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Deontay Wilder brings power, flash back to Las Vegas

Updated November 22, 2019 - 7:50 pm

Undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder knows he doesn’t have to fight flawlessly to beat Luis Ortiz on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden.

He’s never had to fight flawlessly to beat anybody, for he owns the great equalizer — the most powerful right hand in the boxing.

“These guys have to be perfect for 12 rounds. I only need to be perfect for two seconds,” said Wilder, nicknamed the “Bronze Bomber” as an homage to legendary heavyweight Joe Louis. “And then in the blink of an eye it’s bam, baby, good night.”

So don’t blink.

Wilder (41-0-1, 40 knockouts) will fight Saturday in Las Vegas for the first time since Jan. 17, 2015, when he won the WBC heavyweight title at the MGM Grand Garden from Bermane Stiverne and started establishing himself as the world’s most ferocious fighter. His 10th title defense — and second against Ortiz — comes with additional fame and fanfare that his last fight here lacked.

And he’s relishing the platform Las Vegas provides for boxers of Wilder’s caliber.

“Even obtaining the title, there’s still been ups and downs in my career. … I still had to start from the bottom,” Wilder said. “To be in this position now, it means a lot to me. Nothing in life for me has ever been easy, ever. It’s been an amazing ride. It’s been a journey.”

Wilder, 34, hasn’t forgotten for a second where he started or how far he’s come since he began boxing in 2005. He won the Golden Gloves tournament in 2007 and captured a bronze medal at the Olympics in Beijing the following year. Yet he debuted professionally in 2008 like any other aspiring champion.

On undercards and in unglamorous venues.

“I still had to go to ground bottom,” Wilder said. “I still had to start at club shows. I didn’t haven’t no one to boost me up. I didn’t have no one at the top carrying me around.”

But the victories mounted. As did the vicious knockouts.

And after 32 consecutive stoppages — 18 in the first round — Wilder was rewarded with a title shot against Stiverne, whom he beat unanimously in his only decision victory.

“We were brand new at the experience,” said Wilder’s trainer, Jay Deas. “It’s craziness coming at you all the time, and now this is the 10th title defense. This is a thing that we’ve learned how to deal with. This is a special place because this was the night that Deontay Wilder became the heavyweight champion of the world. One of the greatest nights of my life was right here.”

Wilder since has successfully defended his title eight times by eight knockouts, including one against Ortiz in March 2018. Lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury fought him to his first draw in December, but Wilder responded with a first-round knockout over Dominic Breazeale in May.

He insists his rematch with Ortiz won’t go 12 rounds.

“When I step in the ring, I only have one goal, one mission,” he said. “It’s to knock my opponent out. That’s the only way I know. I don’t know no other way.”

Wilder, a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is lean and muscular at 6 feet 7 inches tall and blends supreme fitness and athleticism with his uncanny punching power. His knockout percentage of 95.2 is better than that of legendary knockout artists Rocky Marciano and Mike Tyson.

A rematch with Fury looms for Wilder, provided he beats Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs).

“I’m the best in the world, and I say it with confidence,” Wilder said. “With that being said, I have to give the fans what they’re hungry for. That’s exciting fights. The heavyweight division was in a dark place, but now it’s on fire and I must keep it going.”

More boxing: Follow at reviewjournal.com/boxing

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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