Luis Ortiz readily gives Deontay Wilder credit for making an adjustment that led to him landing the right hand that abruptly ended their rematch almost a year ago.
The Cuban contender just wishes referee Kenny Bayless would’ve given him a chance to finish the seventh round and recover on his stool before the eighth round began. Ortiz led Wilder on all three scorecards – 59-55, 59-55 and 58-56 – when Wilder’s well-timed right hand dropped Ortiz late in the seventh round last November 23 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Ortiz slowly got up, but Bayless stopped counting at nine and waved an end to their battle because he determined a disoriented Ortiz shouldn’t continue. Their scheduled 12-round rematch ended with nine seconds remaining in the seventh round.
The 41-year-old Ortiz (31-2, 26 KOs, 2 NC) will fight for the first time Saturday night since Wilder knocked him out in their second encounter. Ortiz is focused on facing underdog Alexander Flores (18-2-1, 16 KOs) in a 10-round main event FOX will broadcast from Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, yet he cannot help but wonder what would’ve occurred had their rematch continued late in that seventh round.
“I feel the fight should’ve been allowed to continue,” Ortiz told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “I got up. Regardless if I was wobbly or not, they should’ve given me the same opportunity they afforded Wilder in our first fight, when I had Wilder on Queer Street. They were giving him every opportunity to recover, to get better, to fight through it. And they didn’t give me that opportunity. I feel I should’ve gone out on my shield and not been stopped that way.
“I would’ve rather completely been knocked out, rather than saved by a referee who didn’t give me an opportunity, especially if I’m winning every, single round. It was one knockdown in the heavyweight business. I was in shape. I probably would’ve recovered. It was close to the end of the round.”
Ortiz alluded to referee David Fields affording Wilder the chance to fight through trouble during the final 40 seconds of the seventh round of their first fight in March 2018 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Ortiz buzzed Wilder with a left hand, but Wilder recovered during the eighth and ninth rounds and floored Ortiz twice in the 10th round.
Fields stopped that fight following that second 10th-round knockdown, which marked the third time Wilder dropped Ortiz in their initial meeting. Ortiz feels Fields should’ve allowed him to continue as well, though he also acknowledged that he has to accept the results of his two fights with Wilder and move forward with his career.
“It’s spilled milk, so there’s no point in discussing what would’ve, could’ve, should’ve happened,” Ortiz said. “It didn’t happen over the course of 17 rounds and it is what it is. So, I’m looking forward to the future. If Wilder is part of that future one day, we’ll discuss that again. But until then, I’m looking forward to a future where a championship is at stake again.”
Ortiz is surprised Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) lost his rematch to Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) in the way Fury defeated him in Wilder’s following fight three months later. The strong southpaw still respects what Wilder did toward the end of their own rematch.
“You’ve gotta give credit to Wilder as well,” Ortiz said. “He was able to make a little bit of an adjustment to what I was doing. He relaxed me a little. I lost focus for a split second and Wilder capitalized. But again, it’s the heavyweight business and it just takes one punch.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.