Deontay Wilder learned something important about himself in those fateful, final 40 seconds of the seventh round against Luis Ortiz.
Those tumultuous moments were the closest Wilder has come to losing in 42 professional fights. But Wilder didn’t just overcome Ortiz’s onslaught once Ortiz hurt him with a left hand when there were 41 seconds to go in that round.
The hard-hitting WBC heavyweight champion managed to avoid Ortiz’s hardest shots throughout the eighth round, wobbled the Cuban southpaw with a right hand late in the ninth round and floored Ortiz twice in the 10th round on his way to a technical-knockout win in March 2018 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“The seventh round was an amazing time for me,” Wilder said during a recent conference call to promote their rematch Saturday night in Las Vegas. “It allowed me to see what I’m really made of. It allowed the world to see what type of champion [I am] and a true champion that they have in America, and he has been here.”
Once Ortiz buzzed Wilder with that aforementioned left hand, the previously unbeaten challenger went for broke.
He unloaded a barrage of power punches on Wilder, who withstood several more punishing punches. Ortiz’s straight left hand knocked Wilder backward with 10 seconds to go in the seventh round, and a right hook landed flush just before the bell sounded to end it.
“With that seventh round being under the conditions that I was under, I was very proud of myself to be able to handle those situations,” said Wilder, who emphasized that he fought through the flu when he opposed Ortiz. “To be able to go into the fire like that for one, plus just taking the fight going into the fire like that with a flu. You know, proper protocol is to cancel that [fight] and wait to a later date until you are healthy.
“But being me, I’m hard-headed. I always do things that many boxers don’t do, and I think that’s part of wanting my legacy to be different from the rest. I don’t want the same old – I wanna be different. That’s why I do the things that I do.”
Wilder might not have survived until the eighth round if Ortiz had more time to finish off the Alabama-based knockout artist in the seventh. The 34-year-old Wilder won’t concede, though, that the bell saved him in that shaky seventh round.
“Well, I wouldn't say so because he still had 40 seconds,” Wilder said, referring to the amount of time he had to fend off Ortiz. “How many seconds did I have in the fifth round to finish him off? He had 40 seconds and he couldn’t do it. He threw everything – everything. If you know anything about a flu, it makes you weak mentally, physically, emotionally, and he couldn’t get me out. He threw everything.”
A brief examination by a New York State Athletic Commission physician at the start of the eighth round also afforded Wilder approximately 15 additional seconds before the action began.
The 40-year-old Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs, 2 NC) will get another shot at Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) in the main event of FOX Sports’ four-fight pay-per-view telecast from MGM Grand Garden Arena. The pay-per-view portion of the card is set to start at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT ($74.95 in HD).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.