By Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)
It’s fair to say that Wilder has faced unmitigated and frankly warranted criticism of his record as a Heavyweight. Were he a contender, his last couple of years of work would be fine. Not particularly mind blowing by any means but perfectly adequate. Fact of the matter is that this is his 40th fight and his 7th World Title defence; his reign has been pretty dire. That isn’t entirely his fault, of course. The WBC has made some incredibly bizarre decisions with regards to the mandatory positions for Wilder. Povetkin and Ortiz were dropped for their doping issues, yet Stiverne (who also has had similar issues) was reinforced as mandatory for a second time after being dropped by a journeyman. For their part, Povetkin and Ortiz have been two fighters whom no one has been eager to get in with and yet to his credit Wilder signed to fight both. In my opinion, this is comfortably Wilder’s hardest fight. Ortiz is a legitimate top 5 fighter at the weight and – should he win – it’s a win that should be venerated fully. I’ve seen plenty of people attempt to bespeak Ortiz’s ‘real age’ but factually until proven otherwise, he’s 38. So why is Luis Ortiz dangerous for Wilder?
An accomplished amateur, Ortiz has – failed tests aside – hardly put a foot wrong in the pro game. His best win is his dismantling of Jennings over 7 rounds. Jennings gave Wlad a pretty good fight but Ortiz was simply too powerful for Jennings to deal with. He followed that up by wrecking Tony Thompson who was way past his best but still a tricky fighter to pin down and KO. He’s lost some momentum since then, going the distance with Malik Scott and becoming the first man to halt the game but overmatched Dave Allen. Scott is actually a mutual opponent of both guys here. He was taken out in a round by Wilder and if you’ve seen that KO you’d agree it wouldn’t be remiss to describe it as ‘suspicious’. Ortiz won every round against Scott, who seemed to fall to the floor whenever one of King Kong’s gloves came within a similar post code to him. He actually failed to beat the 10 count in the 4th but the ref seemed keen to continue one of the least aesthetically pleasing fights in a long time. Now in those fights you can see where Ortiz has slowed down. He was never particularly fast anyway but the deterioration in speed is noticeable. His amateur pedigree has blessed him with excellent timing as Allen has commented on numerous times since their bout. He is also southpaw with a slight reach advantage on Wilder. He likes to throw straights to the body often and will feint or measure with his jab to setup his straight left, which holds natural power. Defensively, he is effective but not flashy. He tucks his chin behind his arms and shuffles himself slightly out of range to avoid attack so landing clean isn’t a simple task. He likes to paw with his own jab to take his opponent’s jab away too, which can cause havoc for an orthodox fighter. His last KO against the limited Daniel Martz is an example of his counter punching ability too. He pivoted slightly around the advancing target and caught him cold with a straight left. He also showed against Scott that he likes to slip the jab and counter, which proved effective in that fight.
I still have such a hard time judging where Wilder stands. He always wins, ultimately. But he makes so much harder work for himself than he needs to. His best win is probably the first Stiverne fight. JHe moved and jabbed very well, not taking risks when he didn’t need too either. OK, Stiverne isn’t exactly Tyson but he was viewed as a capable fighter at the time. He got absolutely embarrassed in their rematch, right off the back of being dropped and struggling against Derric Rossy. He has fast hands, seemingly good stamina and so far his power has been able to bail him out when required. He does however still leave plenty of gaps and his balance when attacking can be incredibly precarious.
We’ve all seen the windmill gifs and there’re plenty to choose from. Once Wilder won his belt I thought he would improve but in some ways he seems to have regressed. He boxed well against Stiverne and looked like he’d be a stylistic nightmare for a lot of guys but I thought Spzilka (also a southpaw) was outboxing him reasonably easily for most of their fight. Szpilka isn’t actually very good. Wilder did show the dynamite in that right hand though and absolutely separated Spzilka from his soul eventually. I also recall Eric Molina rocking Wilder and Duahaupas landing a lot more than he ought to have been able to. Even Washington had success with his jab early on. There are just so many things to doubt about Wilder. Crucially though, what cannot be doubted is the fact he’s walked away with the W every single time. When you look at his first 30 opponents, you’d be surprised to find out that was the record of an Olympic bronze medallist! But here he has a chance to show us he is the real deal. And to do so, he’s going to have to take the same sort of fight he did against Stiverne first time around. He needs to circle away from Ortiz’s left hand and not fall for the traps the crafty Cuban will lay. At 38, you have to wonder if Ortiz can fight with a high work rate for 12 round so the key will be setting a pace with intensity that also doesn’t expose too much risk. It’ll be hard, but that jab needs to be established. Against an experienced southpaw with a slight reach advantage, that’s no easy task but perhaps the unorthodox nature in which Wilder sometimes wings his punches will catch Ortiz by surprise and confuse him. I guess the argument to that is that perhaps they won’t and Wilder will lunge right into a detonation from Ortiz.
Ortiz’s chin hasn’t really been tested by a puncher either, so it might even just end up another routine highlight reel KO for the American. Timing beats speed but Father Time is undefeated. Wilder needs to make Ortiz work and hope his camp have increased his ring IQ to be aware of the savvy tricks Ortiz will no doubt emply.
The bookies have Wilder as favourite and a lot of the chat I see on-line seems to be following suit. This fight has some parallels to Groves-Eubank Jr, I think. A lot of the talk was that Groves will gas and the more athletic Eubank Jr will outwork him. Eventually, the more schooled and experienced fighter proved to be a comfortable winner. I see this fight as being the same to be honest. I looked at Jr and thought “I don’t see what others are seeing” and I’m doing the same with Wilder. But then you have to ask how often does lightning strike twice?by