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Kyoguchi Breaks Down Budler and Nietes Edges Ioka in Macau

Matt McGrain

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Kyoguchi Budler Nientes Ioka

In Macau, China today, two excellent generational clashes unwound while most of America slept; in the UK the fights represented an early-morning treat for the fight fan.

If it seems as though Hekkie Budler, 32-3, out of Johannesburg, South Africa, has been around forever it’s with good reason. Budler is a veteran in the truest sense having boxed professionally for more than ten years and for most of this decade at championship level. He has wielded one belt or another for much of that time, holding straps in two different divisions.

Only thirty years old, his wealth of experience gave his match with Hiroto Kyoguchi, 11-0, out of Tokyo, Japan, a “passing of the torch” feel. Kyoguchi, who is twenty-five, broke through last year in taking a title at 105lbs in just his eighth fight. Powerful without being truly destructive, quick without being lightning, Kyoguchi is a fighter who boxes with a wisdom that belies his meager experience.

Indeed, he sought to impose his strength on the older man from the very first, handling him in the infrequent clinches and bringing steady pressure behind a direct, quick jab. But Kyoguchi comes across his front foot a little too heavily and Budler was taking advantage. Veteran, as we know, is a double-edged sword, and there is very little the South African hasn’t seen. He found his own jab, looked for a right hand to the body and an excellent short right to the head which impressed.

Kyoguchi, however, looked a clear weight class bigger than Budler, huge across the back and shoulders, and he had no problem shaking off most of this and continuing to apply pressure, to force Budler to move, to claim the center of the ring.

And as early as the second he was targeting Budler’s body. These punches, accompanied by a sick, wet sound, often sent Budler scurrying, or adjusting his guard. Kyoguchi was alert to this and he began head-hunting, especially behind a sickening left hook to the body. It was a cohesive, impressive performance from the Japanese and given his limitations, exactly the sort of mixture of generalship and physicality necessary to make the best of what he has.

Budler was wilting. He was fearful of the burgeoning body-attack wielded by the Japanese by the sixth and was trying very hard to stay on the move, boxing and picking his spots. Kyoguchi had the patience and metronomic pressure to cope with such strategy however, and Budler, I think, isn’t as capable of taking to his toes as he was in his twenties. The fight simmered down to hard exchanges, an arrangement that could only favor Kyoguchi.

Budler, however, ranked the #2 light-flyweight in the world at opening bell, is a fighter true. Clearly on the wane he continued to battle hard in the seventh, eighth and ninth, adjusting his waistband in a fruitless effort to limit the discomfort those body shots were causing, dropping his elbows, slipping and sliding and always punching back. But he did not win a round after the fourth on my card.

Kyoguchi is one-paced, yes, but he has been rolling over good competition, and Budler, the best he has faced, could do nothing to stop him. In the tenth, Budler was cut, worn, and every body shot inflicted a new misery. A booming left hook to the gut actually caused him momentarily to turn away, sickened.  His corner pulled him before the eleventh; it was the right call. Obsessed with protecting his body, Budler had begun to ship to the head.

Kyoguchi, then, is the future. Now 12-0 he must now rank among the best at 108lbs just as he ranked one of the best at 105lbs. In a division stacked with excellent fighters out of Japan, there is an opportunity here for one man to emerge the best of them and that man would breach the pound-for-pound rankings. Whether or not Kyoguchi has the dimensions to emerge victorious from a series of such monumental confrontations with the likes of Ken Shiro, Ryoichi Taguchi and Tetsuya Hisada remains to be seen but it is a mouth-watering prospect.

Also mouth-watering was the co-main event in Macau, another meeting staged across generations, between Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka.

Nietes, now 36, is the grandfather of Filipino boxing and he has the 42-1-5 record to prove it. That sole loss came against an opponent that busted the agreed weight limit by two weight-classes and even then, barely squeaked past the then inexperienced Nietes; that was thirteen years ago.

Nietes makes Budler look wet behind the ears.

His opponent was the Japanese, Kazuto Ioka.  Ioka, 23-1 going in, lost a narrow and disputed decision to Amnat Ruenroeng back in 2014, but like Nietes, and despite having far less time in which to achieve such a feat, he has held belts at three separate weights.

