Deontay Wilder puts on a show with an electric 10th-round TKO of Luis Ortiz

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The WBC heavyweight champ survived his seventh—and toughest—title defense to date by weathering a seventh-round storm from the previously unbeaten Cuban contender before storming back with his own offensive attack in the 10th round in front of a raucous crowd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK — Deontay Wilder wore a glad look of relief in his eyes, while his body leaned heavy on the ropes. The WBC heavyweight world champion could barely stand and had the right to look spent. It’s what happens when you spill out every ounce of your essence in the ring.

“The Bronze Bomber” faced the most crucial test of his boxing career and survived it, proving that he’s one of the most exciting fighters in the world—after finishing one of the most thrilling heavyweight fights in years.

After a slow start, Wilder ended the valiant effort of Luis Ortiz at 2:05 of the 10th round to retain the WBC title before a raucous crowd of 14,069 at Barclays Center Saturday night (the second-largest crowd to see boxing at Barclays after the Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter fight). At the time of the stoppage, Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) was ahead, 85-84, on the scorecards of judges Glenn Feldman, Kevin Morgan and Carlos Ortiz.

It’s early, but already, the fight will be a contender for 2018 Fight of the Year. It had dramatic twists and turns, with Wilder in trouble, then Ortiz, then Wilder, and finally, after a slew of pulverizing rights in the 10th, Ortiz succumbed.  

“'King Kong' ain’t got nothing on me!” Wilder proclaimed. “A true champion always finds a way to come back and that’s what I did tonight. Luis Ortiz is definitely a crafty guy. He put up a great fight. We knew we had to wear him down. I showed everyone I can take a punch.

“When he leaves tonight Ortiz can hold his head high. He gave the fans a hell of a fight. He was hitting me with those furious punches but they didn’t have sting on them. He was throwing combos that knocked me off balance. I just had to get my range back and my fundamentals back. And I was able to do that. I showed I was a true champion tonight.”

Wilder connected on 98 of 346 total punches (28%), 38 of 191 jabs (20%) and 60 of 155 (39%) power shots. Ortiz’s numbers are close, connecting on 87 of 363 (24%) total shots, 24 of 218 (11%) jabs and 63 of 145 (43%) power shots.

Feeling confident and ahead, Ortiz (28-1, 24 KOs) Ortiz was up on his toes in the fifth, boxing and moving, while Wilder did little to engage and kept going backward. With around :25 in the round, Wilder opened up and exploded on Ortiz. A straight right to the chin, which staggered Ortiz, was followed by another clubbing right to the side of Ortiz’s head sent the Cuban expatriate down for the first time in his career.

Ortiz—who was vying to become the first Cuban heavyweight champion—got his legs back under him, but he was suddenly facing a far different Deontay Wilder than he did the first four rounds. Wilder hit Ortiz with grazing shots, nothing clean and definitive.

Still, it was more than what Wilder had done in the opening rounds. The Bronze Bomber became the stalker and Ortiz the fighter who was backing up.

Wilder won the sixth, but the course of the fight changed again—this time in dramtc fashion—in the seventh stanza.

I am the baddest man on the planet and I proved that tonight. This solidified my position at the top of the food chain tonight. Heavyweight World Champion Deontay Wilder

Ortiz landed a straight left in Wilder’s chin—and just like that— Wilder was in dangerous trouble of being stopped. He was holding on for dear life, and as proof on the scorecards, each of the judges gave Ortiz a 10-8 round.

“I almost had him and I think I would’ve if there were a few more seconds in the round,” Ortiz said. “I thought I was going to get a rhythm earlier. I thought I was winning the fight. This is heavyweight boxing and he caught me with a great shot. He's a great champion.

“Wilder was definitely saved by the bell. I thought I had him out on his feet. But you have to give him credit, he weathered the storm. I just want to get back in the ring, hopefully earn a rematch and fight for one of the other titles.”

Wilder entered the eighth on wobbly legs.

Ortiz knew it.

Again, the roles were reversed. Ortiz began stalking Wilder. Referee David Fields began lingering closer to the fighters, as Ortiz tried connecting on big, looping lefts.

“It was a great fight and I performed well,” Ortiz said. “I thought I was up on the scorecard going in to the (tenth) round, but it’s heavyweight boxing and you never know what’s going to happen.”

In the ninth, Wilder’s legs seemed more stable. It showed. The Bronze Bomber opened up and won the round by finding his lethal right hand again. This time, Wilder bounced it off Ortiz’s face and had the Cuban reeling backwards.

That opened the door to the end.

