Deontay Wilder proves world pedigree with brutal Luis Ortiz win
‘I always said I want to unify. I am the baddest man on the planet and I proved that tonight’
Deontay Wilder knocked Luis Ortiz out in the 10th round in New York. Photograph: Timothy A.Clary/AFP
All the valid questions surrounding Deontay Wilder – about his pedigree, his technique, the level of his competition and the legitimacy of his claim to the heavyweight championship of the world – came to a dramatic head on Saturday night in Brooklyn when he was nearly knocked out by the heavy-handed Cuban challenger Luis Ortiz in the seventh round.
Instead the 32-year-old from Alabama survived his most difficult moments as a professional and stormed back to defend the WBC’S version of the heavyweight title for a seventh time with a 10th-round knockout of Ortiz before a crowd of 14,069 at the Barclays Center.
Afterward, Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) was asked about the much-fancied heavyweight title unification bout with Britain’s Anthony Joshua, the IBF and WBA champion regarded by many as the division’s top dog since sending Wladimir Klitschko into retirement at Wembley Stadium last year.
“I’m ready right now,” Wilder said. “I always said that I want to unify. I’m ready whenever those guys are. I am the baddest man on the planet and I proved that tonight. This solidified my position at the top of the food chain tonight.”
Not unlike Joshua’s character-building exercise against Klitschko at Wembley, Wilder fought back from the brink of defeat to score a dramatic late-round knockout when it seemed he’d been exposed only moments before. He’d spent the opening four rounds almost exclusively conceding ground to a game opponent while failing to establish the jab or land any significant punches, a recipe that placed him at an early deficit on the scorecards and prompted audible jeers from the restless Brooklyn crowd.
But the Olympic bronze medalist from Alabama compensated for 14 lackluster minutes with one prodigious shot late in the fifth, connecting with a right hand to Ortiz’s temple: an equilibrium shot that sent the challenger reeling near the ropes.
Ortiz (28-1, 24 KOs) recovered admirably in time for the sixth, keeping himself in position with educated footwork even as Wilder finally felt emboldened to take a more aggressive approach. Then in the seventh Ortiz’s counter left at last found its purchase and Wilder was in serious trouble, saved only by the bell.
From there Wilder’s aggression was enough to win the day as Ortiz began to flag. He staggered Ortiz in the ninth before dropping him twice in the 10th, prompting a intervention by referee David Fields.
“A true champion always finds a way to come back and that’s what I did tonight,” Wilder said. “Luis Ortiz is definitely a crafty guy. He put up a great fight. We knew we had to wear him down. I showed everyone I can take a punch.”
He added: “He was hitting me with those furious punches but they didn’t have sting on them. He was throwing combos that knocked me off balance. I just had to get my range back and my fundamentals back. And I was able to do that. I showed I was a true champion tonight.”