These two were meeting, then, for the right to call themselves “four weight world champions” and even allowing for the pitiful watering down of the meaning of that phrase by the belts-for-hire attitude of the sanctioning organizations, that is impressive.

Nietes, also known as “Snake”, remained coiled for much of the first round, perhaps measuring the guns of his younger, larger opponent. These were in the main a stiff jab, sometime right hand to the body behind that shot, and a very nice cuffing left hook off a feinted jab. In the final seconds he added a left hook to the body that Nietes didn’t care for; clearly the older man had his work cut out.

In the second, he unveiled his grand strategy. Nietes was going to try to out-squabble Ioka. Distinct from out-fighting him, this involved letting the younger man set the pace then just, barely, out-hitting him in distinct exchanges where he would try to counter and snipe his way to superiority enough times to bag individual rounds and hence the fight.

It was a bold approach and one that involved ceding aspects of the fight to his opponent, but Nietes had fought for straps almost as often as Ioka had donned the gloves. He backed himself and it made for a fascinating contest.

After six absorbing and intensely contested rounds, none of them absolutely clear, I saw it all-square; after ten, I still couldn’t separate them and it seemed the fight might be settled in the eleventh and twelfth rounds.

Here Nietes fight-plan revealed its limitations. He might have been expected to try to control Ioka with virtual threats to keep his workrate down to a pace he was more comfortable with. Instead, he tried to match and eclipse that workrate with punches of his own. Now, his thirty-six year old tank was emptying. Still his precise punching and smarts made the round close, Ioka looking for the breather by the ten second marker. Nietes was lunging though and suddenly available for counters himself.

The two exchanged curt nods at the opening of the twelfth but watching live I thought Ioka missed a chance here. Had he barreled into Nietes I think the Filipino would have given way. As it was he felt his way into a round that seemed a crucial one, for all that we now know Ioka couldn’t win on the cards and needed a knockout. Although he held and was clearly very tired, I think this round belonged to the Snake. This is a nickname Nietes has earned.

A special word for the scorecard of Levi Martinez, who was either drunk, corrupt or does not have a proper understanding of the rules of boxing; his score of 118-110 for Nietes is impossible.

The other two judges scored it 116-112 with a card for each fighter, making this a split-decision victory for Donnie Nietes. He climbs to 42-1-5 while Ioka drops to 23-2.

A rematch would be very welcome and would likely make sense for both men. But the evergreen Nietes is nearing the end now for all that he manages to continue to postpone it. He may chase the money.

Sandwiched between these two excellent fights was the inexplicably hyped contest between Moruti Mthalane and Masahiro Sakamoto.  Mthalane, among the best ten in his division if only barely, stopped the unranked Sakamoto in ten rounds.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 74: Cancio, Wilder, Santa Cruz and More

David A. Avila

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Cancio vs. Alvarado, Wilder vs. Ortiz, Santa Cruz vs. Flores and More

Casinos are getting rich and boxing fan grunts are getting slightly frustrated.

It’s the big guys versus the little guys on Saturday with heavyweights in Las Vegas and featherweights in Indio, California going head to head in separate shows.

If only I could be in two places at once.

Let’s start with the little guys as WBA super featherweight titlist Andrew Cancio (21-4-2, 16 KOs) and his jackhammer hands defends against former foe Rene Alvarado (31-8, 20 KOs) at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card.

They clashed once before in 2015 with the Cancio winning by technical knockout in the eighth round due to a cut from a punch suffered by Alvarado. Until the stoppage, it was fierceness at its best.

“I wanted to give him (Alvarado) another chance,” said Cancio who still has his day job breaking cement with a jackhammer. “He deserves it. Who knows if I would have won if not for the cut?”

Cancio is a cool customer.

Also on the same card will be China’s Can Xu (17-2, 3 KOs) defending the WBA featherweight title against Manny Robles III (18-0, 8 KOs), the son of trainer Manny Robles Jr. who works with IBF, WBA, WBO heavyweight champ Andy Ruiz.

Xu, who only has a couple of knockouts, can’t help from being involved in wars. He endured hell and back against Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas in his last U.S. appearance at the Toyota Center in Houston back in January. Now he gets Robles who has improved tremendously since his pro debut at the same venue back in 2012. It was not an impressive moment. But he’s slowly and determinedly added more skills in the last seven years. Now he’s 25 years old and has his man strength. It makes a major difference.

