By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
Something has to give.
In this corner stands 38-year-old challenger Luis Ortiz, a 6-foot-4 Cuban lefthander who is 28-0 with 24 knockouts. In the other corner is 6-foot-7 Deontay Wilder, a 32-year-old who is undefeated in 39 fights, all but one of them ending in a KO.
Saturday night, the Tuscaloosa native puts his World Boxing Council heavyweight championship on the line when he faces the man known as King Kong. Showtime will televise the fight at the Barclays Center in New York City at 8 Central. Wilder vs. Ortiz, the main event, will follow two other televised bouts.
This is the fight that should have already happened. The two were set to square off Nov. 4, 2017, at the same venue but Ortiz failed a drug test.
Ringtv.com reported that Ortiz and his team contended that he was taking medications to treat high blood pressure. The WBC still pulled sanctioning from the bout and it was eventually scrapped.
Following a thorough examination of Ortiz, it was determined he indeed did need to treat a condition, as claimed. The Cuban apparently was suspended for failing to disclose the medications and apply for a therapeutic use exemption.
That suspension has been lifted and the fight with Wilder is on. So, too, is the trash talk.
“It’s going to be a hell of a fight and somebody’s going to hit the canvas,” Ortiz told the New York Post. “While he keeps hyping himself and hyping himself and trying to believe in himself, it’s going to be a bad night for him.”
Wilder countered with a tweet: “We all know what happens to King Kong at the end of the movie.”
This fight alone is interesting but it takes on even greater significance when you consider the big picture. The top of boxing’s heavyweight division looks like college basketball’s Final Four.
There are four undefeated heavyweights and each is basically a knockout artist. Two are fighting in one bout and the other two in another.
“We’re fighting Ortiz and (Anthony) Joshua’s fighting (Joseph) Parker,” explained Jay Deas, Wilder’s trainer. “Both of those are happening in March. In theory, the two winners will meet for all the marbles in the summer or fall.”
And if one of the winners doesn’t agree?
“The public will want it and the public will demand it,” Deas replied. “If there’s anyone who comes through the ‘winners bracket’ who doesn’t want to unify, they will be ridiculed to the point that they have to take the fight.”
The Wilder camp won’t be the problem.
“We’re ready to fight the biggest fight possible,” the trainer said. “This is going to be a huge fight and I hope the big fights keep coming.”
First, the Bronze Bomber must dispatch King Kong, which looks to be no small feat. Deas said Ortiz is an athletic man. He comes from a Cuban system where boxers amass 300 or so amateur fights. Wilder had 34.
“There’s a vast amount of experience that Ortiz has,” he said. “That being said, Deontay is the more athletic guy and we feel the quicker guy, and the younger guy, and the stronger guy. We feel like we just have to use our advantages.”
Generally, Wilder doesn’t start his fights on a seek-and-destroy mission. That was even true in his last fight – a first-round knockout of Bermane Stiverne that premierboxingchampions.com deemed the 2017 knockout of the year.
“In truth, he was just using his jab and just happened to find the right opening,” Deas said. “The rest was history. I think it’s going to be a fairly tactical fight.
“But there’s always a moment, there’s always opportunity and you’re going to have to capitalize on those moments,” he continued. “Ortiz is not only big and strong and undefeated and experienced, he’s also lefthanded. Fighting a southpaw is a difficult thing because you only see a few of them in your career, but they see right-handers all day long. They have a little bit of an advantage when it comes to that.”