Luis Ortiz vs Malik Scott
Record: 25-0 (22 KO) ... Streak: W25 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6’4" / 84" ... Age: 37
Notes: Luis Ortiz is a massive man and hits like a motherf***er.
That is my analysis of Luis Ortiz. He will go as far as his power and the matchmaking carry him. He’s old, but he’s taken no real punishment in his career. Big, powerful southpaws are still a heavyweight rarity.
Record: 38-2-1 (13 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 7-2-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’4" / 81" ... Age: 36
Notes: Malik Scott is a good boxer. But he also fights once a year now. He’s won his last two, beating Alex Leapai in Australia on Halloween 2014, and then beat Tony Thompson by decision on October 30, 2015.
Now he returns to face Luis Ortiz, a punishing puncher. The last time we saw Scott face a puncher was a 96-second KO loss to Deontay Wilder in March 2014. That fight has long been debated, at least as far as how clean Scott was really hit, and whether or not he "took a dive." The two were known to be friendly, and had sparred together extensively in the past.
But forget the tinfoil. He was also worn out and stopped by Dereck Chisora in 2013. Scott’s record is a lot better on paper than it is in reality. It’s not that he has no decent wins. In fact, he’s got a lot of decent wins. But he has no good wins. He’s a talented boxer but lacks the power to be a real threat in the heavyweight division, even as suspect as it has often been during his career. That doesn’t figure to change.
Matchup Grade: D+. The hope was that Ortiz would be fighting better opponents at this point, but here we are. His move to sign with Matchroom was interesting, and might well have been the smartest thing for his career since so much of the notable heavyweight scene is still based in Europe, and it’s not like he really has a built-in fan base in any of the notable U.S. boxing cities. This should be an early night for Ortiz, but Scott might be able to spoil it for a few rounds.
Jason Sosa vs Stephen Smith
Record: 19-1-4 (15 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 4-0-1 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'5" / 67" ... Age: 28
Notes: Sosa’s draw with Nicholas Walters in late 2015 was controversial, even derided. And rightly so. Most of us who watched that fight saw it clearly for Walters, which was nothing against Sosa’s performance. He was game and gave a great effort, and ultimately, the judges saw more for him than many of us did.
He got a chance for a world title because of that draw. Or, well, you could look at it that way. He could have lost 12-0 to Walters and still gotten a world title shot. Boxing is stupid that way. But he went to Beijing in June to face Javier Fortuna, unbeaten and occasionally someone who looked like a really good fighter.
Through 10 rounds, Fortuna led on scores of 94-93, 96-91, and 95-92. Sosa had been down in the fifth round. And then he stopped Fortuna, 45 seconds into round 11, for an upset and his title as a professional. Not just world title, title of any level. He’d never even held one of those Fedalatin Pacific Oriental Youth interim belts or anything.
Overall, Sosa’s on a good run. He hasn’t had a setback since 2012, other than the draw with Walters, a streak of 15-0-1. Most of those wins are nothing to get excited about -- actually, really none of them except the win over Fortuna. But even if you felt he lost clearly to Walters, he didn’t give a poor accounting of himself in that fight, and he stopped Fortuna last time out. He’s fought himself into a good spot.
Record: 24-2 (14 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'6½" / 66" ... Age: 31
Notes: This will be Swifty Smith’s second world title shot in 2016, after a loss to Jose "Sniper" Pedraza in April, dropping a clear 12-round decision on Showtime.
Smith hasn’t really earned his way back to another title shot, but here we are. He beat Daniel Brizuela a month and a half after losing to Pedraza, because he wanted to get into the ring at Liverpool’s Goodison Park for the big Matchroom card there.
Smith is a decent fighter. His better wins have come against the likes of Gary Buckland, Mauricio Munoz, and Devis Boschiero. But Sosa has only proven so much, too, and that makes this a competitive matchup on paper.
Matchup Grade: C+. The fight is OK. It’s not a mismatch, but as a world title fight it lacks some sizzle. That said, Sosa has turned out to be a really fun fighter to watch, and Smith isn’t exactly hard to find, so this could be good action.
Jamie McDonnell vs Liborio Solis
Record: 28-2-1 (13 KO) ... Streak: W20 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'10" / 72" ... Age: 30
Notes: McDonnell is on a winning streak that dates back to 2008. After he started his career 8-2-1, winning the British and Commonwealth titles over Ian Napa in 2010 could have easily been his career peak. Adding the European title less than two months later? Hey, he’s on a roll!
But winning a world title and becoming one of the elite bantamweights in the sport? That would have been seen as a reach, even after winning the European, British, and Commonwealth belts. But he did just that in 2013, beating Julio Ceja for the vacant IBF bantamweight title. He was never given a chance to defend that belt, but grabbed the WBA "world" title a year later. He’s defended it successfully four times, including a pair of wins over Tomoki Kameda, the first of which was seen as a real upset.
McDonnell doesn’t do anything striking, really. He’s just a good fighter. He’s got height and reach that give him physical advantages, but he doesn’t have big power or exceptional speed of great defense or anything. He just gets the job done. And there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s a workmanlike fighter, and a good one.
Record: 25-4-1 (11 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'4" / 69½" ... Age: 34
Notes: Venezuela’s Solis is a former super flyweight titleholder, beating Kohei Kono for the WBA 115-pound belt in 2013. He never defended that title, though, missing weight for a defense seven months later against Daiki Kameda. He won the fight, which went on, but lost his belt.
Since then, he’s faced limited opposition in Panama and Venezuela, save for another trip to Japan in March of this year, where he lost wide to Shinsuke Yamanaka, but did knock the world’s top bantamweight down two times (and was dropped twice himself). He’s won his last two, against opponents with records of 11-6-1 and 26-13.
Solis is not a terrible challenger, at least on boxing’s sliding scale of world title challengers. But he’s a legitimate underdog, and should be. He’s going to be giving up a ton of height to McDonnell, who is a tall bantamweight, and he hasn’t beaten anyone on this level in years now.
Matchup Grade: C. Let’s be generous! McDonnell is on a great run right now, and should manage to take care of business without much trouble. But Solis is a veteran fighter with some quality in his past, at least.
Martin Murray vs Nuhu Lawal: Murray (33-4-1, 16 KO) was supposed to face Arthur Abraham in a rematch, then was set to face Dmitry Chudinov, and now will face undefeated and untested Lawal (23-0, 13 KO), a Nigerian fighter now living in Germany. Lawal, 34, has faced decent club level competition in Germany, but doesn’t have the experience of Murray, 34. Murray has lost two of three, dropping a close decision to Abraham last November, and losing to George Groves clearly in June in his last outing. He’ll be the favorite here, but Lawal has the record of a guy who could be a trap opponent. Or he’ll get blown away by a more savvy fighter. Who knows!