LAS VEGAS -- Deontay Wilder spent the better part of seven rounds searching for an opening, giving Luis Ortiz a big head start on the scorecards. That ultimately didn't matter when Wilder unleashed a powerful right hand in the closing moments of the seventh round, knocking out Ortiz to preserve his undefeated record and world title, as well as a lucrative upcoming rematch against Tyson Fury planned for February.
Dan Rafael and Steve Kim dig deeper into what comes next.
Was Wilder's approach to this fight too risky? Or can he always find that punch?
Kim: For a fight without much action, there was actually a fair share of tension and drama.
Here's the reality with Wilder, at age 34 with 43 professional fights and 42 KO's: he is what he is. And it's not going to change, nor should anyone really try to change it. He has natural God-given ability and his identity is that of a puncher. There is a method to his madness. He's not trying to outpoint you in there -- he looks for that opening, that small sliver and then capitalizes on it. His mantra is: see target, hit target.
The last thing he should do is complicate the process and become a more fundamentally adept boxer. Who can argue with the results? While Wilder was struggling early, and the fight was being controlled tactically by Ortiz, none of it mattered. Wilder showed once again that the right hand that he detonated on Ortiz near the end of the seventh round erased the deficit on the scorecards, which had the Cuban southpaw leading 58-56, 59-55 and 59-55 at the time of the stoppage. He erased all of the good work that Ortiz had done in a split second.
Wilder won this fight by being who he is, which is perfectly flawed. Yes, he makes a lot of mistakes fundamentally inside the ring, and for long stretches he looks so vulnerable. But at the same time he has an unwavering self-belief that as long as he has that right hand of his, he is never out of any fight, no matter how dire the situation. Many punchers are great when things are going their way, but others shrivel up as things get tough and they don't carry that same power late in fights.
Wilder has proven time and again that he is never really out of a fight. Because not only does he have a powerful right hand, he has the power of self-belief.
Though Ortiz and his camp might argue that their man had gotten up in time, the truth is that referee Kenny Bayless gave him a fair count. Ortiz will relive the split second where he stood directly in line with Wilder's preferred weapon for the rest of his life. That split second is all Wilder needed to get the job done.
Rafael: Any time you have to rely on one weapon it's a risk. Ortiz was winning easily through the first six rounds and Wilder was ineffective with any strategy other than to look for an opening for his right hand. However -- and it's a big however -- his right hand is so tremendous and does so much damage that even when he doesn't land it flush, he can afford to rely on it.
So far, he has knocked out everybody he has faced -- he went 12 with Bermane Stiverne the first time around, but smoked him in one round in a rematch -- except for Fury in their draw. He still dropped Fury twice, hard.
In the end, Wilder beat Ortiz the way he beats everyone, with a one-punch knockout with his right hand. It is the most devastating weapon in all of boxing in any weight class, and it might be the best punch in boxing history. His power is absolutely freakish.
Will Wilder be ready for a scheduled February rematch against Tyson Fury?
Rafael: There does not seem to be any reason why Wilder would not be ready. He appeared to come out of the fight with Ortiz with no injuries and he suffered no cuts.
Kim: The reported date for this rematch is Feb. 22, which would give Wilder three months to get back into the ring. Now, by today's standards -- and especially for big fights -- that's a quick turnaround.
Wilder came out of the rematch with Ortiz in good shape, wasn't hurt and said he was ready to fight Fury next.
"I don't think it's too soon," Ray Mancini, former lightweight champion, said before the fight. "But that's three months away. You probably need a good month to heal, a couple months to train. Yeah, you could probably do it."
Before this weekend, Wilder faced Dominic Breazeale on May 18, where he went all of one round as he blew out Breazeale at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
If the Fury fight isn't next, who should Wilder fight?
Rafael: Fury is next. The contracts are signed, not only for a rematch but also for a third fight down the road.
Kim: Nobody else. They've already delayed this rematch enough, largely because of Fury's decision to enter into an agreement with Top Rank. The second go-around between these two heavyweights has marinated long enough.
