Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |



Deontay Wilder wants respect with title defense vs. boogeyman Luis Ortiz

Photo / Ryan Hafey-Premier Boxing Champions

NEW YORK – Deontay Wilder owns one-punch power, an Olympic bronze medal and the first heavyweight world title of any American since Shannon Briggs. He’s just missing one thing: respect.

That doesn’t come easily in boxing, especially when you’re seen as a protected fighter, a man handed easy defenses as he continues to develop his skills.

Wilder (38-0, 37 knockouts) can hush the haters — and Twitter trolls — with one victory. And he’ll get his chance when he meets the heavyweight division’s most feared opponent, Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz, on November 4 in Brooklyn.

“I’ve been tired of hearing people blather, running their mouth on the internet,” said Wilder, THE RING’s No. 2 heavyweight. “It’s about to be crazy. We about to take over.

“I am the best. I am the toughest. I am the man in the division. I don’t care what anybody else has going on. You’ve got to come through me.”

Anthony Joshua, THE RING’s No. 1 heavyweight, might disagree with that assertion but that’s OK. If Wilder takes care of business, a superfight between the two massive punchers will move to the front burner of most-anticipated fights in boxing.

First things first, though.

On Wednesday, promoter Lou DiBella and Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza joined Wilder and manager Jay Deas on the sunny rooftop of Manhattan’s Dream Hotel to hype the Barclays Center card that will air on Showtime. Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs) and his manager, stranded in Miami because of inclement weather, phoned in.

After a moment of silence for the passing of the great Jake LaMotta, Dibella promised the packed room of boxing insiders a throwback to the golden era of classic heavyweight clashes.

“This is a legacy move,” Dibella said. “This fight is happening because Deontay Wilder wants the world to know that he is afraid of no one, and that he’s prepared to fight anyone, and he’s the best heavyweight in the world today. I could not be prouder of him for making this fight happen.”

This will be the 31-year-old Wilder’s sixth defense of his WBC belt. In order to make the fight happen, mandatory challenger Bermane Stiverne, whose belt Wilder took in 2015, was paid a step-aside fee. Stiverne will face 2012 U.S. Olympian Dominick Breazeale on the undercard.

Ortiz, with more than 350 amateur fights representing Cuba, radiated calm as he spoke over the phone, ribbing Wilder for flubbing the fight date in his opening remarks.

“He’s doing a lot of talking,” Ortiz said through a translator. “He sounds nervous. He keeps forgetting the date of the fight. I think he took this fight because he has no choice and no one else to fight.

“He’s not a bad boxer or a bum. He wouldn’t be in this position if he was, but this time he fucked up. I think he is going to run in this fight. I think he is going to embarrass himself.”

When Wilder heard that, he stood back up and took the mic. Someone in the crowd yelled, “Bomb squad,” Wilder’s trademark slogan and a reference to his dynamite right hand.

Wilder grinned, all 6-foot-7 of him gleaming with gold and Versace. He thanked God and Showtime.

He riffed on Ortiz’s nickname in his Alabama twang: “If he’s the boogeyman, I can’t wait to shine a light on him because the boogeyman is only effective at night. And we’re in New York, so you already know what happened to King Kong in New York.”

Wilder cautioned Ortiz, 38, about staying clean. Ortiz’s 2014 stoppage of Lateef Kayode was ruled a no-contest after Ortiz tested positive for PEDs, and Wilder’s own scheduled defense against Alexander Povetkin was called off at the eleventh hour when Povetkin failed a drug test.

“It definitely won’t go the distance,” promised Wilder. “I’m thinking about three rounds. But it might be the first. And when I do defeat him, when I do knock him out, I want my well-earned, due respect. You’ve got an American champion right here.”

Wilder is beloved in his native Tuscaloosa. He gives back to the local community, particularly children’s charities, as his own daughter’s struggles with spina bifida were what drove him to embrace a career as a fighter, one of the toughest careers there is.

“People don’t see the hard work that goes into a fight,” said Wilder. “They don’t know how hard it is to get yourself motivated to get in that ring. But that’s me. I come to fight. I’ll fight you any time, with a broken hand, with third-degree burns. That’s just the type of fighter I am.”

If Wilder’s prediction comes to fruition, soon enough, everyone will respect the type of fighter he is, too.