Another interesting return match features Rashidi Ellis (21-0, 14 KOs) against Eddie Gomez (23-3, 13 KOs) at the same venue as their first encounter. That first fight only lasted one brutal round. Can Ellis duplicate his first victory over the Bronx fighter?

Las Vegas

Speaking of rematches, WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder (41-0-1, 41 KOs) has to reload when he meets Cuban challenger Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. FOX pay-per-view will televise the PBC fight card. It’s been 20 months since their first clash ended in a knockout win for Wilder.

For those unaware, Wilder has held the WBC version of the title for almost four years and that includes nine title defenses. All but one has ended by knockout and the one that got away (Tyson Fury) will be his new date should he prevail against the southpaw Ortiz.

Wilder has pure athleticism and has added more technique each time he jumps in the boxing ring. The first time I witnessed Wilder in person was at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas back in 2010. He’s improved immensely since that time. I saw him later that year at Fantasy Springs. He traded knockdowns with Harold Sconiers and actually could have lost that fight, but the referee missed a crucial knockdown. Wilder could not get up and had there been a count, he would not have survived. But sometimes you get a break and Wilder has shown he knows how to cash in.

Ortiz has more skills than the champion but lacks the athleticism and is older. Some say he is much older than Wilder. He’s made some astute changes for his career and now the Cuban heavyweight can cash out or cash in, depending on the outcome. Either way he’s going to make some heavyweight money.

Heavyweights are a different ilk. They are large, carnivorous and pack immense power. Anything can happen at any time of the fight.

Need convincing?

Look at the Andy Ruiz fight against Anthony Joshua. The Mexican heavyweight was supposed to be an easy substitute opponent and despite getting knocked down, he got up and wiped the mat with Joshua.

In this Wilder-Ortiz rematch anyone can win. Ortiz had Wilder down in their first fight but could not finish the job. Wilder finished the job when he put Ortiz down. Will we see a repeat?

The MGM Grand should be packed with fans eager to see the result.

Santa Cruz

In another world title clash Leo Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KOs) moves up a weight division and fights Miguel Flores (24-2, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand on the pay-per-view portion on Saturday. It’s for another version of the WBA super featherweight title that Cancio is defending on the same day in California.

Yes, it’s confusing. You got a title and I got a title and everybody’s got a title.

Still, Santa Cruz is hunting for his fourth division world title. I still remember watching him for the first time in November 2007 at Morongo Casino. Bobby Pacquiao was the main event, Carlos Baldomir was a semi-main eventer and Santa Cruz wore braces for his teeth into the fight if I’m not mistaken.

Back in those days no major promoter wanted to take a chance on Santa Cruz. Though his older brothers had fought and were successful, many matchmakers were not convinced on little Leo. But he could always fight up a storm. He had a life and death struggle at Pala Casino with Robert DaLuz in 2009. After that fight he seemed to find himself and got on a tear much like a Major League Baseball player finding his stroke.

Since 2012 he’s won the bantamweight, super bantamweight, and featherweight world titles. He lost to Carl Frampton in 2016, then regained it in 2017 in the rematch. Now he fights Flores for the super featherweight title. They were supposed to fight back in February but Flores was forced to pull out with an ankle injury. Now they are finally meeting.

“I’m really glad I’m getting this second opportunity to fight Leo Santa Cruz,” said Flores. “I thought I would never get a second chance, but here I am.”

Santa Cruz has bigger plans than just securing a fourth division world title, he wants world domination at 130 pounds.

“I want to unify and fight everyone at 130,” said Santa Cruz. “Whoever they throw in front of me.”

First up is Flores. But 300 miles to the west, Cancio will be defending his version of the WBA super featherweight title too. And he’s not too happy.

“I think it’s a bunch of B.S. I got the short end of the stick once again. I’m not a big name to a lot of people like Leo Santa Cruz is. I feel like that’s why they did it,” said Cancio. “If I come out victorious Nov. 23 and if Leo comes out victorious Nov. 23, that’s a fight I definitely want to make. I feel like I’m the bigger, stronger 130-pound guy.”

That’s a fight many people would like to see made.

