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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Wilder-Ortiz, Bivol-Barrera, Uzcategui-Dirrell)

Deontay Wilder (right) drops a bomb on Luis Ortiz. Photo by Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME
05
Mar

WHAT A HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHT!

Hi Dougie,

It’s been a minute since I wrote in but felt compelled to do so after the terrific bouts this weekend. I hope your family and you have been well. I will keep it brief:

1) Good for Jose Uzcategui, he stayed busy and deserved the win. Andre Dirrell seems to have lost the fire in the belly, I hope he retires before sustaining any long-term damage.



2) Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz!!! Wow- this is why heavyweight is the glamour division. Deontay is exciting because of vulnerabilities- he can be hurt, or hurt his opponent, at any time and that makes him so exciting. Deontay showed a lot of heart, he was out on his feet in the 7th round! But his straight right is a game changer! He and Ortiz got a little wild, it should be interesting to see if Deontay tightens things up to avoid giving his opponents opportunities to hurt him. When he fights Anthony Joshua we have two guys with similar vulnerabilities and similar fight-ending power which should make for a terrific contest.  Do you think there’s any chance that fight goes the distance?

3) Bivol is a beast, the way he uses his feet defensively was excellent. His movement reminds more of a lightweight than a light heavyweight and he’s always in excellent position to throw a punch. I wish Andre Ward stuck around, I think he would have his hands full with Bivol.

4) We learned very little about where Kovalev is, he was unafraid to be hit by Mikhalkin and as a result we really don’t know how he would have performed had he been in with a guy who had real power. I think he could be in trouble vs Bivol, do you? Any chance the chatter about Kovalev-Ward 3 comes to fruition?

5) Valdez- Quigg is a FOY contender. The featherweights don’t get as much love as I think they deserve, we have the top 10 guys fighting each other and those bouts are all extremely competitive.  Thanks! – Rahn

Thank YOU, Rahn, for sharing your thoughts and questions, and for the well wishes for my family. I’ll start from the top with my responses:

Good for Jose Uzcategui, he stayed busy and deserved the win. Andre Dirrell seems to have lost the fire in the belly, I hope he retires before sustaining any long-term damage. Me too. I’m also happy for Uzcategui, who seems to have come into his own as a boxer and appears to be a top 168 pounder. I hope so, because I enjoy watching him fight. Dirrell at 35 still has world-class athleticism, skill and technique, but as many have noted, his desire to grit out a hard fight seems gone. If that’s truly the case, it’s best that he hang up the gloves.

Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz!!! Wow- this is why heavyweight is the glamour division. The first four rounds had me rolling my eyes with boredom and disgust, but from Round 5 to 10 the Ortiz and Wilder produced a brand of drama that only heavyweights can deliver.

Ortiz has Wilder reeling. Photo by Amanda Wescott/SHOWTIME

Deontay is exciting because of vulnerabilities- he can be hurt, or hurt his opponent, at any time and that makes him so exciting. I agree. Wilder is as vulnerable as he is dangerous, which is a fascinating dichotomy. He has poor technique and a suspect chin, but those flaws are balanced by elite-class power and athleticism, as well as a fierce fighting heart. He’s there to be hurt, but he remains dangerous, so his opponent has the dilemma of getting clipped if he tries to finish him or allowing him to recuperate (which he does rapidly) if he plays it cautious.

Deontay showed a lot of heart, he was out on his feet in the 7th round! But his straight right is a game changer! True. I think Ortiz is going to kick himself for a long time for not going after Wilder harder in Round 8. When Wilder made it to the end of Round 8, I knew Ortiz wasn’t going to win by KO as was likely in for some punishment (because he appeared fatigued). Like his punching power, Wilder’s heart cannot be questioned. And what makes him so dangerous is that he KNOWS his right hand is a game changer. He’s got a puncher’s mentality, which means he never stops looking for the KO and when he gets his man hurt he automatically goes buck wild in search of the kill.

He and Ortiz got a little wild, it should be interesting to see if Deontay tightens things up to avoid giving his opponents opportunities to hurt him. I think Wilder is what he is at this stage of his career. He’s a pure puncher.

