By Scoop Malinowski
On the surface, Deontay Wilder looked spectacular in overcoming a fierce challenge from Luis “King Kong” Ortiz, winning a back and forth, rock ’em, sock ’em slugfest by tenth round knockout. Wilder the WBC Heavyweight champion is now 40-0 with 38 KOs.
The fight was strangely similar to the epic Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko which featured both titans down before Joshua finally prevailed by late round knockout over the long-standing dominant champion of over a decade.
Wilder was badly hurt in the seventh round but weathered the storm and rebounded to take control of the fight in the next round. It was the first time Wilder showed a champion’s resilience and fortitude. With flurries of long, snapping, jolting shots, Wilder finished the game Ortiz in the tenth round.
But questions will always hover over Wilder. Is he an Al Haymon manufactured, counterfeit star? When will he finally face an opponent that is not controlled by Haymon? Is Wilder one of the most protected heavyweights in history?
There is no doubt that Wilder has a unique talent and a blockbuster punch but his chin is a question mark. Wladimir Klitschko once told me, “Deontay has a very good punch…but he can’t take it at all.”
Ortiz at 39 and speculated to be even possibly ten years older than that, entered the fight in good shape but was soft around the middle. Ring observers expected Ortiz to show up for the biggest fight of his life in the best shape of his career and the fact that he did not is suspicious and disappointing.
Wilder entered the ring weighing a very low 214, his lightest weight since 2009. Did Wilder come in at a weight because he had foreknowledge the fight was going to be a long one and he wanted to make sure he would not suffer fatigue issues in the later rounds? Anything is possible when Al Haymon is involved in the promotion. Especially when Haymon is desperate to rebuild his falling empire which endured devastating damage after his PBC boxing league failed, losing a reported sum in the hundreds of millions. Haymon also no longer has the reliable income derived from Mayweather fights as Mayweather is supposedly retired or very close to final retirement.
With no bankable, sellable stars to control and sell, Haymon is desperate to create one in Wilder, who is still a long way off from becoming a jackpot revenue generator. For Saturday’s win, Wilder earned only $1.5 million, which is $2.5 million less than what he could have earned from rival promoter Eddie Hearn’s offer to face Dillian Whyte in Great Britain.
The fact that Haymon and Wilder are turning down such lucrative offers, to instead face Haymon controlled opposition like Ortiz, indicates at the very least Wilder is a protected fighter, and at the most cynical, a possible WWF fraud, scripted fighter. It’s happened before in boxing and it can happen again.
While many expect Wilder to face reigning heavyweight kingpin Anthony Joshua later this year, astute ring observers doubt that fight will happen any time soon. Wilder is still an unknown entity, even in the United States. And it is not an Al Haymon trait to rush one of his still blossoming key fighters into such a high-risk fight as a duel with Joshua would be.
Haymon protected Mayweather from Manny Pacquiao for six years and only finally made the fight after CBS boss Les Moonves forced him to make Mayweather available to fight Pacquiao in 2015.
With Wilder’s exciting win over Ortiz, expect Haymon and Wilder to resist pressures to face Joshua by demanding a 50-50 split and or several other excuses and escape hatches, just as Mayweather used to duck Pacquiao from 2009-2015.
One possible scenario is that Haymon will try to orchestrate Wilder to win ten more fights to get to 50-0 before finally facing Joshua in three, four or maybe even five years. By then, Wilder should be a household name superstar and could justifiably demand the 50-50 split of what could be $500,000,000 jackpot.
Wilder certainly looked very good this weekend in defeating Ortiz in Brooklyn. But we still need to see Wilder finally face a challenger that is not under contractual control of Al Haymon – such as Alexander Povetkin, Kubrat Pulev or Dillian Whyte.
Until Haymon actually risks Wilder in such a fight, questions, suspicions and doubts will continue to shadow Deontay Wilder.