Friday Fights

In the sleepy town of Ontario, California, another Thompson Boxing Promotions card takes place at the Doubletree Hotel on Friday, Nov. 22.

Three interesting eight-round fights highlight the card including the newest finds by the Orange County based company in a lightweight contest. They specialize in finding talent.

Ruben Villa (10-0, 8 KOs) seeks to extend his unbeaten streak against Eduardo Lionel Rodriguez (8-1-1). The lanky Santa Monica fighter Villa emerged on top with a win over another undefeated fighter George Acosta last May. He followed that up with a quick two-round destruction over veteran Ruben Tamayo last July. Now he faces another test with Rodriguez.

Also on the Thompson card, is the return of Giovani Santillan (24-0, 14 KOs) who meets Wilfrido Buelvas (20-12) in a welterweight match. It’s been 19 months since Santillan was last in the ring and knocked out Alejandro Barboza on a televised match to retain the NABO title.

Santillan, 28, fights out of San Diego and his southpaw style allowed him to rise up the rankings in impressive fashion until his disappearance from the fight scene.

Does he still have it?

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the first bell starts around 8 p.m. For more information call (714) 935-0900.

Al Mitchell

Al Mitchell, the trainer for female super featherweight star Mikaela Mayer, will be inducted to the USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame on Friday Dec. 13, it was announced this week.

Mitchell, 76, has been an advisor for many top amateur boxers throughout the past 60 years and was the head coach for the 1996 US Olympic Team. He also advised on numerous Olympic teams that featured boxers such as Vernon Forrest and Floyd Mayweather.

“I want to thank all the coaches who worked under me and all the young fighters I’ve worked with,” said Mitchell. “I’m thankful that USA Boxing believed in me, putting 13 to 15 boxers in my program, and cream does rise to the top.”

Today, Mitchell has female fighter Mayer headed to a world title bid in 2020. The tall super featherweight will be accompanying Mitchell when he is inducted to the Hall of Fame at ceremonies held at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Al Bernstein will host the proceedings.

Others being inducted are George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Mark Breland, Ray Rodgers and Sen. John McCain.

Fights to Watch

Fri. ESPN+ 7 a.m. Jack Caterall (24-0) vs Timo Schwarzkopf (20-3)

Fri. WWW.RingTV.com

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Callum Smith (26-0) vs John Ryder (28-4).

Sat. WWW.DBE1.com 4 p.m. Marie Eve Dicaire (16-0) vs Ogleidis Suarez (29-3-1); Raquel Miller (9-0) vs Alma Ibarra (7-0).

Sat. DAZN 4:30 p.m. Andrew Cancio (21-4-2) vs Rene Alvarado (31-8); Can XU (17-2) vs Manny Robles III (18-0)

Sat. FOX pay-per-view 6 p.m. Deontay Wilder (41-0-1) vs Luis Ortiz (31-1); Leo Santa Cruz (36-1-1) vs Miguel Flores (24-2); Luis Nery (30-0) vs Manny Rodriguez (19-1); Brandon Figueroa (20-0) vs Julio Ceja (32-4)

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Dubai Poised to Mirror Saudi Arabia in the New World Order of Boxing

Arne K. Lang

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The royal family of Saudi Arabia is committed to making their fiefdom a major player in the world of professional boxing. The grand finale of the super middleweight tournament of the 2018 World Boxing Super Series (Callum Smith vs. George Groves) was held in Saudi Arabia as was Amir Khan’s last fight against overmatched Billy Dibs. Those fights, in retrospect, were overtures to the big shebang on Dec. 7, the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr.

Saudi Arabia’s next-door neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, is poised to join the party. Tomorrow’s show at the plush new Caesars Palace resort at Bluewaters, a man-made island overlooking Dubai, is the latest manifestation of the incursion of boxing into the Arab world.

This isn’t the first boxing show in Dubai. In 2008, former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer closed the curtain on his pro boxing career in Dubai, knocking out South Carolina no-hoper Shelby Gross in the opening round. That allowed Moorer to bookend his career with KOs in one, taking his leave on the same note on which he walked in the door. (You could probably win a few bar bets with this piece of trivia.)

When that odd event took place, there was only one registered professional boxer in all of the UAE.