When he fights Anthony Joshua we have two guys with similar vulnerabilities and similar fight-ending power which should make for a terrific contest. Do you think there’s any chance that fight goes the distance? I think somebody’s getting iced in that inevitable confrontation. If it goes the full 12, it will either be an instant classic or a horrible letdown.

Bivol is a beast, the way he uses his feet defensively was excellent. His movement reminds more of a lightweight than a light heavyweight and he’s always in excellent position to throw a punch. Agreed. Bivol’s got a bright future, but he needs to rely on more than just his feet for defense. If he learns how to move his head and upper body, as well as the finer points of blocking and punch-parrying, he’ll spare his face the kind of damage it sustained against Barrera.

I wish Andre Ward stuck around, I think he would have his hands full with Bivol. Too much risk for too little a reward for Dre, whose body needed a rest after back-to-back bouts with The Krusher.

Sergey Kovalev pops Igor Mikhalkin with a jab. Photo / @HBOBoxing

We learned very little about where Kovalev is, he was unafraid to be hit by Mikhalkin and as a result we really don’t know how he would have performed had he been in with a guy who had real power. It sounds like you’re repeating what Max Kellerman kept repeating during the broadcast. Kovalev faced a guy who could punch in his last bout. Against Mikhalkin, he was in with a rugged, awkward southpaw boxer, and he won every round while busting up the face of his fellow Russian. I guess Harold Lederman and I are the only people in the world who see an elite boxer in Kovalev because it seems like everyone else is concerned about his mental makeup. In my view, he’s the best light heavyweight in the world as long as Ward remains retired. Bivol’s getting close, but he’s not there yet.

I think he could be in trouble vs Bivol, do you? I think they would be trouble for each other. Honestly, as much as I like Bivol, I don’t think he’s quite ready for Kovalev. He’s got the boxing and athletic ability to compete, but not the experience.

Any chance the chatter about Kovalev-Ward 3 comes to fruition? God, I hope not. The promotional build-up to both of those pay-per-view failures was insufferable. And not matter how many times they fight, I get the feeling that there’s going to be some kind of controversy involved, which is the last thing boxing needs.

Valdez-Quigg is a FOY contender. It’s an excellent featherweight matchup that certainly has Fight of the Year potential, but they have to fight the fight first. I’m expecting it to be a good scrap, which is why I plan to be ringside for this one.

The featherweights don’t get as much love as I think they deserve, we have the top 10 guys fighting each other and those bouts are all extremely competitive. I think hardcore fans want the titleholders to unify, but I agree that the division is very deep and competitive, and that, for the most part, the contenders are willing to face each other.

 

DMITRY BIVOL LOOKS LIKE THE GOODS

Dear Mr Fischer,

Dmitry Bivol looked outstanding against a game Sullivan Barrera. I expected Barrera to be the stronger fighter (although certainly not the more powerful one) and to test the Russian in the middle or late rounds if he survived early.

Bivol looked stellar. To my eye, the biggest reason that Barrera wasn’t decked early is that Bivol took two or three rounds to feel him out. I think the only reason Barrera heard the bell for the twelfth is that Bivol waited that long to “step on the gas.”

How was the action from your seat? Should I expect a huge crowd on the Bivol Bandwagon? I don’t believe he fights Kovalev next (probably in 2019, the end of this year at the earliest), so who do you think would make a good fight next? I hope you enjoyed the fights and I send the very best. Very respectfully. – John

Thanks John. I enjoyed the fights very much on Saturday, and I watched Bivol-Barrera with interest. I wouldn’t be shocked if Bivol and Kovalev got it on late this year provided the money is there for the unification bout to happen. Neither man seems to lack confidence or be the type to avoid a challenge. However, it’s probably in Bivol’s best interest to target Krusher in 2019, given that he’s only got 13 pro bouts and his the younger of the two (27 to 34). I think Joe Smith Jr., a native of the New York area who has fought on HBO before and is ranked No. 7 by the WBA, would be the perfect next opponent for Bivol.

Dmitry Bivol looked outstanding against a game Sullivan Barrera. The young WBA titleholder definitely has a bright future if he continues to improve and challenge himself.

