Highlight 2 | Opinion | Nov 24 2019

Not even Muhammad Ali would be safe against Deontay Wilder

Why Deontay Wilder is one of the most dangerous heavyweights in history, in spite of his obvious flaws
Wilder vs Ortiz

REVENGE was going to be sweet for Luis Ortiz. After having Deontay Wilder in all sorts of trouble in the seventh round of their first fight in March last year, Ortiz ended up succumbing to Wilder’s bone-rattling power in the 10th. This time seemed different, though. In the initial meeting, Ortiz had hit the deck in round five and Wilder had enjoyed clear periods of success. Not so in the rematch.

After six completed rounds at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it was almost impossible to have the fight scored anything other than a whitewash in favour of Ortiz – forget how the judges had it. The classy Cuban southpaw, even at his advance age, was looking light on his feet as he dictated the distance and controlled the tempo. His left hand was a continual menace to Wilder, who appeared wary to let his own shots go in response – pawing jabs that largely fell short were all he could muster.

The first two minutes and 50 seconds of the seventh panned out in much the same manner as what had come before. Ortiz’s intelligent footwork brought him into range to land a solid combination, and it looked like another round in the bag for the veteran challenger, whose dream of becoming WBC heavyweight champion was seemingly edging closer. Then, it happened – Wilder’s great equaliser came to the fore.

Within the closing 10 seconds of the session, a cataclysmic right hand cannoned off the jaw of Ortiz, depositing him onto the seat of his trunks. After boxing near-perfectly for the preceding 20-plus minutes, Ortiz somehow found himself in the most undignified of positions – on his backside and out of the fight.

Such is the power of Wilder’s power, no heavyweight is ever quite safe from the unbeaten American’s dynamite-loaded gloves. You can be winning every round and evidently cruising to victory, but the threat is constantly there, like a disused landmine under the surface of the ground, long forgotten but with the capacity to explode and wreak havoc at any given moment.

Knowing that he possesses such devastating weaponry in his arsenal, Wilder is content to lose rounds. Crude and one-dimensional he may be, but his one dimension is incredibly effective. There is always the chance that he can pull a rabbit out of the hat – or a right hand out of nowhere.

If you attempt to outbox him for the 12 rounds, as Ortiz and Tyson Fury have tried, that nagging doubt must surely never leave your mind – ‘One punch and all my hard work could go up in smoke.’ Knockdowns salvaged a draw for him against Fury, while knockouts twice got him out of trouble against Ortiz. The other option, of course, is to go for broke and fight fire with fire by searching for a KO yourself. This, however, is a perilously risky tactic – do you really want to enter the danger zone and punch it out with the sport’s biggest puncher?

Wilder’s ability to remain in the fight for as long as he is still swinging is a priceless trait to have. Even the greatest heavyweight of them all, the incomparable Muhammad Ali, would not be safe against Wilder until the final bell has tolled. Like it or not, that is the extent of his game-changing power. That is what makes him one of the most dangerous heavyweights in history, in spite of his obvious flaws.  

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