That number is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to Ahmed Seddiqi, the driving force behind Dubai’s Round 10 Boxing Club. Founded in 2013, Round 10 is the first gym in Dubai built specifically for boxing.

Seddiqi (pictured on the left with his cousin and business partner Abdulla Khoory) subsequently became a regional manager for MTK Global, a powerful boxing management company with a murky past. His association with MTK Global, which is now headquartered in Dubai, gave him the resources to bring in fighters from overseas to spiff up his promotions. And the relationship between Top Rank and MTK Global gave Dubai boxing greater exposure via Top Rank’s affiliation with ESPN+.

arab 2

Seddiqi and MTK Global manufactured the inaugural boxing show at Caesars Palace Dubai this past Sept. 13. The main event pitted Pakistan’s Muhammad Waseem against Conrado Tanamor of the Philippines. The super flyweights were penciled in to fight eight rounds.

Tomorrow’s show has a larger budget reflected in a more interesting main event. England’s Jack Catterall, ranked #1 by the WBO at 140 pounds, opposes Timo Schwarzkopf, the Kosovo-born German, in a match slated for 10.

The undefeated Catterall (24-0, 13 KOs) is on a collision course with WBC/WBO 140-pound title-holder Jose Carlos Ramirez. That bout will almost assuredly take place, notwithstanding the fact that the fans would much prefer to see Ramirez, the pride of Fresno, in a unification fight with Josh Taylor and that Ramirez’s next title defense will apparently come against Viktor Postol, a bout seemingly headed to China in February.

Catterall is handled by longtime British promoter Frank Warren who currently has a very cozy relationship with Ramirez’s promoter Bob Arum, an upshot of their shared financial interest in Tyson Fury. Being ranked #1 by the WBO carries sway with Arum who is a de facto member of the WBO Board of Directors. Arum’s current title-holders (Terence Crawford, Vasyl Lomachenko, Jamel Herring, Shakur Stevenson, Emanuel Navarrette, and Ramirez) sport WBO colors.

For Dubai locals, the undercard holds more appeal than the main event. Vijender Singh and Muhammad Waseem, who returns for an encore after knocking out Conrado Tanamor in the opening round, have built-in fan bases in a country where immigrants outnumber natives by a 9/1 margin with ex-pats from India (27.5 percent) and Pakistan (12.5 percent) comprising 40 percent of the total immigrant population.

Vijender Singh, 34, is a three-time Olympian. In 2008, in the second of his three Olympic engagements, he won the bronze medal — the first Olympic medal of any kind for a boxer from India. He returned to his homeland a national hero, a man who would transcend boxing in the world’s second-most populous country, appearing in layouts in popular fashion magazines and on numerous TV shows.

Singh (11-0, 8 KOs) signed a multi-fight contract with Top Rank in November of last year. His opponent, Charles Adamu, is a 42-year-old Ghanaian with a 33-14 record.

Adamu, who went 12 rounds with Carl Froch back in 2004, has been stopped only twice but Singh, despite being relatively inactive, expects to win comfortably. “I don’t expect him to put up too much of a challenge because I have noticed he is slower than me…So I am relaxed, nothing to worry there,” he told a reporter for the Hindustan Times.

In common with Singh, Muhammad Waseem (9-1, 7 KOs) is the most well-known boxer in a country where cricket is the national sport. The Quetta, Pakistan, native, 32, previously fought for the IBF world flyweight title, losing a close but unanimous decision to South Africa’s Moruti Mthalene in Kuala Lumpur.

Waseem has something in common with headliner Jack Catterall. Both spent an extensive amount of time in Las Vegas at the Mayweather Gym. Catterall helped Floyd Mayweather Jr prepare for his bout with Manny Pacquiao. For a time, Muhammed Waseem’s head trainer was Jeff Mayweather.

Waseem had a wealth of international amateur experience, but has answered the bell for only 61 rounds as a pro. By contrast, his Mexican opponent, former WBC light flyweight champion Ganigan Lopez (36-10, 19 KOs), has answered the bell for 311 rounds. It’s an interesting match, notwithstanding the fact that Ganigan, 38, was knocked out just six weeks ago by a journeyman in Mexico City.

