By Joseph Santoliquito
The WBC World Heavyweight Champion ties Muhammad Ali on the heavyweight list for most consecutive title defenses as he delivers a scorching KO Saturday night on FOX Sports PBC PPV.
His body vernacular seemed a little too composed, a little too relaxed, a little too, well, confident.
Deontay Wilder was patient, and patient, and patient—then boom!
He knew something.
“The Bronze Bomber” knew once there was that sliver of an opening, it was over. And it was. The crowd at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas waited with bated breath until the seventh round—that’s when Wilder delivered yet another highlight-reel KO, ending his rematch with Luis Ortiz at 2:51 of that frame in the main event of a FOX Sports PBC pay-per-view.
Wilder, 34, 42-0-1 (41 KOs), has now defended his WBC World Heavyweight title 10 straight times, which ties him with Muhammad Ali on the most consecutive heavyweight title defenses list (10).
Ortiz, 40, 31-2 (26 KOs), loses for the second time as a pro, both times to Wilder.
“With Ortiz, you can see why no other heavyweight wants to fight him,” Wilder said afterward. “He’s very crafty, he moves strategically and his intellect is very high. I had to measure him in certain places.
“I had to go in and out and finally I found my measurement. I saw the shot and I took it. My intellect is very high in the ring and no one gives me credit for it. I think I buzzed him with a left hook earlier in the round and I took it from there.”
It didn’t look so promising early on. Ortiz appeared to be in control of the action up until Wilder’s vaunted right hand, arguably the most powerful punch in boxing history, sent everyone home early. Ortiz lead on all three judge’s scorecards (Eric Cheek 58-56, Dave Moretti 59-55 and Steve Weisfeld 59-55) prior to the seventh.
“This is boxing,” said Ortiz, who slammed his glove against the top rope after the fight in frustration. “I said that one of us was going to get knocked out and it wasn’t going to go 12 rounds. I was clear headed when I hit the canvas. When I heard the referee say seven, I was trying to get up, but I guess the count went a little quicker than I thought.”
At the outset, the two took their time. Ortiz struck first in the opening stanza, landing an overhand left on Wilder’s jaw as the champ backed into the ropes. But as the two fighters fell into a clinch, Ortiz emerged with a small stream of blood dripping down the right side of his head, caused by an accidental headbutt.
The cut didn’t have an effect on Ortiz or the fight’s outcome, but Ortiz’s shots certainly had an effect on Wilder. This slimmer, trimmer 236.5-pound version, was quicker on his feet, making Wilder cautious and forcing him to back up. He was all over Wilder in the second, taking the attack to him.
Wilder finally got going in the third, pumping out his jab as he sought to find his range. But again, it was Ortiz coming forward.
The action heated up in the fourth. Wilder continued to jab consistently, sometimes pawing, sometimes shooting it out and occasionally turning it into a hook.
But Ortiz was mixing up his attack, landing his left up and downstairs to keep Wilder off-balance. The Cuban native, now residing in Miami, Florida, dominated the fifth. But Wilder was starting to time him with pinpoint counters.
By the sixth, the champion was closing the distance, keeping the jab in Ortiz’s face. Ortiz landed another big left but Wilder’s chin is impressive given that, at 219.5-pounds, he was outweighed by 17 pounds.
The combatants began trading in the seventh. An Ortiz straight left appeared to stagger Wilder. It appeared an upset was brewing and then, just like that—it was over.
Wilder flicked out a jab as he had in the past. Then he threw another—but this time, instead of fully extending his left, he used just enough to draw Ortiz in before pulling the jab back and uncorking a vicious straight right square on his opponent’s face.
The sweat flew off Ortiz’s head. He crumpled to the canvas as Wilder sauntered away, sure that he’d delivered another KO. Referee Kenny Bayless looked in closely while counting as Ortiz tried getting to his feet. He was still on unsteady legs at the count of 10, forcing Bayless to halt the action.
“Ortiz is one of the best in the world. You have to give him that,” said Wilder. “I want to thank his family for allowing Ortiz to come into the ring and share his energy with me. I hope one of the other top heavyweights gives this man another opportunity.
