Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Wilder-Ortiz 2: Expect The Unexpected?

The year 2019 will conclude with two anticipated rematches with every portion of the World Heavyweight championship at stake between the two encounters. Although most of the attention has centered on the second encounter between unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO world champion Andy Ruiz and former champion Anthony Joshua, which will take place on December 7th in Saudi Arabia, the first of these two rematches is just as intriguing. This observer is speaking of course of the rematch between undefeated WBC world champion Deontay Wilder and longtime top contender Luis Ortiz. A rematch that will headline a Fox Sports Pay-Per-View card on November 23rd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

Wilder, the longest reigning current world champion in the division has defended his crown successfully nine times since winning the world championship from Bermane Stiverne in January 2015. The reign of Wilder has been marked largely by the reputation he had built as a contender. A reputation of being a “Knockout Artist.” In his forty-two professional fights, Wilder has scored knockouts in forty of those bouts registering a career knockout percentage of over 95%.

The champion last defended his crown in May of this year scoring a first round knockout of number one rated WBC contender Dominic Breazeale in Brooklyn, NY. Prior to that victory however, Wilder survived two of the toughest tests of his career. Most would point to the draw he had with undefeated former unified world champion Tyson Fury in December of last year as being the toughest of those tests as two knockdowns during the second half of the fight allowed Wilder to retain his title with a draw that was seen as controversial in the eyes of some.

Before Wilder was tested by Fury, the champion fought a grueling battle against Ortiz in March of last year. Much like Wilder, Ortiz had established himself as one of the Heavyweight division’s “Knockout Artists” having scored knockouts in twenty-four of his twenty-eight career wins prior to challenging Wilder. The question for Ortiz, who was also unbeaten at the time of the fight was whether or not he could provide a legitimate test for Wilder.

The fight was surprisingly tactical given both fighters reputations as power punchers. Ortiz appeared to have significant success fighting out of his customary southpaw stance and did connect more than occasionally with his straight left hand. This as well as being able to make the champion miss was something that worked strongly in Ortiz’ favor. 

As much success as Ortiz was able to have in the first fight however, he also felt Wilder’s power. With the fight appearing to be in Ortiz’ favor, Wilder was able to turn the momentum in the fifth round by landing a flush straight right hand that sent Ortiz down. This as much as any previous fight showed how Wilder has the ability and punching power to change the tempo with one punch.

While the saying that “It only takes one punch” holds true for virtually any fight in the sport of Boxing, it is especially true when talking about the Heavyweight division. Although Luis Ortiz also has the type of punching to turn or end a fight suddenly in his favor, he must be wary of Wilder’s power at all times.

Following the knockdown of Ortiz in round five of the first fight, it was Ortiz that showed the ability to recuperate and he badly staggered Wilder in round seven with a counter right hook followed by a barrage of power shots. This was the first time in this observer’s view that Wilder had been significantly in danger in his career. The champion would also show the ability to recover and ultimately would regain control of the fight late in the ninth round staggering Ortiz with a right hook that landed on the temple. With the momentum in his favor, Wilder was ultimately able to score two knockdowns in round ten to earn a stoppage and retain his world championship.

Some may question why a rematch would be warranted because Wilder did score three knockdowns of Ortiz and did stop him in the first encounter. It is important to remember that Ortiz was the first fighter to provide the champion with a legitimate test and was the first man to put a scare into Wilder.

As the rematch approaches, the question that faces Wilder is will this fight be different in the sense of his being able to control the combat without being hurt by Ortiz. The only rematch Wilder has had as a professional prior to this fight against Luis Ortiz was his second encounter with Bermane Stiverne in November 2017. Although Stiverne was the first fighter to go the distance with Wilder in the fight where Wilder became a world champion in 2015, the rematch between the two was a destruction as the champion knocked Stiverne out in one round, scoring three knockdowns of the former world champion in the process. 

Though one should not use that rematch as a way to think of what might happen in Wilder’s second encounter with Ortiz, Wilder did show he can improve on his performance the second time around. How does the champion do that against Luis Ortiz? First and foremost, Wilder must avoid the straight left hand of Ortiz. The challenger was also able to make him miss and counter punch effectively in the first fight.

While this was also something that Wilder had difficulty with in his fight against Tyson Fury, one way to potentially avoid this would be for him to not be as wild, no pun intended, with his punches. Although Wilder has used his unorthodox style to his advantage throughout his career, but it could become a liability later in his career especially against skilled counter punchers such as Ortiz. If Wilder can shorten his punches and avoid over throwing his target he would be less susceptible to being countered in my view.

With the focus of the Boxing world firmly focused on these two bouts for portions of the World Heavyweight championship at stake, it will also be interesting to see not just in regard to the Wilder-Ortiz rematch, but also the Ruiz-Joshua rematch if the champions going into these fights are potentially looking past the immediate business at hand with the possibility of a potential unification bout for the Undisputed Heavyweight world championship in 2020 to consider.

If the circumstances that led to Andy Ruiz stepping into a world championship fight on limited notice against Anthony Joshua earlier this year and walking away as a unified world champion has proven anything it is anything can happen. While some may expect Deontay Wilder to emerge victorious based on what happened the last time he fought Luis Ortiz, Wilder should not focus on potential fights to come down the line. As Andy Ruiz proved when he stopped Anthony Joshua earlier this year, sometimes all it takes is for a fighter with nothing to lose to get an opportunity to upset the whole apple card of whatever potential opportunities may be ahead. Luis Ortiz has now received a second opportunity at a world championship. Whether he will be able to make the most of it remains to be seen.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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