In common with the first boxing show at Caesars Palace Dubai, tomorrow’s event is called the Rotunda Rumble. The Rotunda is the free-standing entertainment venue at the resort, a structure, says management, inspired by the Roman Pantheon although for most folks the referent would be an Eskimo’s igloo. Nearby on the island, accessible to the mainland by a causeway, sits the world’s largest ferris wheel.

rotunda

Can boxing at Caesars Palace Dubai ever match the heyday of boxing at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas? That’s very doubtful. In Las Vegas, the early Caesars Palace shows in the indoor tennis pavilion were designed to showcase the property. The fights were televised on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Management expected an increase in casino activity, but were surprised at the extent of the increase. Boxing, they quickly learned, was a magnet for high rollers, the impetus for raising the bar, begetting the outdoor extravaganzas.

Caesars Palace Dubai is a non-gaming hotel. There is no legal gambling in the Arab world. Moreover, the crowds at the fights in Dubai will never resemble the crowds at the big fights in Las Vegas where a secondary diversion is ogling the scantily-clad young women who arrive on the arms of their benefactors. Dubai is a country where an unmarried couple can be arrested for sharing a hotel room.

But let’s not sell Dubai short. You won’t find a pari-mutuel window at Dubai’s swanky Meydan Racecourse, but since 1996 the facility has been home to the world’s richest thoroughbred horse race. So, if the nation’s rulers become enamored of boxing, it’s a fair guess they will parrot neighboring Saudi Arabia and go all in.

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The Official TSS Wilder-Ortiz 2 Prediction Page

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Deontay Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) and Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) renew acquaintances on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. They first met on March 3 of last year at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Wilder won by TKO in the 10th round but was himself nearly stopped in the seventh when Ortiz hammered him from pillar to post.

In our survey of TSS writers prior to their first meeting, Wilder was the consensus choice with several of the respondents correctly picking the exact round in which Ortiz succumbed. But Ortiz had his supporters. Those that favored the big Cuban southpaw pointed out that he was more technically sound — unlike Wilder he didn’t loop his punches – and that the Bronze Bomber hadn’t yet been tested by a foe as formidable as Luis Ortiz.

Heading into their first confrontation, there was a sentiment that the fight wasn’t on the level. Why would the Bronze Bomber take such a big risk when a unification fight with Anthony Joshua was percolating, a fight that figured to be the richest heavyweight fight in history provided that both remained undefeated? Those that bought into this theory expected the Wilder-Ortiz fight to end in an unsatisfactory manner, a routine occurrence when there is a gentlemen’s agreement.

There are none of those insinuations attending the rematch, but yet Ortiz money is very scarce.

In our surveys, it’s been our custom to list the panelists alphabetically. This time we are flipping the switch and listing them in reverse alphabetical order. The graphic is by Colorado comic book cover artist ROB AYALA whose specialty is combat sports. Check out more of his acclaimed drawings at his web site fight posium. Here’s the link.

PREDICTIONS

Another anything can happen type matchup in a strong boxing season. There’s an equal chance the bout is either as wild as Foreman-Lyle or as lackluster as Tyson-Bonecrusher. I’m thinking Wilder by overwhelming TKO, the question is whether that happens in the first or second half of the fight. – PHIL WOOLEVER

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This time Ortiz may be too slow, too fat, and too old to do what he did last time, but his ring smarts and vicious uppercuts still make him very dangerous. Wilder, meanwhile, knows that he can do major damage to the Cuban, so mentally he has that edge going in. I see a short period of feeling out and then the boom and attendant KO will be lowered on Ortiz either via a straight right or a windmill shot. Kong will then amble off into the sunset with that juicy early retirement check and a reputation—like Chuvalo, Quarry, and Shavers– for having been one of the best fighters to have never won a world championship. – TED SARES

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Luis Ortiz may have whipped himself into a career best shape for this fight and understandably so, given what is at stake. But at 40, one wonders if he has the reflexes and the legs to keep up with Deontay Wilder for 12 rounds, assuming the bout even goes that far. In his last bout against the lowly Christian Hammer, Ortiz looked every bit his age, sluggish and noticeably fatigued. Hammer employed his awkward, impish style to throw Ortiz off his game and, most tellingly, was able to land the straight right with surprising frequency. That is not a reassuring sign for Ortiz. Deontay Wilder is no one’s idea of a textbook fighter, but that is also what makes him dangerous. As ungainly and coarse as his approach may be, Wilder is able to unload that right hand cannon without the slightest hitch. Ortiz may see it coming, but his legs won’t likely let him move out of the way in time. As competitive as the first fight was, something tells me Ortiz already missed his window of opportunity. Wilder TKO 7 – SEAN NAM

