Wilder vs Ortiz II is done and dusted and now I for one cannot wait for February. Because, barring something unforeseen, that’s when we’ll witness probably the best heavyweight match-up possible, not to mention what I expect will be a strong candidate for Fight of the Year 2020, Wilder vs Fury II. “The Bronze Bomber,” by avoiding an embarrassing loss or draw in a match that some saw (correctly, as it turns out) a rather risky gambit, moves on to stepping into the ring February 22nd against “The Gypsy King” in the rematch the heavyweight division needs right now. Bring it on!
That said, this past Saturday night die-hard fans of Deontay were definitely given pause, not to mention sweaty palms and rising blood pressure, as Wilder vs Ortiz II was, up until its sudden ending, a very unimpressive showing from their heavyweight hero. Media reports pointed to Wilder’s “lackluster” performance, some stating that for six rounds he “hardly landed a meaningful punch.” This seems unusual given the stakes involved and the fact Wilder regards himself as “The Baddest Man On The Planet.” But for the better part of seven rounds Wilder didn’t look bad; he looked terrible!
But then, like a bolt from the blue, that right hand smashed Ortiz’s head so hard the sweat flew off his skull like a high velocity super-soaker and referee Kenny Bayless tolled the ten count at two minutes and fifty-one seconds of round seven. Ortiz said his head was clear by the count of seven but, consistent with Bayless being one of the fastest counting refs there is, Ortiz heard that fatal ‘ten’ come a little quicker than he anticipated. Shades of Ali vs Foreman in Zaire!
In truth Ortiz didn’t look to me like a fighter incapable of continuing as Bayless waved his arm, much less near death at the hands of the boxer who brags about wanting to kill his opponent. In an interview published the day before Wilder vs Ortiz II, Deontay said he remains open to having a body on his record, a statement I consider a classless insult to the families of the boxers who have in fact lost their lives in the ring, not to mention the memories of those lost just since July: Maxim Dadashev, Patrick Day, Hugo Santillan and Boris Stanchov. May they rest in peace.
But, putting aside the ugly stuff, that Wilder pulled off the win is good news for those of us who were deeply disappointed when the Wilder vs Fury rematch didn’t happen as first promised early in 2019. But according to various reports from people who claim to have the inside track, the contracts have been signed and come February 22nd, a second showdown between two of the best heavyweights on the planet will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
But it must be noted that Wilder’s performance against Ortiz, up until the fight’s sudden conclusion, does not bode well for him in the return with Tyson Fury. Consider the Wilder pre-fight mind set, in which Deontay told The LA Times, from what could only be the ramblings of a fever dream, that he’s knocked out every opponent he’s faced in the ring: “I’m the man in the heavyweight division,” he said. “Every man I’ve faced, I’ve dropped and knocked out.”
Wake up and smell the coffee, Deontay! There’s a guy you faced a year ago who they call “The Gyspy King” and while you most assuredly dropped him, you didn’t knock him out. In fact, after the second knockdown he got up and fought his ass off and almost took you out! Which, by the way, is what makes this rematch with Fury so intriguing. Both guys believe they have the other one’s number and this has the makings of an even better battle than the first showdown. In my opinion, it’s hands down, a shoo-in for a strong Fight Of The Year candidate.
Fury, a very smart guy behind the clown act, will have something to say in the ring about Wilder’s bogus claim of having knocked out every fighter he’s faced. You can bet Tyson has been studying plenty of video and devising a strategy to make sure he doesn’t get put on his back again by the big Wilder right hand. Meanwhile, “The Bronze Bomber” relies so much on that big right that he risks bringing nothing new to the ring come February. And Fury, knowing exactly what to expect, may well pull off a stoppage the second time around.
I have no doubt that Wilder knows, in his heart of hearts, that he was truly saved by the bell in that final round after the second knockdown and Fury’s resurgence. His eyes all swollen up, he thought the fight was over, danced a jig of victory while the referee counted over “The Gypsy King,” only for Fury to get up and come back for more, taking the fight to the shocked American. Wilder was totally out of gas; he clinched and ran to survive. He was shown up as not at all the baddest man in boxing, and the draw was a gift from the judges. All of this must be weighing heavily on Wilder’s mind in his quiet times of honest contemplation.