A Wilder right started the 10th, which had Ortiz cowering, and stumbling back, before another right dropped Ortiz for the second time in the fight. Ortiz got up at the count of nine, came forward, Wilder was there again, rocking him again before the ending the fight with a right uppercut. Fields quickly waved it over.

“I just showed that I can punch on the inside as well, too,” Wilder said. “A lot of people don’t think I can punch on the inside, but I showed them. Now I can say there’s no man that stepped in the ring that I haven’t put on their ass.

“Luis Ortiz was one of those fighters that everyone ducked, even champions ducked him. I wondered why it took so long for him to get a title shot and now we know.

“I’m ready right now. I always said that I want to unify. I’m ready whenever those guys are. I am the baddest man on the planet and I proved that tonight. This solidified my position at the top of the food chain tonight.”

Dirrell vs Uzcategui

Jose Uzcategui celebrates winning the IBF interim super middleweight title on March 3, 2018 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. (Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME)

Jose Uzcategui gets his redemption with an eighth-round TKO of Andre Dirrell

This had been building for a while. Jose Uzcategui knew he had the better of Andre Dirrell, when they met the first time last May in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Uzcategui knew it. Everyone who saw the fight knew it. Maybe even Dirrell knew it, too.

The problem was the final result didn’t indicate it. Uzcategui (27-2, 23 KOs) hit Dirrell after the eighth round, landing a three-punch combo that put Dirrell (26-3, 16 KOs) on the floor face first. Referee Bill Clancy felt the salvos came after the bell rang, disqualifying Uzcategui, who was ahead 77-74 and 77-75 on two scorecards and knotted 76-76 on the third scorecard.

All hell broke loose seconds afterwards. Leon Lawson Jr., Dirrell’s uncle and then-trainer, sucker punched Uzcategui, both corners went crazy and the finish helped create a rematch—the shot Uzcategui had been waiting 10 months for.

That frustration unfurled Saturday night when Uzcategui unloaded on Dirrell.

The eighth round was particularly punishing for the former 2004 United States Olympian. Uzcategui bore forward and couldn’t help but hit Dirrell at every chance. Dirrell valiantly tried fighting back, though nothing he did seemed to have any effect on Uzcategui.

After the round concluded, Uzcategui tapped Dirrell on the head. Anyone looking on could tell that was it for Dirrell—and it was. Dirrell’s corner wisely stepped in and stopped it for their fighter. 

The official time was :02 of the ninth round.

Uzcategui landed 169 of 536 total punches (32%), 57 of 233 (24%) jabs and the true difference in the fight was the power punches, connecting on 112 of 303 (37%). In comparison, Dirrell landed 141 of 446 (32%) total punches, 90 of 308 (29%) jabs and 51 of 138 (37%) power punches.

“I was a little surprised they stopped it in the eighth,” Uzcategui said. “I had said it would be the third round that I would knock him out. It took a little longer, but it finally came. I think it was very clear in the first fight that I did my job. In the second fight I showed even more, so there’s going to be a lot of Uzcategui from now on.

“I came here to pressure him. It was either get knocked out or knock him out. I knocked him out. First I want to fight for the IBF title. Then I want to fight David Benavidez. We’re good friends, but I want to fight him.”

By the third it was apparent where the course of this fight was headed. Dirrell’s left eye started to swell and the left side of his face was turning red from Uzcategui rights. As the bell sounded to conclude the third, Uzcategui appeared to drop Dirrell with a left to the ear. But referee Ricky Gonzalez motioned that the round was over and the knockdown didn’t count.

It really didn’t matter, because in the fourth, Uzcategui picked up where he left off in the third. He pressured Dirrell and kept landing those rights to Dirrell’s face, while mixing in an occasional jab. When the fourth ended. Dirrell’s face was pretty marked up, while Uzcategui seemed hardly touched at all.

“My strategy was to break him down every round,” Uzcategui said. “All credit to Andre, he's a great fighter. He's a championship level fighter and it took me a little bit to figure him out. But I started to figure him out and I'm glad his corner stopped it because it would have ended badly.

“I want all the big fights. I'm ready for them. I want to provide for my family and this is my chance to do it.”

Dirrell openly wondered about his future in boxing.

“I've been in there with long fighters before, but he was especially long.” Dirrell said. “I think I was a little heavier than I wanted to be tonight, but that's no excuse. Uzcategui did a great job.

“We knew we needed a knockout. The way it was going I needed to at least pick it up. I felt a little sluggish and he hit all the right shots. None of them really hurt, but he hit me where he was supposed to.

“My family, my team and me will make a decision about what's next, but we'll soon find out.”

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