It wasn’t a busy weekend for the sport but as the world welcomed 2022, boxing ended and then began its latest seasons with notable action at heavyweight and Jr. bantamweight. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
The big men took center stage in the US with a Fox pay-per-view headlined by former title challenger Luis Ortiz and former IBF titlist Charles Martin. While there are plenty who reasonably saw the price tag, any price tag, for the card as more than they budgeted for, fans who turned in got a fun main event.
The 42-year old Ortiz, down in the first and fourth, made a comeback worthy of the legendary movie monster he takes his nickname from. A left hand rendered Martin senseless in the fifth and Ortiz let loose by hitting anything his fists would land on, including the back of Martin’s head while his back was turned. Martin ended up hung up in the ropes, giving him some precious time to recover.
It wasn’t enough time.
Ortiz kept the assault on, scoring to the head, body, and cup of Martin to score a second knockdown and ultimately end the fight. It wasn’t all legal, but it was relentless from an aging fighter with no room to lose. It wasn’t quite the insanity of the undercard war between Viktor Faust and Iago Kiladze, but it was a nice bookend to that one after some forgettable action in the middle.
Futures: For Ortiz, more importantly, he kept his hopes for one more title shot alive. Ortiz gave excellent efforts twice against Deontay Wilder and just couldn’t avoid Wilder’s power. Can he avoid Father Time? The evidence suggested otherwise on Saturday. Ortiz is still heavy handed and highly skilled, but he’s also more vulnerable with each passing round. He’d have to be considered a long odds underdog against Oleksandr Usyk or Tyson Fury right now but all he can do is keep winning and hope he endures long enough to find out. In the meantime, a showdown with PBC stablemate Andy Ruiz might be fascinating.
Ioka Goes to 9-1 on NYE
Death, taxes, and Kazuto Ioka making a New Year’s Eve appearance…Ioka is the only one that hasn’t been a pure constant but close enough over the last decade. Ioka is now 9-1 since 2011 and one can only assume he’s looking to close 2022 with a bigger affair than WBO Jr. bantamweight title defense Ryoji Fukunaga. Fukunaga gave a hell of an effort but the gap in class was too wide. This was supposed to be a unification with IBF titlist Jerwin Ancajas but Omicron travel restrictions got in the way.
Futures: A positive shift in the COVID situation could mean revisiting the Ancajas fight in the first half of 2022. It would be Ioka’s second partial unification after winning two belts at 105 pounds early in his career. Ioka-Ancajas is a counterpoint, fresh match in contrast to the ongoing round-robin between Juan Fracisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The winner of an Ioka-Ancajas fight against one of those four, and perhaps a late career encore against one of them for Donnie Nietes, could extend the shelf life of a golden era in one of boxing’s lightest divisions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.