Photo / @HBOBoxing

I expected Barrera to be the stronger fighter (although certainly not the more powerful one) and to test the Russian in the middle or late rounds if he survived early. Me too. I think the Cuban was the stronger fighter. However, Bivol didn’t allow Barrera to physically impose himself at any point. He consistently beat Barrera to the punch and seldom allowed the more battle-tested fighter to get set.

Bivol looked stellar. To my eye, the biggest reason that Barrera wasn’t decked early is that Bivol took two or three rounds to feel him out. I think the only reason Barrera heard the bell for the twelfth is that Bivol waited that long to “step on the gas.” I disagree. I think Bivol was hitting Barrera with hard shot throughout the fight. The younger man put in the work to get rid of most 175 pounders by the sixth or seventh round, but Barrera hung in there, bloodied his nose, gave him some lumps and then Bivol became concerned about his stamina down the stretch. Credit to Bivol for stepping on the gas in the final round and getting the stoppage, but in now way do I think he carried Barrera or gave the Cuban a break early on.

 

DEONTAY WILDER JUST EARNED HIS RESPECT

Dougie,

I’m sure you’ve got some salty trolls in the mailbag, but let me just tell you that, as I write this on a Sunday morning, I don’t want to hear nothin’ from nobody no more. I don’t want to hear about Deontay Wilder’s poor technique. I don’t want to hear anything about how he’s unrefined, sloppy, or unpolished. Whatever attributes Wilder doesn’t have, he’s got a will of iron and a right hand blessed by God and last night he proved that’s enough to keep him alive against any fighter on the planet.

Obviously, Joshua-Wilder is THE fight to make, but am I right in thinking that we’re now poised to get the best possible version of both fighters? After Joshua-Klitschko and Wilder-Ortiz, now we know that both guys aren’t media hype jobs. They’re both battle-hardened warriors and I can’t wait to see them go head to head. Be well. – Sean

I think you are correct that we’ll get a better eventual showdown between the top two heavyweights thanks to the gut checks they had to overcome against Wladimir Klitschko and Ortiz.

I think you’re crazy if you think Wilder won’t continue to be hounded by a legion of critics and doubters. That’s just boxing, my man. You and Wilder will have to shrug it off.

I agree with you, though. As it stands right now, Wilder’s strengths outweigh his flaws. And the flaws make him fun to watch, so I’m not going to complain too much about them.

 

NOT IMPRESSED WITH WILDER

I’ve just finished re-watching the Wilder-Ortiz fight, and I just don’t understand what everyone was so impressed by. Wilder didn’t throw a punch for 4 rounds, seemingly having no plan or the tools to win rounds. His knockdown in the 5th was a great shot, but that was 1 great punch from which Ortiz recovered.

In fairness, he showed great heart in surviving being stunned in the 7th, but defensively didn’t tie up or hold on. A bigger puncher than Ortiz would’ve ended the fight there. Then finally, when the end came it seemed to me that Ortiz had slowed right down and was there to be hit rather than Wilder fashioning an opening or landing a killer punch. An older fighter just punched himself out.

Also, I have no idea what fight the judges were watching. I had Ortiz up by 4 rounds when the end came, 2-3 I could’ve understood but Wilder winning?

From the evidence of this fight Wilder seems like the Eubanks Jr of the heavyweight division. Fun to follow, exciting to watch against fighters who stand still for them but doomed to be picked apart by more technically skilled fighters. Tyson Fury, AJ, even Joseph Parker feel a step above Wilder. With Wilder’s power he will always have a punchers chance against the top heavyweights but sadly not much more than that. Or is there something I’ve missed? – Lewis

I don’t think you’ve missed anything but you’re being too hard on him for his lack of technique and fundamentals while underestimating his resolve and his punching prowess. I agree there’s some similarities between Wilder and Eubank (both are strong-willed late-comers to the sport who happen to be gifted athletes), but while Eubank has heavy hands at 168 pounds, Wilder has fight-turning power. Wilder posses the proverbial “eraser,” which means he can be outboxed for 11 and three-quarters rounds and still knock a superior boxer the f__k out in the final seconds of a fight. I would favor an in-shape and active Fury to outmaneuver Wilder to a decision and I’d pick Joshua to outbox Wilder en route to a late stoppage, but I wouldn’t be shocked (or even surprised) if Wilder sparked them both with a single shot. He’s THAT dangerous.