“Next, we have Tyson Fury in the rematch. It’s scheduled for February, so we’ll see. Then, I want unification. I want one champion, one face and one heavyweight champion – Deontay Wilder.”
Indeed. Wilder stands atop the heavyweight division and has established himself as a generational fighter and must-see television.
Leo Santa Cruz outpoints Miguel Flores, wins a title in a fourth weight class
Judges Tim Cheatham (115-112), Glenn Feldman (117-110) and Julie Lederman (117-110) all had it for Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs).
“Winning this title means the world to me,” Santa Cruz said. “This is all for the fans who support me. I didn’t feel myself today and didn’t perform the way I wanted to. I’m going to get back in the gym and get a big fight in 2020.”
Santa Cruz was thorough and dominant. Flores (24-3, 12 KOs) was hardly able to do anything through Santa Cruz’s high guard.
“It was a good fight and I showed I belong at this level,” Flores said. “I just went 12 rounds with Leo Santa Cruz. It’s not an accomplishment in itself but I slowed down his pace. Like I said before, it’s not only about throwing punches, but it’s about ring IQ and I showed I have it.”
He did but Santa Cruz is one of the greatest fighters of this modern era. He set a fast pace, made adjustments and controlled the action at every distance, working the body in close quarters and leading with sound jabs and right hands at range.
“I’m glad I got the victory,” said Santa Cruz. “Miguel is a good fighter, he gave me a tough fight and he proved he’s not a pushover. We put on a great battle. I want to stay at 130. We want the big fights in 2020. I want Gervonta Davis or Gary Russell Jr. I want to show the world I’m not scared of anybody.”
Brandon Figueroa and Julio Ceja battle to a draw
Brandon “The Heartbreaker” Figueroa is a 5-foot-9 super bantamweight who tends to fight like he’s 5-foot-2.
One need look no further than Saturday night as a prime example. Figueroa (20-0-1, 15 knockouts) fought small, dishing out enormous punishment on Julio Ceja but also eating ate 373 shots in return Consequently, Figueroa had to settle for a 12-round split draw.
Ceja came in at 126.5-pounds, nearly five pounds above the 122-pound limit and thus disqualifying him from challenging for Figueroa’s WBA Super Bantamweight title.
“I think I did win the fight,” Figueroa said. “He put on a lot of pressure, but I fought better in the early rounds and I finished strong. I feel like he won maybe four rounds out of the whole fight. I thought I won the first four and closed out the last few rounds of the fight strong.
“I basically fought a person in a weight class above mine tonight. I’m pretty sure if he weighed 122, it wouldn’t even be a close fight. We have to run the rematch back but he better makes the weight.”
Figueroa got off to a fast start, using his jab to work his way inside and pound away at Ceja’s head and body. Ceja never stopped coming forward, matching Figueroa blow for blow down the stretch.
Figueroa landed 411 (80 body shots)/1338 (30.7%) total shots, 39(1)/506 (7.7%) jabs and 372(79)/832 (44.7%) power shots. Ceja (32-4-1, 28 KOs) connected on 373 (96)/1473 (25.3%) total shots, a paltry 6 (0)/95 (6.3%) jabs and 367 (96)/1378 (26.6%) power shots.
Judge Glenn Trowbridge had it 115-113 for Figueroa, Lisa Giampa had it 116-112 for Ceja and Don Trella had it a 114-114 draw.
“This fight is for all of you fans who came here to see me,” Ceja said. “He was a man about it and he gave me the fight. I think I won, but I respect the judges’ decision. I’ll definitely run it back in a rematch.”
Welterweight prospect Vito Mielnicki Jr. flashed the skills that have made him one of the most touted neophytes in the world. The 17-year-old Mielnicki improved to 3-0 (3 KOs) with a second-round TKO of Marklin Bailey (6-6, 4 KOs) at 2:31 of the round. Plus, rising super lightweight prospect Omar Juarez (6-0, 4 KOs) dropped Kevin Shacks (3-5-3, 3 KOs) three times on his way to a TKO victory 1:59 into round six.