I recall how Muhammad Ali said that when you drop your best punch on a guy over and over again and he doesn’t go down, it takes something out of you, makes you tired. Wilder landed his shot, dropped Fury twice, but to no avail. Fury, with the most amazing recuperative powers I’ve ever seen, got up and took the fight to Wilder, and “The Bronze Bomber” had no answers. That’s the same one-trick-pony, mighty as it has been most times, that Wilder will be bringing to the rematch. Again, a known quantity, grist for doubt deep down inside Wilder’s psyche.
After the final bell, Wilder hugged Fury like a little girl. The real Deontay Wilder, without the persona and the mask, showed a very deep relief that he eked out the draw, that he survived and held onto his belts. And now we have Wilder’s lackluster performance against “King Kong,” one that can only bolster Fury’s confidence that he can and will knock Wilder out when they meet again in February.
Consider that now Fury has fresh video to carefully peruse, to learn even better Wilder’s current form, his latest tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. He will study the Ortiz fight and then he will study his own twelve round struggle with Wilder most carefully, looking to discern what he didn’t see preceding those two knockdowns. If you think Tyson Fury doesn’t go to bed at night thinking about, dreaming about, those two knockdowns and what he’ll do differently next time, then think again. I’ve watched Fury very carefully and when he’s not cutting the fool, he’s very analytical. This is a thinking man’s boxer. He understands better than anyone the nature of the challenge he faces come February.
Problem number one for Fury is not new, it’s always been there: it is to solve the threat of the big right. He needs to identify what was different about those two punches that took him down, that he didn’t see coming. Fury had seen all the previous rights telegraphed by Wilder’s body set-up, Fury ducking under and countering, exactly as he did against Klitchsko, a lesson in how to hit and not get hit by the big one.
Problem number two is tracking recent tendencies and getting the timing down, so he can take advantage and land the shots that will secure him the victory. He will be studying the Ortiz video and, like any champion does, he will be replicating those scenarios in the gym. And rest assured, Wilder’s lackluster performance against Ortiz won’t undermine Fury’s resolve, won’t cause him to relax and think “I got this!” Outwardly he may say otherwise, but he’s a thinking fighter and he knows that performance could have been just a bad day at the office.
I anticipate Fury will figure out how to do what he couldn’t quite manage in the first fight, namely consistently connect while making Wilder miss, to the point of wearing “The Bronze Bomber” down, exhausting him physically and mentally. That was the game-plan Fury masterfully executed in defeating Klitschko four years ago. “Dr. Steelhammer” failed to throw his vaunted right hand, mostly due to Fury’s constant movement and throwing Wlad different looks, different angles.
Once again, Fury’s plan has to be to outbox his opponent and wear him down, to the point of exhaustion that Wilder was in by the final round of the last fight. He needs to get Deontay there a bit earlier, maybe pick up the pace, keep him throwing and missing. Like Ali said, you get tired.
Here’s the thing: based on what I saw Saturday, Wilder’s fight plan will essentially be about doing the same old thing and just counting on landing the big shot sooner to get different results. Meanwhile, Fury’s mindset will be that he has some unfinished business, that he has to be sharper, better, and bring some surprises to this fight. It will be Fury calling the tune and Wilder counting on his power. But in my view, if “The Bronze Bomber” brings nothing new or different to the rematch, he may find himself in trouble.
Don’t get me wrong: I respect Wilder’s skill and power. He’s a dangerous man in that ring, but he has to be far less predictable, not to mention much sharper than he looked against Ortiz. And if he is, then that just makes Wilder vs Fury II an even better showdown than I expect it to be.
I’m a retiree on fixed income so right now I’m careful about my pocket change, but come February 22nd, I’ll be putting my cash down for the Wilder vs Fury rematch. This is one pay-per-view I’ll be happy to buy. That’s because this fight is in the finest, centuries-old, tradition of fistic competition. It is, in my opinion, the best match-up in the heavyweight division, tantamount to the Irresistible Object meeting the Immovable Force. Win, lose or draw, it’s going to be another ask-no-quarter-give-none Battle Royale that all fight fans can look forward to. I can’t wait!
But make no mistake, Deontay Wilder fans. Your man better be way sharper than he was on Saturday against Luis Ortiz. If not, it’ll be Tyson Fury who gets the monster payday against either Anthony Joshua or Andy Ruiz Jr. Yes, the heavyweight division is very interesting again! And no matter the outcome on February 22nd, I’m already looking forward to a trilogy fight. — Ralph M. Semien