Deontay Wilder, left, punches Luis Ortiz during the fifth round of the WBC heavyweight championship bout Saturday, March 3, 2018, in New York. Wilder won in the 10th round.
Deontay Wilder, left, punches Luis Ortiz during the fifth round of the WBC heavyweight championship bout Saturday, March 3, 2018, in New York. Wilder won in the 10th round. AP Photo - Frank Franklin II

‘Oh my God’: Uppercut from hell

WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder is the longest-reigning of any current titleholder in his division, but his critics accused him of never having tested himself against a top-drawer challenger.

That accusation ended today.

Luis Ortiz was the enigma of the heavyweights. A defensively-proficient southpaw with a left hand that flies down the pipe, nobody fights him unless they really have to.

But, Wilder welcomed the opportunity, dealt with adversity - and triumphed.

The champion from Alabama moved to 40-0 with a 10th round TKO that finished a wildly entertaining and seesawing contest. The finishing blow was a decapitating uppercut that even left Wilder stunned when it was replayed after the fight. "Oh my God," he said.

Wilder showed huge heart to recover from a punishing eighth round to hand Ortiz his first defeat in 29 fights after it looked like going the other way.

"A true champion always finds a way to come back, that's what I did tonight. Luis Ortiz is definitely a crafty guy ... he put up a great fight. We knew we had to wear him down," Wilder said. "I showed everyone I can take a punch."

 

In much the same way British heavyweight Anthony Joshua became a breakout star by recovering from a knockdown against Wladimir Klitschko, Wilder's fame will go to new heights now that he's proven he can fight through adversity.

Despite the puzzling revelation he was ahead 85-84 on the judges' scorecards entering the 10th, there was real reason to believe he was going to lose the fight.

Asked if he feared his undefeated streak was over, Wilder said: "To be honest, no I didn't. He was hitting me with flurries of punches but it wasn't hard. It didn't have sting. Every time he hit me it was putting me off balance. I just had to get my reins back."

Even after Wilder knocked down Ortiz in the fifth round, the bout remained in the Cuban's favor.

Then, in the seventh, Wilder was dazed and confused by Ortiz's assault. Though he never hit the canvas, he stumbled to his corner when that round ended. The end seemed near.

"I almost had him and I think I would've if there were a few more seconds in the round," Ortiz said. "Wilder was definitely saved by the bell. I thought I had him out on his feet. But you have to give him credit, he weathered the storm." Instead of folding, Wilder closed the ninth with two hard rights, and then a series of vicious combinations in the 10th started Ortiz's downfall. It was over with 55 seconds to go in the 10th after Ortiz went down for the second time in the round from a right uppercut and referee David Fields stopped it.

"There's no man that I've met in the ring I haven't put on their ass, baby," Wilder added.

THE FIGHT

Round One - Cagey opening. Wilder searched for openings with his jab but Ortiz looked relaxed and ready to counter when the American overextended.

Round Two - Ortiz was down midway through the round but it was because of a trip. Both guys landed late in the round but no damage. Hard to call.

Round Three - Smattering of boos as both men continue to show great respect to the other's power and fight cautiously. Wilder having problems with Ortiz's skill level.

Round Four - Wilder landed a solid right hand - his best of the fight - but Ortiz took it and landed a heavy left of his own. Ortiz still shading Wilder.

Round Five - Ortiz up on his toes early in the round as his confidence grows. But as his corner tells him to let his hands go, Wilder lands a right hand that gets his attention. He follows it with a bomb that sends Ortiz crashing to the canvas. 10-8 round to Wilder.

Round Six - Fight on Wilder's terms now. Ortiz not throwing anything outside a speculative jab for most of the round, allowing the American to pick his shots. More solid rights landed as Ortiz attempts to recover.

Round Seven - Ortiz fires back! The Cuban flips the script late in the round by badly hurting Wilder, who superhumanly stays on his feet despite being belted for close to a minute. 10-8 round Ortiz. This might not go much longer.

Round Eight - Ortiz misses his opportunity for the finish as Wilder recovers well, showing great heart. But it's looking like the Cuban's fight if it goes the distance.

Round Nine - Wilder is refusing to go quietly. After Ortiz enjoyed the better of most of the round, the American found a home for his right hand again to rock his opponent.

Round 10 - What. A. Fight. Wilder puts Ortiz down three times - the first with a push but the next two with clean shots - to win via TKO.

WILDER WANTS JOSHUA NEXT

The bigger picture is Anthony Joshua's fight against Joseph Parker to unify their WBA 'super', IBF and WBO gold straps on March 31.

Wilder is looking at a matchup with fellow champion Joshua - as soon as possible.

"I'm ready right now," Wilder said. "My goal is to unify ... it seems they're in no rush to fight me because I am the baddest man on the planet ... I solidified my place at the top of the food chain."

 

The card was delayed when blood was found in a pre-fight urine sample taken from Jose Uzcategui, whose rematch with Andre Dirrell was the main bout on the undercard.

Uzcategui went on to dominate the match-up, forcing the referee to call a stop to the fight after the end of the eighth round as he claimed the interim IBF super middleweight title.

- with AP