American Deontay Wilder retained his World Boxing Council heavyweight title with a jaw-dropping, single-punch knockout of Luis “King Kong” Ortiz of Cuba on Saturday night in Las Vegas. The KO came after six rounds in which the Cuban appeared to dominate the undefeated Wilder, who has now knocked out 41 of his 43 opponents. But despite leading on all three judges’ cards, according to an ESPN.com report, Ortiz dropped his guard momentarily in the seventh.
The lapse allowed Wilder to fire a straight hand that landed high on the face of Ortiz, sending his head snapping backward, sweat flying — and “King Kong” crashing to the canvas, putting an end to the fight at the MGM Grand Hotel.
The win set up a lucrative rematch for Wilder with British heavyweight Tyson Fury. That rematch is anticipated to take place in February.
Last December, Fury and the crafty Wilder battled to a controversial draw — which remains the only blemish on the undefeated record of either fighter.
With the knockout win, Wilder rises to 41-0-1. Ortiz drops to 31-2, with both of his defeats coming at the devastating hands of Wilder. Fury’s record ahead of the planned February 22 return bout against Wilder stands at 29-0-1.
Though Wilder stopped Ortiz in the 10th round when they fought in March of 2018, the seventh round of that fight saw Wilder come as close to suffering a knockout as at any point in his career, according to a Sporting News account.
The normally kinetic Wilder got off to a slow start on Saturday night, according to ESPN. The Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native threw few punches through the early rounds, and those he did throw mostly failed to land. But Wilder said after the fight that he was simply exercising strategic patience.
“I saw the shot, and I took it. My intellect is very high in the ring, and no one gives me credit for it,” Wilder said in a post-fight interview, quoted by ESPN. “I buzzed him with a left hook earlier in the round, and I took it from there.”
Deontay Wilder folded Ortiz! ????
(via IG/ticket_jerry) pic.twitter.com/H0ZPv8a4NU
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) November 24, 2019
Ortiz managed to get to one knee when referee Kenny Bayless reached the count of 10, but Bayless waved off the fight anyway, as CBS Sports recounted. At the time of the knockout, the judges had the fight for Ortiz by scores of 59-55, 59-55, and 58-56 — meaning that the Cuban fighter was close to a shutout on the scorecards.
— BOXING CORNER 2️⃣4️⃣/7️⃣ (@boxingcorner247) November 24, 2019
Ortiz landed 35 punches to Wilder’s 34, per the CompuBox statistics. But one of those punches ended the fight for Wilder.
“This is boxing. I told everybody that it would either be him or me and it wasn’t going to go 12 rounds,” Ortiz said, as quoted by CBS Sports.