Deontay Wilder’s fight with Luis Ortiz on Mar. 3, 2018 was overdue, but it wasn’t any fault of the reigning and undefeated WBC heavyweight titleholder.
Wilder had been set to face the big Cuban southpaw in Nov. 2017, but Ortiz failed drug tests, a reality that got excused and pretty well swept away, as these things generally do in boxing. It was not a new situation for Wilder, who had also lost a 2016 fight with Alexander Povetkin for basically the same reasons. Povetkin was supposed to be a big test for Wilder, and Ortiz the same.
Wilder did keep his Nov. 2017 date, going ahead with a rematch against mandatory challenger Bermane Stiverne, the man he’d beaten to win the WBC belt in Jan. 2015, the only time Wilder had gone to a decision.
In the rematch, Wilder fought furiously and with a rather frightening amount of frustration and anger, blasting Stiverne for three knockdowns in a first round finish.
Ultimately, the fight with Ortiz (28-0, 24 KO coming in) was rescheduled, pushed through despite the prior issues. Wilder (39-0, 38 KO coming in) was, as usual, ready to dish out punishment via his devastating right hand, but the test everyone imagined did come in the form of Ortiz, who was able to out-box Wilder for much of the fight.
That power, though, was the real difference-maker. Ortiz went down in the fifth round, but got up and stormed back on Deontay, hurting him badly in the seventh round. There was some controversy involved with Wilder being hurt, some feeling referee David Fields was favorable toward him and his recovery, but the fight went on, and Wilder found his way back.
It’s not the most sustained action, but there is high drama and that big fight feel once these lads get rolling. There was a consistent sense that either man could end the fight with the right shot at any time, and that’s one of the most thrilling feelings you can have watching a fight.