After a cagey opening two minutes, Ortiz landed a couple of swiping lefts before the first round was out. Looking light on his feet, the barrel-chested challenger patiently probed with his southpaw jab in the second, searching for opportunities to whip his left hand over the top.
Wilder attempted to get his own jab going in round three, but Ortiz remained a threat with his heavy backhands. An overhand left hit the target from the Miami-based Cuban to exemplify this fact.
The savvy veteran continued his eye-catching work with the left hand in the fourth and fifth, stabbing Wilder to the body and closing the distance effectively with his smart footwork. Ortiz maintained his command over proceedings in round six, leaving the reigning titlist – making the 10th consecutive defence of his belt – lagging behind on the cards.
The man from Tuscaloosa, Alabama failed to throw enough leather again for the vast majority of the seventh, but his vaunted power came to the fore at the end of the session – and in devastating style. After Ortiz connected with a tidy combo, Wilder pawed at him with a jab before laying him out with a monster right hand out of nowhere to claim the knockout. The official time was 2-51.
“Next, we have the Tyson Fury rematch, scheduled for February,” Wilder said post-bout. “After that, I’m looking for a unification fight.”
On the undercard, Leo Santa Cruz – boxing in the super-featherweight division for the first time – unanimously outpointed fellow Mexican-American Miguel Flores to win the vacant WBA crown and become a four-weight world title-holder.
The lively early rounds featured some good exchanges, but Santa Cruz (Rosemead, California) began to control the distance and dictate the tempo more in the middle frames – peppering Flores (Spring, Texas) with long jabs and fast flurries behind a tight, high guard.
The well-conditioned Flores employed intelligent movement and feints, yet Santa Cruz’s relentless, educated pressure forced his foe to grab and hold on at times, leading to a point deduction in the eighth.
A clash of heads in the 10th left Santa Cruz with a cut by his left eye, but he was nonetheless a handy and worthy – albeit rather frustrated – winner after 36 minutes. The judges’ tallies read 115-112 and 117-110 twice. Santa Cruz called out Gary Russell Jnr and Gervonta Davis following the contest.
Elsewhere on the bill, Brandon Figueroa and Julio Ceja combined to produce an all-action, toe-to-toe thriller.
The undefeated Figueroa (Weslaco, Texas) and former WBC super-bantamweight boss Ceja (Palmdale, California via Mexico) demonstrated tireless engines and impressive chins throughout as they incessantly swapped fierce hooks and spiteful combinations up close.
After a torrid 12 rounds of non-stop warfare, Ceja – who came in four-and-a-half pounds over the 122lb super-bantam limit – finished up with a bloodied mouth, while switch-hitting youngster Figueroa was marked up by the right eye.
The final scores were 115-113 to Figueroa, 116-112 to Ceja and a 114-114 tie, resulting in a split decision draw overall. Let’s hope we get to see a sequel next year.