Story lines: Coast-to-coast title bouts and ‘King Kong’ returns
Tonight on Showtime (10:00 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT), Luis “King Kong” Ortiz will make his return to the ring after giving Deontay Wilder – the reigning WBC heavyweight titleholder – all he could handle last March in a “Fight of the Year” candidate.
The 39-year-old Cuban spoke with UCNLive.com after Thursday afternoon’s Los Angeles press conference.
“For the better, 100 percent,” Ortiz responded on how his life has changed, since the 10th round stoppage loss to Wilder, “regardless of the loss. It was just that – a loss – not a defeat. If I felt defeated, I wouldn’t even be here today, and just hand in the gloves. I’m not a fighter that just half-asses it: It’s all-in or nothing. Yes, it’s changed for the better many ways, not only financially but the experience of the event, the experience of the fight and to capitalize, moving forward, for future fights.”
Up on the dais during the presser, Ortiz, 28-1 (24), revealed the grim mindset of a fighter by casually saying he’d rather have been stretchered out of the ring, in the Wilder fight, as opposed to someone else putting a stop to it. Ortiz was asked to elaborate.
“I’m very aware of what the consequences are when I step into the ring. It’s kill or be killed. Obviously my character, as a fighter, is not to be rescued or saved. I don’t practice that in the gym, and it’s not something I’m comfortable with at all,” said Ortiz. “As for my character, I would’ve preferred to have been just cold-cocked, and taken out on a stretcher before a referee waving over me and standing over me, based on fatigue. I didn’t feel like it was a finalization where it could’ve been a different scenario, where I could’ve gotten up in the 10th round. It doesn’t take away from what Wilder did. Absolutely not. We know what the outcome was but it’s a character issue for me. I want to leave it all in the fight. I don’t want to be rescued.”
Ortiz thrilled all who watched, as he hurt Wilder in the seventh round, and did so with a presumable lead, as the southpaw outboxed him for the first four rounds, even getting up off the canvas in the fifth. Some controversy arose, as Wilder was checked by the ringside doctor before the eighth, giving him some time to recover from the rough round Ortiz handed him. This procedure didn’t happen for Ortiz to start the sixth but he shared how he feels about it now.
“I have no control over what the referee and the doctors said and did obviously,” Ortiz said. “I feel like that, in that eighth round, it was good for me, as well as for Wilder, because the time affected both of us. I caught a break as well. I never factored in the fifth round, where they didn’t check me, so it is what it is. My job is to fight. Had I done it the way I wanted to do it, we wouldn’t have this conversation about a defeat. It did happen, and I have no regrets. That’s it. It’s time to move forward. You can’t hang on to it too long because it won’t let you move forward.”
Ortiz yearns for a rematch with Wilder, and, should he continue to look in good form tonight, against Razvan Cojanu, 16-3 (9), boxing fans should want see it as well.
“No, I don’t feel like it’s added pressure. I come to do my job, and that comes with the pressure. Every fight, a loss is potential in the consequences. I don’t feel the pressure, other than the normal anxiety of a fight, but not anything abnormal.”
Vacant WBO junior lightweight title up for grabs in Florida
Tonight on ESPN+ (9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT), Christopher Diaz and Masayuki Ito will look to make a name for themselves, as they duke it out for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title, a belt previously held by Vasiliy Lomachenko before the Ukrainian star moved up to 135 pounds.
Diaz, 23-0 (15), Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, and Ito, 23-1-1 (12), Tokyo, Japan, are the No.1 and 2 junior lightweights in the WBO rankings but, despite being relative unknowns, the contest is flying under the radar during a busy day of boxing worldwide. Taking place at the Civic Center in Kissimmee, Florida, Diaz is the favored contender, who presents a no-nonsense action style from the outside, and Ito, like all Japanese fighters, will be in shape and ready for anything thrown at him. The endearment of Japanese fighters doesn’t end there either. At the final press conference, Ito could make anyone a fan of his, thanks to his efforts outside the ring:
Video: Press Conference – Diaz 🇵🇷 vs Ito 🇯🇵 for WBO Jr. Lightweight World Title this Saturday at the Kissimmee Civic Center. Watch the fight @espn+ app. In Puerto Rico available only in @UnivisionPR pic.twitter.com/pIpAm2pcPu
— WBO (@WorldBoxingOrg) July 26, 2018
Because the sport of boxing consistently finds a way to get things wrong and so right at the same time, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Diaz-Ito delivers on action, and ends up being the fight of the weekend. Both are vying for a world title for the first time, and there may be no bigger fan of Diaz tonight than his Top Rank stablemate Andy Vences, who is likely to get his shot at the belt, should the Puerto Rican walk away victorious.
After Friday’s weigh-in, Robert Easter Jr. – the IBF lightweight titleholder – remained an 8-to-1 underdog, in tonight’s unification fight with Mikey Garcia, 38-0 (30), holder of the WBC lightweight title. Garcia, 30, who weighed in at 135 pounds exactly, hasn’t fought at lightweight since knocking out Dejan Zlaticanin spectacularly to win the belt, in January 2017, but all fight week, much of the conversation as been about the physical look of Easter, who made weight at 134.5 pounds. During the final staredown on Friday, Easter looked livelier than he had all fight week, and, with Garcia looking dried out as well, only Easter stayed for an interview after the weigh-in.
At Wednesday’s media workout, Easter, 21-0 (14), looked sucked in and disheveled from the rigors of making weight. Standing nearly six feet tall, there is a price for him to pay, in order to have that physical advantage, but there were no complaints from him, despite having very few words about the biggest fight of his life so far, not to mention the biggest payday.
Easter, 27, is the longest reigning lightweight titleholder currently – both in time span and total defenses – but not many are giving the Toledo, Ohio, native much of a shot based off his last two performances. A year ago, Denis Shafikov gave Easter all he could handle in Toledo, and, although the fight was awesome and entertaining, wide scorecards in Easter’s favor marred a truly competitive scrap. Last January, Easter was given all he could handle again, by the awkward and feisty Javier Fortuna, and, although he won via split decision, this time around, the fight was a forgetful watch.
“Training with Coach (Kevin) Cunningham is less of a distraction from my hometown, and my city. It made me focus more on boxing, and myself,” Easter told UCNLive.com at the media workout. Easter trained in Florida for this fight, and Cunningham also spoke with UCNLive.
“Well, that’s a couple of the things we worked on,” Cunningham replied, when asked about using Easter’s size and length in this fight. “We worked on a whole lot because he’s got so many tools in his toolbox. Every tool that he has, we tried to touch on, and sharpened up. We got him into using all of his arsenal, and using the attributes properly.
“I’ve known this kid for years but he has a different look about him preparing for this fight. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s highly motivated, confident and he’s prepared.”