I’ve just finished re-watching the Wilder-Ortiz fight, and I just don’t understand what everyone was so impressed by. They’re either impressed with Wilder’s will to stay upright when he was badly hurt and his ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, or they simply enjoyed a dramatic heavyweight title bout. What’s wrong with that?

Wilder didn’t throw a punch for 4 rounds, seemingly having no plan or the tools to win rounds. I agree. That’s what it looked like to me.

His knockdown in the 5th was a great shot, but that was 1 great punch from which Ortiz recovered. True.

In fairness, he showed great heart in surviving being stunned in the 7th, but defensively didn’t tie up or hold on. No, he didn’t. It’s probably never occurred to him to learn that bit of survival boxing craft.

Photo / @ShowtimeBoxing

A bigger puncher than Ortiz would’ve ended the fight there. Are you sure about that? How many heavyweights have a bigger punch than Ortiz? Maybe Joshua, but does AJ have a better chin than Ortiz? Think about that.

Then finally, when the end came it seemed to me that Ortiz had slowed right down and was there to be hit rather than Wilder fashioning an opening or landing a killer punch. Ortiz had indeed slowed down, and Wilder took advantage of that after having been on wobbly legs for the previous two rounds. Wilder deserves credit for having the will and stamina to rally late. Ortiz should have been in the condition to do that.

An older fighter just punched himself out. Are we going to act like Ortiz is pushing 50 now? If Ortiz punched himself out, that’s on him. Not Wilder. It’s not like Ortiz was doing a Joe Frazier imitation. He wasn’t working THAT hard. I don’t get how he could have completely gassed out late. I think Wilder’s punches had something to do with his decline.

Also, I have no idea what fight the judges were watching. I had Ortiz up by 4 rounds when the end came, 2-3 I could’ve understood but Wilder winning? Yeah, those official scorecards are what’s wrong with boxing. That’s just another example of the officials bending over backwards for the “A-side” and it’s one of the main things that turns casual fans away from the sport.

 

PROPS TO THE BRONZE BOMBER

Hi Dougie,

Hope you and the family are well.

Just watched the Wilder fight over again. Credit where credit is due. Ortiz was out boxing him and posing a dangerous threat to him for most of the fight. He remained disciplined, weathered the storm, only just, and went for the finish when the time was right. Let’s just recap. He was in there with a technically better boxer. Who had dangerous knockout power. He got clocked more than once. However, he managed to show resilience, ring intelligence and stamina to get the win. Props to Wilder! And this experience will be invaluable for him going forward. I think it’s exactly what he needed looking ahead. Also both guys showed tremendous class at the end of the fight. Credit to the sport.

I’ve been critical of him in the past. His record is against no one of note? Didn’t fight Fury or Wlad in an attempt to unify a few years ago. But he didn’t have to take this fight! He was out to make a statement. Also got to respect him taking the Povetkin fight. Not his fault the Russian failed a drugs test.

Not even gonna mention the crazy score cards!! Oops just did! WTF????? Looking ahead. AJ, Parker, Fury, Haye. (Yes Haye! You know I’m a big fan!!)He’s live and dangerous in all of those! All of the above are technically better boxers but Wiilder is still a big threat.

So, to recap in March 2018 we have the top 4 heavyweights, all undefeated, with all the belts fighting each other. AJ Vs Parker at the end of the month.Can’t wait for winner takes all!

What’s next for Ortiz? Unfortunately, if he continues he goes back to being the guy no one wants to fight. He’s just too dangerous and doesn’t have a big enough profile. If this fight had happened two years ago I think he would have won. He might just have missed the boat at 38, or 39 or 40… ish. But wish him well.

What did you make of the Dirrell fight? He’s a frustrating guy to watch. He’s got all the talent in the word, brilliant trainer, but??? He was so good against Froch. Is he over the hill?

Back in the U.K. Kell Brook did well. I thought he was in for a much tougher fight but he got the job done. What did we learn? Well he didn’t really take any big shots, but he certainly didn’t hold back and wasn’t gun-shy. This shows he’s in a good place mentally and I’m glad to see that. Called out Amir Khan straight away.  Still think Khan is too fast, better boxer, way more experienced at the top level, has decent enough power and a better engine. If the fight is made at a catch weight, I think it will be similar to Khan vs Alexander. Remains to be seen what Khan has left.

