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Luis Ortiz’s star is fading, but can still mix it with the best

A wide decision over Christian Hammer on Saturday may have been just the ticket for the Cuban.

Erislandy Lara v Brian Castano Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Luis Ortiz is continuing to prove somewhat of an enigma in the heavyweight division. His wide decision over the unyielding Romanian Christian Hammer on Saturday night gave the Cuban southpaw necessary column inches across the boxing media, in a fortnight where some of the main players in the heavyweight division have been left without obvious or credible dance partners.

King Kong was expected to stop Hammer in Brooklyn. A short price of 1/3 pre-fight could be squeezed out of the betting market for Ortiz to record the 27th stoppage of his career, however, the underwhelming nature of what unfolded may have just been the ticket to keep his name alive in the quest for a world title.

Hammer looked as though he was in there to survive. The 31-year-old showed a good chin against the powerful left hand of Ortiz, but without any true urgency in the fight, it all became fairly routine for the favourite. We’ve seen this before from Hammer; Alexander Povetkin was unable to put a serious dent in him over their 12-rounder back in December 2017.

Despite the stoppage never coming for Ortiz, his skillset is still unique among the heavyweights. A balanced blend of power and boxing IQ allows the southpaw to adapt to most opponents inside the ring. Sticking behind his jab for the majority of this contest, Ortiz was able to dictate the pace, winning rounds with relative ease. Hammer tucked up well on the ropes, with Ortiz looking to switch attacks from the body to the head to open his guard.

Hammer turned out to be a decent run-out for Ortiz, who has struggled to lure testing opposition into the ring since his loss to Deontay Wilder. Wins over Răzvan Cojanu and Travis Kauffman have kept the *39-year-old* ticking over in his search for another stab at a world title; with Joshua, Fury and Wilder seemingly further away from each other now than ever, Ortiz may see an opportunity of forcing an opening.

In essence, it was a forgettable performance from Ortiz with signs of him looking a faded force notable. This being said, coming off the back of an uninspired win can often prove the best negotiating position in boxing politics.

Speaking after the fight on Saturday, Ortiz emphasised his priorities in 2019.

“The fight wasn’t what I was expecting,” said Ortiz. “It was a hard fight and my corner really had to work with me. After I got the rhythm, I heated up a little bit. Every heavyweight out there should know that I still have it at 40-years-old. Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, I’m ready.”

“I fought a fight that I hadn’t for years, which is box and work, so I’m not disappointed I didn’t knock him out because I showed some of my boxing skills tonight.”

Ortiz must be attracting the attention of Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, again. King Kong was always considered the plan for the British promoter to be lined up for a fight against Anthony Joshua, this being said, it didn’t go according to plan. Ortiz signed with Matchroom in 2016 with the terms of the deal undisclosed. The deal only lasted for two fights against Malik Scott and Dave Allen until the parties went their separate ways.

Ortiz looked horrible against Scott in Monaco and dissected an overmatched Dave Allen a month later; for what reason was this collision course derailed?

”Luis Ortiz is one of the most exciting heavyweights in the world and I am delighted to be working with him,” Hearn said. “We plan to keep him very busy and let the fans enjoy his devastating power. Luis is an avoided fighter but we plan on giving him the profile that will make that impossible.”

These were the words of Eddie Hearn in 2016 as Britain was introduced to Ortiz. Perhaps the King Kong project was just too hard to get moving in the UK, with Ortiz’s lack of English an expected hurdle. Maybe, he saw the AJ millions trickling through his fingers, having taken a closer look at why he is an “avoided fighter”.

The truth is, after Miller, Joshua’s next step is a messy one. Expected to be back in the ring November/December time, the list of possible opponents is an ever-shrinking one. Fury is building his brand in the US with the ESPN deal, Wilder won’t talk to him and Whyte is looking to force a mandatory with the WBC. Outside these three, Joshua’s got his work cut out finding a credible dance partner.

Is the time right for Luis Ortiz? Unless Matchroom push the Usyk fight to the front of the queue, it’s looking likely to be a toss-up between Kubrat Pulev and the Cuban. Neither is a particularly easy sell in the UK, but Hearn’s hardball tactics have ended up backing themselves into a corner.

Assuming Joshua walks through Miller on June 1, we may find Hearn and AJ roll the dice on Ortiz at the end of 2019.

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