Saturday night’s bout at the Barclay against undefeated Luis Ortiz was expected to be the Bronze Bomber’s toughest test to-date. Ortiz, a formidable punch-counterpuncher, entered the Brooklyn contest undefeated — and nearly 30 pounds heavier than Wilder, who fought at his lowest weight since 2009.
Leading up the fight between the two knockout artists, Wilder talked up Ortiz for reasons more than mere puffery, candidly admitting that defeating the Cuban would be his greatest challenge to-date, not only in defending his WBC title, but as a professional.
The last half of the battle lived up to everything it was billed to be.
The two danced around for most of the first three rounds, with Ortiz being the far more aggressive, busier fighter. Wilder was frustrated early, unable to get inside the southpaw’s guard. Then, in the fifth round, for just the second time of his career, Ortiz hit the mat when Wilder was able to connect an overhand right, following up a vicious uppercut that just missed.
Both fighters woke up then, tearing into one another in a busy 6th round that saw Wilder gain momentum over the less-conditioned Ortiz. But, just as the tide seemed to be turning Deontay’s way, the champ got himself in serious trouble — Ortiz connected with a series of right jabs, followed by a right hook that sent Wilder to the canvas. In his words, “he was hurt.” He held on for dear life, though, and the ref fortunately didn’t stop the bout.
The 8th and 9th rounds similarly looked bleak for Wilder, as Ortiz’s superior boxing skills and Wilder’s trepidation, saw the Cuban looking fresher and far more aggressive. Wilder did just enough to fend off Ortiz to try and make it to the 10th round, though Deontay did show some signs of life late in the 9th, including going after Ortiz after the bell.
That’s when everything changed: Down on the card, seeming to fade fast, and having been leery of Ortiz’s right, Wilder’s power shone through. First, he landed a series of combos that sent Ortiz to the mat for the second time of the night. Luis was hurt, even as he shrugged off the standing eight, but that’s when Wilder saw his chance. As the two squared up again, Wilder smelled blood. He got inside the guard of Ortiz and the big right uppercut that just missed in the 5th landed square.
Ortiz hit the mat for the second time in 20 seconds and was limply woven between the ropes.
The fight was over.
Down on every card at the time of the knockout, Wilder’s big punches and his 6’7” frame were able to run the record to 40-0, 39 by knockout, in his 14th straight defense.
Anthony Joshua looms on the horizon. But that’s a story for another day. This weekend, it was enough to defend his belt and survive the best fighter Wilder has faced in his professional career.