I seem to have rambled on a bit today. Keep up the good work and enjoy the rest of your weekend. – Tabraze, London

Thanks.

I’m happy for Brook. He might just have one more title run in him at 154 pounds. We’ll see. I think he matches up well with WBO beltholder Sadam Ali (or the winner of an Ali-Liam Smith bout). Jermell Charlo and the winner of the Lara-Hurd fight seem too big and athletic for him, but we can’t discount Brook’s experience and natural talent. He’d probably give any of the top junior middleweights a fight. Khan, despite his inactivity, lack of size, and coming off a brutal one-punch KO loss, probably poses stylistic difficulty, but I don’t see their matchup being anything like Amir’s one-sided decision over Alexander. Brook and Alexander have very different styles. I think Brook has the physical strength and power to move and hurt Khan. Alexander did not.

I’ve been critical of (Wilder) in the past. You and almost everyone else.

His record is against no one of note? Didn’t fight Fury or Wlad in an attempt to unify a few years ago. I can’t hold that against him. Fury was nobody until he upset Klitschko in November 2015, then he basically removed himself from the sport. Nobody had the opportunity to challenge Fury while he was the unified champ. So, Klitschko didn’t have any titles from 2016 on. Wilder wasn’t ready to fight Wladdy just a few month after he won the WBC belt in January 2015. (S__t, he might not be ready to face the retired version of Klitschko right now.)

But he didn’t have to take this fight! I disagree. Wilder needed to face a legit contender in order for the boxing world to take him seriously as a threat to Joshua. He needed Ortiz almost as much as Ortiz needed him.

He was out to make a statement. And he didn’t, though not without a lot of drama.

Also got to respect him taking the Povetkin fight. Not his fault the Russian failed a drugs test. True, but Povetkin was his WBC mandatory and the Russian’s promoter won the purse bid, so he HAD to fight him Russia or be stripped of the green belt.

Not even gonna mention the crazy score cards!! Oops just did! WTF????? That was some bulls__t.

Looking ahead. AJ, Parker, Fury, Haye. (Yes Haye! You know I’m a big fan!!)He’s live and dangerous in all of those! All of the above are technically better boxers but Wilder is still a big threat. True (especially to your boy with the Sideshow Bob hair)

So, to recap in March 2018 we have the top 4 heavyweights, all undefeated, with all the belts fighting each other. AJ Vs Parker at the end of the month. Can’t wait for winner takes all! This is a special time in the heavyweight division. Even thought Ortiz suffered a setback, he can get back into title contention with a solid win or two. The Cuban fought well enough for the networks to invite him back. And if Fury keeps training and gets a couple tune-up bouts under his belt, he will be massive presence for the other top big men to deal with. And that’s good for the sport. It’s the reason we put all four heavyweight title claimants on the cover of the most recent edition of THE RING magazine (the May 2018 issue with guest editor George Foreman). The potential exists for a high-profile round robin between the Fab Four over the next couple of years that will attract a lot of crossover media attention and a lot of excitement in the ring.  

What’s next for Ortiz? Hopefully not inactivity. At his age, he can’t afford to sit on his duff.

Unfortunately, he continues he goes back to being the guy no one wants to fight. I’m not sure that will be the case going forward. The world just witnessed him get knocked out and we all know he’s no Spring Chicken. I expect at least some up-and-comers, such as Andy Ruiz or Adam Kownacki, to view him as a potential stepping stone.

He’s just too dangerous and doesn’t have a big enough profile. If this fight had happened two years ago I think he would have won. I don’t disagree.

He might just have missed the boat at 38, or 39 or 40… ish. But wish him well. Me too.

What did you make of the Dirrell fight? It was an entertaining clash of styles, but Dirrell lost confidence, round by round, as the fight progressed.

He’s a frustrating guy to watch. He’s got all the talent in the word, brilliant trainer, but??? He was so good against Froch. Is he over the hill? Sadly, I think the old saying “he died on the vine” applies to Dirrell.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

 

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