The Cuban national boxing team has dominated the amateur ranks for generations. In recent years, products of that vaunted amateur system have emerged as some of the top professional fighters in the world. But while Cuban boxers like Erislandy Lara and Guillermo Rigondeaux have managed to finesse some of the best fighters their size in the world, their defensive-oriented approach has not always translated into box office and ratings success.
But heavyweight Luis Ortiz appears to be cut from a slightly different mold. The southpaw certainly has the same high boxing I.Q. and technical capability as his smaller countrymen. But he’s also demonstrated the kind of seek-and-destroy approach that electrifies fans.
Lara and Rigondeaux have seemed primarily interested in minimizing their opponents’ ability to hit them, while landing just enough punches in return to win the rounds on the cards. I can’t completely fault them for this. No boxer should try to get hit.
But while Rigo and Lara seem primarily interested in hitting without getting hit, Ortiz’s agenda is to knock opponents out. While he’s a defensively solid fighter, he’s clearly willing to risk taking one to give one, because he knows the one he gives has the chance to end the fight.
Luis Ortiz’s intriguing package of skill, size and explosive power was once again on display last weekend in Washington D.C., against two-time title challenger Tony Thompson. At 43, Thompson is clearly past his prime. But he’s fought very good fights in the past year and been competitive with some of the top contenders in the world. Against Ortiz, he was steam-rolled, knocked down three times and counted out in Round 6. This follows Ortiz’s Round 7 TKO of Bryant Jennings last December.
These last two wins have been more exciting and impressive than anything we’ve seen in the heavyweight division in a generation. At 36, the clock is running for Ortiz. But if he can get the opportunities he deserves in the next year or two, I expect to see him emerge as the top heavyweight fighter in the world.