DEONTAY WILDER remains on a money-spinning collision course with either Anthony Joshua or Joseph Parker following his spectacular knockout of previously undefeated Luis Ortiz – but he was forced into deeper water than ever before.
The Tuscaloosa native, now 40-0 (39), made a tentative start here at the Barclays Center but floored Ortiz at the very end of the fifth round of what was the seventh defence of his WBC title.
It seemed as though yet another quick win was on the cards but Cuban southpaw Ortiz had other plans and rallied after the knockdown to almost force a stoppage of his own.
The 38-year-old appeared to have Wilder out on his feet at the end of the seventh round but the WBC champion, to his credit, never once touched the canvas although he seemed groggy when he returned to his stool as a result of a series of stiff straight left hands.
“A true champion always finds a way to come back,” Wilder said afterwards, “Luis Ortiz is a crafty guy, the skills showed and he put up a great fight. But I showed everyone I can take a punch.”
He also proved once again that he can dish them out almost unlike anyone else in the sport today.
He scored his second knockdown of the fight midway through the 10th round but the challenger somehow rose in time to beat the count.
But he did so on unsteady legs and, with over a minute remaining in the session, Wilder had plenty of time to finish what he had started.
The finishing shot was a sickening right uppercut which sent Ortiz to his knees. He had barely even touched the canvas before referee David Fields furiously waved it off.
“I wanted to burn him out,” Wilder added. “When you get a southpaw you know it’s going to take a little time. I didn’t want to rush in. I tried to set him up and it took a little longer than I wanted, but a true champion knows how to adjust.
“It was a great fight. I had to earn this win. I knew Ortiz would be a great opponent with the skill set that he has. I wanted to prove to myself and to the world that I am the best.
“This is a fight I took with great risk so that I could prove to the world that I’m the best. We each put on a great performance and I think the fans were happy they were here. I always give the fans in Brooklyn a great fight.”
Wilder was ahead 85-84 on all three of the judges’ scorecards at the time of stoppage but that does not tell the story of the fight.
Ortiz reflected: “I thought I was winning the fight. This is heavyweight boxing and he caught me with a great shot. He’s a great champion.
“Wilder was definitely saved by the bell. I thought I had him out on his feet. But you have to give him credit, he weathered the storm.
“I just want to get back in the ring, hopefully earn a rematch and fight for one of the other titles.”