Based on what Wilder showed Saturday night, can he beat the other top heavyweights outside of Fury, like Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr.?
Rafael: Wilder can beat any heavyweight today, and quite possibly any heavyweight ever, if he can land the right hand. It is a punch of historical proportions. But he has to land it, and as Ortiz showed, as did Fury in their first fight, Wilder can be outboxed by slicker opponents. Anyone who fights him has to be perfect for every second of the fight, and that is very difficult.
Kim: Wilder's right hand is the most devastating weapon in boxing, and when you have that at your disposal, you are never out of a fight. Yes, Wilder has some technical flaws, but he has the eraser that can make up for all those deficiencies. Fury, in their initial matchup, riddled Wilder for long stretches, but Wilder got back into the fight and salvaged his WBC belt on the strength of two knockdowns.
If you look at the other heavyweights, they have some technical and fundamental advantages over Wilder, but nobody has Wilder's game-changing power.
What's next for Ortiz? What are his options moving forward?
Rafael: Ortiz is a legitimate top heavyweight contender, and despite two knockout losses to Wilder, he can still compete and very well beat any heavyweight in the world. He fights under the Premier Boxing Champions umbrella, and I would suspect he would come back with a tune-up caliber opponent and then move on to something bigger, perhaps some sort of eliminator. PBC has, within its stable, big men such as Adam Kownacki and Dominic Breazeale. PBC also has unified titleholder Andy Ruiz Jr.
All of those might be possible fights, eventually.
Kim: If you look at his record, his only two blemishes have come against Wilder. And truth be told, he probably won the large majority of the rounds against Wilder in their two fights. Ortiz is a bonafide top-10 heavyweight, probably still in the top five or six after the loss. But like everyone else, he succumbed to the right hand of Wilder. The question is, at age 40, how much more does he have left in the tank?
Regardless, Ortiz is still a very dangerous opponent for any other heavyweight in the world. He has a high boxing IQ, heavy hands, and he's a southpaw. Those are three things that rival managers and trainers will still be very wary of, in terms of risking their heavyweights against this well-schooled Cuban.
With that said, looking at the heavyweight landscape and being realistic with the politics of the sport, Adam Kownacki would be a fight that, in theory, could be made pretty easily as both are aligned with the PBC. Given their respective styles, this fight would be a very solid heavyweight matchup, which would show how much Ortiz has left in the tank, as well as how legitimate Kownacki is.
We know Ortiz has never turned down a fight and would be game. But it takes two to tango.
Who else impressed you from the undercard?
Kim: Back in September 2017, Eduardo Ramirez and Leduan Barthelemy fought to a 10-round draw. It was a decision that was bitterly contested by Ramirez. In their rematch on this undercard, Ramirez left no doubt as he scored a fourth-round stoppage of Barthelemy. The first two rounds were tactical, just the way Barthelemy prefers it, but starting in the third round, Ramirez closed the gap and started strafing his taller foe with both hands.
In the fourth, it was more of the same with Ramirez steadily coming forward and letting his hands go, once again striking Barthelemy (15-1-1, 7 KOs) cleanly. Then there was a left hand, which was set up by a throwaway right hook that sent Barthelemy to the canvas.
The fight was eventually waved off by referee Russell Mora, which could be debated, but what isn't debatable is that Ramirez had clearly gained control of this fight in the early rounds and had made this into his type of fight.
Ramirez (23-2-3, 9 KOs) isn't a world-beater at featherweight, but he's a hard-nosed fighter who generally makes for pretty good fights. This was a big win for his career, as he took advantage of the stage he was given after the Luis Nery-Emanuel Rodriguez fight was scrapped after Nery failed to make weight.
Rafael: Nobody, really. There were a lot of lackluster performance or utter mismatches. But if I have to pick somebody, I would go with former featherweight world title challenger Eduardo Ramirez, who scored a nice knockout of fellow southpaw Leduan Barthelemy in the fourth round of a rematch of their 2017 draw.