Deontay Wilder’s Punch-Out

Pugilist’s power only matched by his personality

The look on Luis Ortiz’s face said it all Saturday night in Las Vegas.

It was an expression bereft of sweat and soul, wiped clean by Deontay Wilder’s right hand of God. It was the face of a man who had outboxed his opponent for six rounds.

It was a face that looked like the face of a fallen video game character.

I know how Ortiz feels. I could never beat Mike Tyson on “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out,” either. I mean, the pattern was simple enough. If he winks, a jab is coming. If he blinks or flashes, it’s an uppercut. It didn’t matter. At some point, Little Mac would end up on the canvas. 

“King Kong” Ortiz, with eyes bulged out, looked more like King Hippo or Bald Bull once he pulled his head up from the canvas.

Folks who say Wilder is a one-dimensional boxer, or worse, has no talent, either down’t know the sport or trivialize greatness. Wilder has turned the phrase “a puncher’s chance” into a franchise — an art form, really. He’s the surest thing from Tuscaloosa, Alabama these days — with a “sorry, not sorry” to the Crimson Tide football team. I mean, Wilder is the defending champion — 10 times over.

Forty-three fights. Forty-two wins with a single draw. Forty-one knockouts. His current run of title defense ties him with “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali, for the most in the history of the heavyweight division. He went from a bronze medalist in the 2008 Olympics to the “Bronze Bomber.” And with all of those accolades, his punching power makes him “one of one.” The boxing community expressed those sentiments in the hours after the fight:

And even as we marvel at Wilder’s sheer power, we shortchange him. We don’t acknowledge his strategy, his guile. He made it a point to highlight Ortiz’s intellect after Saturday’s fight.

“With Ortiz, you can see why no other heavyweight wants to fight him,” Wilder said to ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “He’s very crafty. He moves strategically, and his intellect is very high. I had to measure him in certain places. I had to go in and out, and finally, I found my measurement.”

In that quote, there is a sweet science — setting up the counterpunch, much as Wilder did when he feinted left, then dropped the hammer on Ortiz.

“I saw the shot, and I took it,” Wilder later said. “My intellect is very high in the ring, and no one gives me credit for it. I think I buzzed him with a left hook earlier in the round, and I took it from there.”

Wilder is deliberate. His inspired conversation about Black struggle last November should have clinched that. Instead, we limited his impassioned speech to three words — “till this day!”

The next day of consequence for Wilder will be February 22, 2020. That is the scheduled date for a second “dream match” with a name made for a video game — Tyson Fury.

Fury has been the only one to stand toe-to-toe with Wilder — well, for the most part. Wilder dropped him twice in their previous bout last December.

In the meantime, we would do well to appreciate — and not underestimate — maybe the most charismatic heavyweight champion since Mike Tyson. And maybe someone can design a Deontay Wilder’s Punch-Out game before the big fight.

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