Heavyweight world champion plans on being “possessed" again on March 3 when he faces unbeaten Cuban contender, much like he was when he demolished Bermane Stiverne this past November.
Deontay Wilder was at his destructive best in his last fight: disdainful of his opponent, swinging his wrecking ball of a right hand with abandon, and so fired up after the third and final knockdown of the bout that he had to be restrained by the referee from continuing to batter his opponent, who was helpless on the canvas.
Wilder was, in his own carefully chosen word, “possessed" that night and determined to hurt someone.
But that night’s opponent was Bermane Stiverne, who came in undertrained, under-motivated and inactive for the previous two years.
When Wilder next steps into the ring to defend his WBC heavyweight title he will be faced with a far more formidable foe: Luis Ortiz, the unbeaten Cuban heavyweight who many believe will pose the toughest test of Wilder’s 39-bout career.
If Wilder was possessed against Stiverne — the only fighter to have gone the distance with him in the bout that earned Wilder the title in 2015 — one can only imagine what his mental state will be at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on March 3 when he takes on Ortiz (Showtime 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), a fighter he likes and respects even less than he did Stiverne.
“Everything I threw at Stiverne that night was really meant for Ortiz,” Wilder said.
The source of Wilder’s scorn, of course, is Ortiz’ two failed performance-enhancing drug tests, the second of which caused cancellation of a bout between the two last November and forced Wilder to take on the busywork chore of fighting Stiverne a second time.
“I kept telling Stiverne and his trainer, you ain’t ready. You’re going to get knocked out,” Wilder said. “But you know how it is. I did what I had to do. I’m glad it turned out the way it did, because Stiverne was becoming a thorn in my ass with all his whining and complaining. So his time came. And now it’s Ortiz’ time.”
Ortiz’ second failed test, for a diuretic often used to mask the presence of a PED in the system, only temporarily cost him a shot at the title. The WBC accepted his defense — that he had taken the drug for a high blood pressure condition — and reinstated him so he could fight Wilder in what is probably the second-most anticipated heavyweight fight boxing can offer these days.
The most anticipated, of course, is the inevitable showdown between Wilder and unbeaten Englishman Anthony Joshua, a bout Wilder still believes can be made before the end of 2018.
But first, he must dispose of Ortiz, who has the size (6-4, 240 pounds), the resume (24 KOs in 28 fights) and the nickname (“King Kong”) to at least create the appearance of a dangerous challenger.
Not, however, to Wilder.
“He got good punching power. He got some boxing skills. He can put some combinations together,” Wilder said of Ortiz. “But that’s about it. Ortiz haven’t fought no dangerous fighters. And he doesn’t have no confidence, I’m sure of that.”
Wilder’s basis for that belief is Ortiz’ history of PED usage.
“When a guy does that, it tells me he has no confidence,” Wilder said. “Anybody that needs that kind of help has no confidence in their own ability of what they’re trying to do. They brag about it, they say they got the goods, but when you get off the juice, what do you have? What is your confidence level then? We gonna find out March 3 what Luis Ortiz’ real confidence is.”
“ Everything I threw at Stiverne that night was really meant for Ortiz. And now it’s Ortiz’ time. ” Heavyweight World Champion Deontay Wilder
Confidence has never been a problem for Wilder, who only took up boxing as a last resort to pay the medical expenses of his daughter, Naieya, who was born with spina bifida, and never even laced on a glove until he was 21. Due to his late start, he can at times appear overanxious and even amateurish in the ring. But his superior punching power, especially in his right hand, smooths over a lot of the rough edges in a style that is still evolving since his pro debut in 2008. And with his first round KO of Stiverne last November, Wilder has now knocked out every man who has ever stepped into a ring with him.
“I’m a confident champion, and why shouldn’t I be?” he said. “I mean look who you’re going up against. You’re going against one of the most dangerous fighters in the heavyweight division. As a fighter, you see a guy like that, you see him strong like that, and long, and have the athleticism, you be thinking twice. Ortiz has got to be thinking, what happened to Stiverne could happen to me, too.”
That confidence led Wilder to declare recently that, had he and Mike Tyson met back in 1986 — at the height of the young Tyson’s destructive prime — that he, Wilder, would have won.
“Listen, I’ve got to keep it real,” Wilder said. “There’s no man that I feel can beat me. No man, period. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care what they did in their career. It don’t matter who you name. And that’s the way I’m always going to feel until proven wrong.’’
Wilder has yet to be proven wrong about anything in a boxing ring. He says he would like nothing better than to become the first undisputed world heavyweight champion in 15 years, a position that has gone unfilled since Lennox Lewis retired following an unexpected difficult title defense against Vitali Klitschko in 2003.
But first he must get past Ortiz, with whom he shares one common opponent: Malik Scott, who Ortiz dominated in a 12-round decision win in 2016 – two years after Wilder had dismantled Scott in the first round.
“Ortiz, he was considered the boogeyman of the sport. People ducked him, even champions,” Wilder said. “But I’m giving him the opportunity, even though he’s a cheater. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out for him.”
Then, Wilder hopes it will be on to Joshua, who despite an impressive showing against Wladimir Klitschko to win the title in April 2017, has yet to fight in the United States and has seemed reluctant to force a unification showdown with Wilder. Joshua will fight unbeaten New Zealander Joseph Parker in Cardiff, Wales on March 31.
“We been ready for two years now but they don’t seem to want it,” Wilder said of Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn. “But my gut feeling is that it will happen this year. People want to see this fight and they want it now. I mean, why wait? Wait on what? It won’t get no bigger than it is right now.”
On the subject of Joshua, Wilder sounds like a man possessed. And we’ve all seen what that man is capable of once the bell rings.
For a closer look at Wilder vs Ortiz, visit our fight page.