It’s no secret that I had reservations about Deontay Wilder heading into his showdown with Luis Ortiz last weekend. And I’m still not ready to place him in the pantheon of all-time, elite heavyweight fighters.
But let’s give the skyscraper from Alabama fair credit. He answered a lot of questions against Ortiz last Saturday in Brooklyn.
Even if you don’t want to acknowledge that the Bronze Bomber is Mr. Right, there can be no doubt that he is Mr. Right Now. After stopping a fellow undefeated knockout star in 10 Rounds, Wilder has to be viewed as one of the hottest fighters on the planet.
Wilder was hardly flawless against Ortiz. But in a sense, that’s part of what made the performance impressive. When a fighter has bulldozed one over-matched opponent after another, it’s fair to wonder how he will respond against an opponent he can’t simply overwhelm. Is he simply a front-runner or will he be able to respond to adversity.
Against Ortiz, Wilder showed he can hang tough and adjust to a formidable opponent. The Cagey Cuban had him fighting off from his back foot for most of the night. Wilder stayed calm. In Round 6, Ortiz rocked Wilder badly and Ortiz reacted exactly the way a heavyweight champion needs to react in that situation–he clinched and held on and weathered the storm.
Wilder’s big right hand was once again the decisive weapon. I would have liked to see better use of his jab in the fight. I would like to see him develop a better lead hook.
But explosive power and superior athleticism can do a lot to make up for technical glitches. I am a long way from comparing Wilder to Muhammad Ali, but it’s worth noting that the young Ali was an unorthodox fighter–his speed and agility allowed him to do things that would make most old-school trainers groan.
Wilder was able to use his speed and agility in a similar manner against a better technical fighter Saturday night.
At the end of this month Anthony Joshua faces off with Joseph Parker–it will be another bout between undefeated, elite heavyweight contenders. I expect Joshua to win. And somewhere down the road, Joshua and Wilder will meet in the biggest heavyweight showdown of this generation.