Deontay Wilder was nearly knocked out in a hellacious Round 7 against Luis Ortiz, but like a true champion, he battled back to win in impressive fashion.
The WBC heavyweight titleholder dropped Ortiz in the fifth and 10th rounds to retain his belt and his undefeated record Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. FightNights.com had Ortiz up 85-84 before the knockout.
The victory marked Wilder's seventh title defense.
"’King Kong’ ain’t got nothing on me!," an exhilarated Wilder yelled after the fight.
Heavyweight boxing, which had been criticized in recent years for a lack of action, has re-emerged thanks to fighters like Wilder and heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
Both fighters felt each other out for the first four rounds, to the chagrin of the fans in attendance. However, they woke up when Wilder sent Ortiz to the canvas with a straight right hand.
Ortiz (28-1, 24 KO's), 38, was saved by the bell, but one punch changed everything in the seventh round. With Wilder smelling blood, Ortiz came back with a dagger of his own -- a counter right hook.
Wilder (40-0, 39 KO's), 32, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist,, who has been down just once in his professional career, was in deep trouble. He tried to hold, but Ortiz continued to come forward like a bull, connecting on menacing punches to the body. Wilder, like Ortiz, was also saved by the bell.
All three judges scored the seventh a 10-8 for Ortiz.
It turned out to bite Ortiz in the end, as he used up most of his tank trying to knockout Wilder.
Wilder recovered by the 10th round, and Ortiz was knocked down again with a right hand, and big uppercut ended the fight, as referee David Fields had seen enough.
"A true champion always finds a way to come back, and that’s what I did tonight,” said Wilder. “Luis Ortiz is definitely a crafty guy. He put up a great fight. We knew we had to wear him down. I showed everyone I can take a punch.
“Luis Ortiz was one of those fighters that everyone ducked; even champions ducked him. I wondered why it took so long for him to get a title shot and now we know.”
Wilder also reiterated that is ready to fight the aforementioned Joshua, who is slated to defend his titles against WBO champion Joseph Parker on March 31 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
“I’m ready right now. I always said that I want to unify. I’m ready whenever those guys are. I am the baddest man on the planet and I proved that tonight. This solidified my position at the top of the food chain tonight.”