Even twenty four hours after their fight, I am still on a high following the heavyweight showdown between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz. The fight had everything from a slow start to pendulum swings of momentum and finally a stoppage as Wilder blasted Ortiz with a dynamite-infused uppercut in the tenth round.
Truthfully, I will get this as a matter of public record. I expected this to be not that steep of a challenge. I knew Wilder was always game to fight the best (remember Alexander Povetkin and the first scheduling of the Ortiz fight?) but I had suspicions. Why would Wilder face a non-mandatory boxer who is considered to be the “most feared” fighter in the division for less pay than other winnable fights could entail?
I am not suggesting it was going to be a fraud, but I figured this would be similar to the Gerald Washington fight. Ortiz would look his age and while starting off conservative, Wilder would eventually tee off and end it. I figured Ortiz, who has been twice linked to performance-enhancing drugs though cleared, would just be someone who is cashing in.
Early on, I knew I was wrong. After a slow beginning that drew boos (by the way, never boo a heavyweight with two huge punchers after only three rounds) I realized how wrong I was. Ortiz was jabbing Wilder and landing decent combinations (though nothing really flush) and while Wilder was tentative early, he landed a right hand that while partially blocked disoriented Ortiz who was saved by the bell in round 5.
Then it started to mimic last year’s heavyweight fight of the year between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko. The younger fighter was exuberant and on the cusp of a career-defining win. But suddenly, the downed older fighter found a loophole. Wilder was caught clean by multiple punches by “King Kong” and might have been just ten seconds away from being TKO’d himself. The following round looked more of the same as a seemingly gassed Wilder was just circling to breathe.
Deontay Wilder proved that he had not just resiliency, heart and determination but he was a true champion. Flawed as his technique can be, he has power and now you cannot deny he has what makes a fighter a champion. Whatever superlative you want to toss out, Wilder proved himself as he ended the fight while knocking down Ortiz twice in the 10th.
The heavyweight division has a true marquee matchup. At first, it felt like Joshua-Wilder should happen just because they were the only relevant names. Now, you get that feeling that this is not just a big fight but a super one. As much as their strengths make the fight interesting (those being Joshua’s cleaner combinations mixed with power against Wilder’s athleticism and insane straight right), their perceived weaknesses (Joshua’s stamina and Wilder’s technique) might make it even more thrilling.
I must admit that Joshua has to get by Joseph Parker at month’s end but if he wins, as he is expected, this will also be a full unification fight. All belts would be on the line. Parker is not on the same level but still probably would be Joshua’s second best win. In fact, Joshua-Wilder probably will have a sequel given the current state of the division that is awaiting the arrivals of Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrgovic, amongst others.
Joshua vs. Klitschko was the most important heavyweight bout since Lennox Lewis defeated the elder Klitschko, Vitali. But both of those fights were missing the hype and the “who ya got” that Joshua-Wilder can provide. Vitali was a late replacement and most observers felt that Wladimir was just too far past his prime for one more showcase.
But you can’t also forget the specter of Tyson Fury, who much like the former Revel Casino in Atlantic City, looms large and had a very short stay at the top before promises of activity have fallen by the wayside. A Fury fight would be bigger with Joshua but just having a third heavyweight at the table would go a long way in a division that has been devoid of anyone not named Klitschko in the past fifteen years.
Let’s hope smarter heads prevail and we don’t have to wait any longer for the match the public and the world deserves.