LAS VEGAS — After Deontay Wilder retained his heavyweight world title by a crushing one-punch, seventh-round knockout of fellow big banger Luis “King Kong” Ortiz in their rematch Saturday night, the chatter only intensified along press row. Is Wilder one of the best punchers, if not the best, in boxing history?
Many of us at ringside at MGM Grand Garden Arena argued that Wilder is, with all due respect to all-time punchers such as Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Joe Louis, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Sonny Liston and Earnie Shavers.
Wilder’s right hand, the punch that felled Ortiz for the 10 count, is boxing’s most destructive weapon, by far, and responsible for most of Wilder’s 41 knockouts. Wilder doesn’t even have to land his best shot to put a guy down and out.
“When people ask me which one is my favorite knockout, I always go back to the [Artur] Szpilka knockout,” Wilder said during his postfight news conference, referring to a 2016 title defense. “I think that was the most devastating knockout I’ve ever hit a fighter with. I really thought I killed Szpilka.
“I’m always amazed at myself when I knock guys out. I give the people devastating knockouts, and to see their reaction of their body when they hit the canvas, it’s just unbelievable.”
One man who does not need to be convinced of Wilder’s power? British trainer Ben Davison, who trains lineal champion Tyson Fury and was ringside on a scouting mission.
“He’s the biggest puncher not just in heavyweight history, [but] boxing history — bar none,” Davison said after the fight.
Of course, Davison already knows all about Wilder’s punching prowess from his controversial draw with Fury last December, when Wilder dropped Fury twice with right hands, in the ninth round and a huge one in the 12th that Fury survived thanks to a generous count from the referee.
Wilder’s victory over Ortiz in his tenth title defense was the final hurdle to Wilder-Fury II, which has been signed for months and penciled in for Feb. 22 at the MGM Grand.
“I hope [Davison] took notes and carries it back to his camp because I’m gonna knock Fury out like I did the first time, point blank, period,” said Wilder, who believes referee Jack Reiss’ leisurely count allowed Fury to survive, so he considers the draw to be a KO win. “I’m only getting better and better and better with the timing and setting up these fighters, so come February I hope they’re ready because I’m ready. I wish those guys good luck. I hope Ben took a lot of notes.”
Wilder was trailing Ortiz on all three scorecards (59-55, 59-55, 58-56) and about to lose another round before the KO, but when you’re a puncher of the magnitude of Wilder, a scorecard deficit is apparently nothing to worry about.
“I never worry about if I’m losing the fight or not. I’m blessed with something these other guys are not blessed with, and that’s tremendous power,” Wilder said. “And I know that when I hit guys it hurts them, so when you have power like I have, you’re not worried if you’re winning rounds or not. I know that sooner or later it’s gonna come and when it does — bam, baby, good night, like I always say.”
Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) did not look particularly good against Ortiz (31-2, 26 KOs), but that was erased by a finishing shot that ended Ortiz’s night quicker than when Wilder drilled Ortiz in the 10th round in their March 2018 classic.
“He looked like someone with the pressure of a big fight ’round the corner,” Davison said of Wilder. “He didn’t want to take any risks, but he [did] what he was supposed to do. He took his time. He knew Ortiz was going to slow down and not be as reactive as the rounds went on. That’s what he did. He didn’t do it in the prettiest way but he done exactly what I thought he would do, just not in as stylish of a way. But he found the shot. [I learned] maybe one or two things to take away from it.
“[Wilder’s] a better boxer than what people think he is. He didn’t look it, but obviously he had a big fight looming around the corner. And if 10 percent of your mind is thinking don’t take risks because this is around the corner, then 10 percent at this level is a big chunk.”
Davison said that Fury will have to be cognizant of Wilder’s right hand at all times. Yes, he survived two of them the first time around, but they’d prefer not to play with fire again and gamble that Fury can survive being hit cleanly.
“In the game plan, I’m not going to say to Tyson, ‘All right, get knocked down,'” Davis said with a smile. “You’ve got to try and negate his strengths and exploit his weaknesses. That’s boxing. But with the tactics Ortiz employed, it was a matter of time.”
Ortiz said he never knew what hit him when the right hand screamed down the middle and connected with his forehead.
“Like Wilder says, one second is all he needs,” Ortiz said through trainer Herman Caicedo’s translation. “The right hand snuck right in. If I had seen it, we’d still be fighting. I’m in shock. There are really no words. Shock, disappointed.”
Ortiz was yet another man who had fallen at the feet of Wilder’s ferocious right hand.
“At this point in time, I think I’ve earned my due respect and credit to say I am the hardest-hitting puncher in boxing history. Period,” Wilder said. “It reminds me back of what [late legendary trainer] Emanuel Steward once told me personally. He told me, ‘You’re fighting little opposition right now, but even when you move up to the top, you’re still going to knock them out.’ He told me that personally, and I’m fulfilling what he told me.”
