FOR six-and-three-quarter rounds Cuban heavyweight Luis Ortiz believed he was on his way too becoming the WBC heavyweight champion of the world and next year meeting the winner of the December 7 rematch between Andy Ruiz Jnr and Anthony Joshua.
But then Deontay Wilder distracted him with his left hand and bent him in half with his right.
Then Ortiz was no longer thinking ahead but thinking instead about whether it was humanly possible to rise from the canvas using what would have felt like someone else’s limbs.
Stopped in the seventh round, having won each of the previous six, Ortiz left Las Vegas on Saturday night with the sympathy of the boxing world but no world title. He was cut down in his prime, erased just seconds after smiling, and nobody thought to warn him.
Ortiz must now forget all about unification fights and console himself with the possibility of fighting the loser of Ruiz vs. Joshua II in 2020.
“Ortiz has never said ‘no’ to anybody,” said Ortiz’s trainer German Caicedo when asked after the fight who Ortiz will box next. “The loser of Joshua and Ruiz. Anybody in the top five. This is the best heavyweight on the planet by far, and he may even be the best heavyweight on the moon, if there’s boxing on the moon.
“If in fact Deontay unifies [the division], and it doesn’t take another three years to do so, you never know. They may free up the IBF, a version of so many titles. There are four titles. It’s possible. We’ve talked about it. If it can happen in the next year, year and a half or two years, yeah, he can still do it.
“He’s 40 [years of age], but trust me when I tell you, what he’s doing in the gym, and what he’s doing on the track, he’s doing what 30-year-olds [are doing], if not outdoing them. It’s just that the cameras aren’t there to capture that. But I see it. I wouldn’t be standing here before you trying to sell you a bag of goods if I didn’t think that we could do what we did for 12 rounds.”
One man Ortiz’s team seem less keen to see their man face is former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk, who recently made the move to heavyweight and is, like Ortiz, a skilful former amateur star.
“If it’s a big fight, if it’s a money fight, but I think [Oleksandr] Usyk needs to prove himself a little bit in the heavyweight division first,” Caicedo said. “He [Usyk] was a great cruiserweight, but he’s got to do something at heavyweight first before he gets in with the likes of the bigger guys.”
It’s hard to say which way it will go for Luis Ortiz, 31-2 (26), as he moves into 2020. Either fellow contenders will consider him to be softened up by two devastating knockout defeats to Deontay Wilder, easily the biggest puncher in the sport. Or, on the flip-side, they will look at the work Ortiz managed to get done before being taken out by Wilder – essentially winning all of the rounds in which he remained upright – and decide to steer well clear of the crafty Cuban.
One thing’s for sure: he will never again get the chance to finish the job he has now twice started against Deontay Wilder.
Because Amir Khan remains a big name at welterweight, whether boxing in the USA, Saudi Arabia or even back home in Britain, he retains hope of a big fight coming his way.
Heading into 2020, the former WBA and IBF super-lightweight champion believes fights against the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Kell Brook, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter are all a possibility and one senses he won’t call it quits until at least one of these are made.
Of course, a cynic will point out the fact these fights have been mentioned by Khan, 34-5 (21), for some time now and not one of them has come to fruition. They might also point to Khan’s last fight, a farcical drubbing of an undersized Billy Dib in Saudi Arabia, as a sign the Bolton hero has one foot already out the door.
Yet, despite such scepticism, Khan continues to say all the right things and would seem, on the face of it, still ambitious at 32 years of age (soon to turn 33).
“There are many promoters we can work with,’’ Khan told The Bolton News. “We have options open, but we are looking at early next year.
“I am just going to look at all options, because there are so many there for me in the welterweight division.
“Keith Thurman is there still, you’ve got the Danny Garcia rematch, Shawn Porter, which was a fight I was once lined up for but that fell through, and the other big fight in the UK that can happen is Kell Brook. So I am not really focusing on the Manny Pacquaio fight.
“I know there have been rumours that fight might happen, but I think there are other fights out there for me. I am not really putting my eggs in one basket.”
Rest assured, if a Manny Pacquiao fight was even remotely close to happening, it’s more than likely every one of Amir Khan’s eggs would be going straight into that basket.
Alas, the fact they are not, and the fact he is clearly hedging his bets, suggests the 2004 Olympic silver medallist is some way down the Pac-Man pecking order as we approach 2020.