How Ortiz can shock Wilder
Anthony Joshua was dethroned by a Snickers advocate, Tyson Fury was a jab or two away from a cut above his right eye proving too bad to continue against a no-name Swede, and on Sunday (AEDT), Deontay Wilder is far from a sure thing against an opponent who has already pushed him to the edge.
There is no infallible heavyweight champion, ever. And while the likes of Joshua, Fury, and Wilder have reignited a division that was screaming out for excitement, the uncomfortable truth is they're all one punch away from being replaced in the conversation for the baddest man on the planet.
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Before Wilder (40-0-1) became a household name after a twelve-round war with Fury, he was nearly dethroned by Luis Ortiz (31-1-0); a tricky, powerful southpaw who had the Bronze Bomber legitimately hurt before the WBC champion found an answer.
This weekend, in Las Vegas, they go again. Ortiz is now 40, and Wilder is supposedly a few months away from a sequel with Fury. But looking past the Cuban would be a huge mistake, according to former world champion Paulie Malignaggi.
"I think people are getting ahead of themselves looking for Fury-Wilder [II], which I think is going to be a great fight if it happens," Malignaggi said.
"But I think people are kind of sleeping on Ortiz. You know, Ortiz isn't just a big, strong guy. He's a guy who is technically sound as well, and I think him and Wilder had a terrific fight the first time around. I could see it getting kind of hairy again for both guys, and a little bit of a tricky fight for either guy.
"But of course trickier for Wilder in that he's the one that's expected to win."
Malignaggi was in New York commentating when the two went around the first time; a tenth round finish that set Wilder up with the mega-money Fury showdown.
He believes there's one, clear adjustment that could decide the rematch. It's something Wilder, in Malignaggi's opinion, needs to fix, and something Ortiz needs to be ready to counter.
"Wilder has to figure out a way to make his jab effective," Malignaggi said. "In the first fight I thought Ortiz did a very good job of nullifying Wilder's jab.
"If you're able to nullify Wilder's jab, he's not able to set up the right hand the way he wants to. So you know, he's got to go to other methods. And the other methods, once you force him to use them, sometimes are kind of limited for Wilder.
"He's got incredible power when he sets up that right hand correctly, when he's able to throw it straight and be balanced enough to throw it with power, he's actually got probably the best power pound-for-pound when he's able to do that.
"But when you put him off balance, or when you set him off balance, you prevent him from setting his distance properly by negating his jab. This is what Ortiz did that gave him trouble, and also what Fury did in their fight by having a better jab than him.
"It kind of eliminates his ability to set up the big power, especially in big spots.
"Now Wilder, I'm not going to say he got lucky in that first fight because he obviously figured out a different way, and to me that shows character, but the way he set up the final assault was not off a jab, it was off a counter right hand to Ortiz's jab.
"He countered with the right hand to kind of set Ortiz reeling, and then the follow-up, which was all the wild punches, dropped Ortiz."
Malignaggi told foxsports.com.au that, until now, he was yet to give his true take on the fight after copping criticism from Wilder's camp.
Put simply, he didn't want to help the American prepare for the rematch.
"My biggest curiosity is, does Wilder understand the adjustment that needs to be made, and does his team understand the adjustment that needs to be made?" Malignaggi asked.
"Because it's something that I did not bring out in the first fight when I was commentating it, and I didn't get to bring it out after because I was criticised for certain things in the Wilder-Fury fight by his team, and also in the Ortiz fight for me complaining that Wilder had gotten too much time after Round 7 to recover, as opposed to letting him start the next round, which is the way it's supposed to go.
Nonetheless, I'm probably only telling you this because it's only two days before the fight, because … I want Wilder to figure out his own answers. So two days before the fight, I can tell you this now, I can finally say this now. That's the adjustment I'm looking for.
"I'm not going to say it a month before the fight, because I don't want him to work on something because I said it. But I want to see if they've figured it out basically. And doing this interview with you two days before the fight, now we're going to find out if they figured it out."
With Joshua set to face Andy Ruiz Jr. on December 8 (AEDT) in a fight many believe will result in him reclaiming his belts, and Fury waiting in the wings, there's a lot for Wilder to lose against Ortiz.
And although he's yet to be beaten, the Ortiz rematch poses a legitimate threat.
Malignaggi explained further: "It's going to be up to Ortiz to be careful not to set himself up, and put himself in position for those counter right hands when he's trying to use his own jab, because obviously the counter to a southpaw is a straight right hand.
"When Wilder has to lead with the right hand, it's not that sharp and it's not that strong. But when he can counter with it, and then he's able to get straight leverage on it, he's able to still keep it straight and keep it strong.
"And of course the other way he's able to keep straight is the technical way that he always does behind that good jab.
"If Ortiz gets going with his own jab - and Ortiz has a pretty good southpaw jab - and he's able to mix it enough to where Wilder can't get the timing on the counter right hand, it becomes a risky fight for Wilder."
The reality is rather straightforward for Malignaggi, who believes those atop the heavyweight division can all be beaten.
"I don't think anyone is as dominant at heavyweight today as Wladimir Klitschko was in his prime," he explained. "So you know, I'd say any of these guys can probably beat each other on certain nights, you know.
"They are very good fighters, but there is not a guy in the mould of Wladimir Klitschko, who was actually that good and is very much unappreciated.
"I don't think it's a critique on Wilder to say he can be beat, I think it's just how the heavyweight division is right now; the top three, four, five guys can all knock each other off at any given point."
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