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Heavyweight punchers are fascinating in re-matches. Think of Joe Louis against Billy Conn, Arturo Godoy or Bob Pastor. Think of Rocky Marciano against Joe Walcott. In all of these examples, we have a puncher who was stretched in a first contest who won by savage knockout in the return. When punchers learn how boxers move the blinds are often closed on the boxer in the rematch. There are, of course, opposed examples – Jack Dempsey against Gene Tunney is perhaps the classic. Wilder-Ortiz is of course not a reasonable foil for these contests because Ortiz is no box-mover. But the result here should tell a tale. Will Wilder prove that his devastating rematch knockout of Bermane Stiverne was no isolated incident? Is he a fighter who can apply maximum gains from a first fight? There is intrigue here in decoding the possibilities for a rematch with Tyson Fury in February. Wilder will win; if he can turn the trick quickly we’ll know a good deal more about him, I think. And that’s my pick: I’ll go for Deontay in the second round. – MATT McGRAIN

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I like Wilder by stoppage somewhere around the sixth round. Ortiz is dangerous but only if he’s able to turn back the clock a bit and keep Wilder guessing as much as he did during their first fight last year. The main problem Ortiz is facing in the return fight is that Wilder seems to have gotten better since then while Ortiz looks like he’s regressed a bit. Those are some pretty big obstacles to overcome, especially when you consider that as solidly as Ortiz performed in their last meeting, he still got knocked down three times overall and stopped in the tenth round. – KELSEY McCARSON

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One of the hallmarks of a great champion is that he is lethal in rematches. Joe Louis (Max Schmeling, Arturo Godoy, Buddy Baer, Billy Conn, Jersey Joe Walcott) is the classic example. Deontay Wilder has fought only one man twice, namely Bermane Stiverne who ended Wilder’s 32-fight knockout streak in the first meeting and was annihilated in the sequel. No, I’m certainly not suggesting that Wilder is in the same league with Joe Louis. The Bronze Bomber is rough around the edges and has no inside game, but I want no part of the 40-something Cuban who is likely to fade again if this fight goes beyond the eighth round. Wilder by KO. – ARNE LANG

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Wilder by knockout. Deontay is better than he was before and Ortiz is older. – THOMAS HAUSER

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Deontay Wilder will improve upon his performance in the first fight against Luis Ortiz by scoring an early knockout. I don’t suspect this rematch will be competitive. Ortiz gave Wilder his best the first time they fought and it wasn’t even close enough to being good enough and he got knocked out. It happens again, sooner this time, within three rounds. – JEFFREY FREEMAN

*

The Year of the Upset is drawing near an end, and the temptation is to keep leaning toward another shocker, or at least a semi-shocker. But at some point, reason must prevail, right? Andy Ruiz Jr. spoiled all that anticipation for a matchup of undefeated champions Wilder and Joshua, but are we now to expect a less-anticipated showdown of Ruiz and Ortiz? Another spoiler of an outcome that throws Wilder-Fury II out the window? “King Kong” is still formidable, but he’s got a lot of miles on his tires and has been knocked out by Wilder before. Make it twice. Wilder by KO around, say, the seventh round. – BERNARD FERNANDEZ

*

The first time Deontay Wilder faced Luis Ortiz in March 2018, Wilder prevailed via technical knockout in the 10th round. In the second go-around, Wilder will once again retain his World Boxing Council heavyweight title bcause of his superior punching power and relentless, piston-like jab. Ortiz is in tip-top shape, but will be stopped in the 11th round. – RICK ASSAD

*

Remember the first four rounds of Wilder-Ortiz I? They were tactical with very few punches being thrown by either man. Of course, the action did pick up but both men also now know they can be hurt by the other. As such, I see both being cautious throughout the contest and a very tactical listless twelve round fight with not much separating the two. With so many close, hard to score rounds, I ultimately see a split draw. – MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI

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