. And then in round 10, Wilder, making his seventh title defense, closed the show. His vaunted right hand set the wheels in motion and the follow-up volley knocked Ortiz off his pins. He beat the count but went down again and referee David Fields waived it off.
Ortiz was hoping to become the first Cuban to win a heavyweight title, accomplishing what Jorge Luis Gonzalez, Juan Carlos Gomez, and Odlanier Solis could not. Like those others he came up short, albeit in a far more memorable fight.
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The chief undercard bout pitted two fighters with identical 26-2 records in Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui. The bout was delayed for 30 minutes after blood was detected in Uzcategui’s pre-fight urine specimen, but the boxing commission eventually allowed the fight to go on.
This was a rematch. In the first meeting last May in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Uzcategui was disqualified for hitting Dirrell with a punch that landed after the bell signalling the end of the eighth round. At the time of the stoppage, Dirrell was ahead on two cards; the other had it even
This fight also ended after eight rounds although the official time of the stoppage was 0.02 of round nine. Dirrell’s corner, consisting of new trainer Virgil Hunter and veteran cut man Jacob “Twitch” Duran pulled the plug, unwilling to allow Dirrell to take any more punishment. The 34-year-old Michigander, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and the younger brother of former world 168-pound titlist Anthony Dirrell, appeared to grow old overnight. He didn’t move around the ring with the same alacrity he had shown in previous bouts. Uzcategui,who is from Venezuela but fights out of Tijuana, wins an interim 168-pound belt.
Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME
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