Wilder expects more of the same when he faces Fury again.
“I’ve never been good with predictions, [but] don’t blink,” he said. “You never know what’s gonna happen. Every fighter that fights me, their life is really on the line. I am the most devastating knockout artist in the heavyweight division by far. When you’re fighting me, you got to be careful. At this point in time, I need my due respect, please.”
Alvarado dethrones Cancio
In 2015, Rene Alvarado got knocked down and cut in an eighth-round knockout loss to Andrew Cancio at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
In the four years since, Cancio went on to win a junior lightweight title, doing so with a major upset knockout of Alberto Machado in February, and Alvarado went on a good run and became Cancio’s mandatory challenger. That set up Saturday’s rematch, a fight that once again took place on Cancio’s turf at Fantasy Springs.
But this time Alvarado (32-8, 21 KOs), 30, of Nicaragua, turned the tables in a dominating performance. He cut Cancio (21-5-2, 16 KOs), 31, of Blythe, California, over the left eye and pounded on him until referee Raul Caiz Sr. had seen enough and stopped it moments after the bell ended the seventh round.
Cancio has been one of the year’s feel-good stories in boxing. He holds down a day job as a line worker for a Southern California gas company and came out of nowhere to win the title, then defended it by knocking out Machado in a June rematch. He would use work vacation days for his training camp and fulfilled media obligations on his lunch hour.
But Alvarado is a feel-good story in his own right. In claiming a 130-pound title on Saturday, he won his eighth fight in a row and joined his twin brother, Felix, who holds a junior flyweight title, as a world titleholder, with Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, Nicaragua’s other legendary fighter, cheering him at ringside.
“It’s a feeling very hard to describe. It’s something I’ve wanted ever since I started my career, and now Nicaragua has another world champion, twin brothers,” the overjoyed Alvarado said.
And not only did Alvarado accomplish a lifelong goal of winning a world title — and did on his opponent’s home turf by upset knockout, no less — he did it on the 45th anniversary of the day his country’s greatest boxing legend, the late Alexis Arguello, became Nicaragua’s first world champion. Arguello knocked out Ruben Olivares in the 13th round to claim the featherweight crown a couple of hours away at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
The next step: Because it was mandatory bout, Alvarado does not need to give Cancio a rematch and is free to pursue other opponents. Perhaps Alvarado’s promoter, Golden Boy, and Top Rank, which promotes titleholders Miguel Berchelt and Jamel Herring, not to mention contenders Oscar Valdez and Carl Frampton, can get together and make any of those fights. They’ve been doing steady business recently, so why not one of these attractive bouts? For Cancio, it’s back to the drawing board.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Liverpool, England: Super middleweight Callum Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) W12 John Ryder (28-5, 16 KOs), retains a world title, scores: 117-111, 116-112 (twice).
In a homecoming fight, Smith, 29, retained his belt for the second time thanks to every possible benefit of the doubt from the judges in a fight England’s Ryder, 31, the interim titlist and mandatory challenger, looked like he may have very well won. Ryder, a 5-foot-9 southpaw, gave the 6-3 Smith fits throughout the fight and inflicted a small cut near Smith’s right eye in the fourth round. Ryder, who pressured Smith with abandon, appeared to get off to a big early lead and also closed strongly in the final rounds, but the scorecards did not seem to reflect reality.
Saturday at Indio, California: Featherweight Xu Can (18-2, 3 KOs) W12 Manny Robles III (18-1, 8 KOs), scores: 120-108, 119-109, 118-110.
Can, 25, of China, made the second defense of his secondary belt in the co-feature of the Cancio-Alvarado rematch and rolled to a dominating win. Robles, the son of Andy Ruiz Jr.’s trainer Manny Robles Jr., gave a great effort but just could not keep up with the overwhelming volume punching of Can in an action fight.
Can essentially wore Robles out with his nonstop aggression and punching. Can threw a CompuBox featherweight-record 1,562 punches, which was also the sixth-highest total thrown for all weight classes in CompuBox history. Can was still going strong in the 12th round when he landed a fight-high total of 46 of a fight-high 125 thrown. After the fight, Can called for a unification fight with England’s Josh Warrington.
Saturday at Lincoln, Rhode Island: Light heavyweight Peter Manfredo Jr. (41-7, 22 KOs) KO1 Melvin Russell (11-8-2, 7 KOs).
Manfredo, 38, of Providence, Rhode Island, a longtime fan favorite who made his name in the first season of “The Contender” reality series in 2004 and went on to get a super middleweight title shot against Joe Calzaghe and a middleweight title shot against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., came out of a 3.5-year retirement and blew away Russell, 40, of Lloyd, Kentucky. Manfredo needed only 79 seconds to put him away with a left hook to the body.