A look at five of the finest performances from the hard-hitting Cuban southpaw as he prepares to face former world champion "Prince" Charles Martin Saturday, January 1, on FOX Sports pay-per-view.
Luis “King Kong” Ortiz has struck fear in his fellow heavyweights because of his combination of ability and punching power.
That might be why few have been eager to tangle with the Cuban defector over the past seven or eight years, a period in which he has overwhelmed almost all of his opponents not named Deontay Wilder.
And even in his two fights with the former heavyweight champion, Ortiz (32-2, 27 KOs) acquitted himself well until Wilder’s power ultimately derailed his dream of winning a major world title.
On Saturday, January 1, Ortiz takes on former world champion “Prince” Charles Martin in a high-stakes, crossroads encounter at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
The bout headlines a heavyweight extravaganza on FOX Sports pay-per-view (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) that will feature five explosive heavyweight matchups.
Ortiz’s dream is to become the first ever heavyweight champion of Cuban descent. But first he must get past the hungry Martin. As we near the anticipated New Year’s Day clash, here is a look at five fights (in chronological order) where Ortiz to demonstrate his special ability and kept that dream alive.
Date: April 3, 2014
Location: Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California
At stake: No titles
Records at the time: Ortiz 20-0 (17 KOs); Barrett 35-10-2 (20 KOs)
Result: Ortiz KO 4
Significance: This fight was considered Ortiz’s first test. Barrett, a 42-year-old former title challenger and longtime contender, was nearing the end of his career and returning from a long hiatus but he had name recognition and a lot more experience than his younger opponent had at the time. A victory over Barrett would be an important step in Ortiz’s career. And he took it. The imposing 6-foot-4 southpaw had been outboxing and outworking Barrett when the veteran walked into a mammoth straight left to the nose that forced him to take a knee in great pain. Referee Raul Caiz Sr., obvioiusly concerned about the damaged fighter’s well-being, didn’t bother to count. Barrett was finished 38 seconds into round four. The victory wasn’t a career changer for Ortiz because Barrett wasn’t the fighter he once was. At the same time, this was the first indication that the Cuban beat a big-name opponent on a sizeable stage. And he did it dominating fashion.
Date: Dec. 19, 2015
Location: Turning Stone Resort and Casino, Verona, New York
At stake: Ortiz’s WBA “interim” heavyweight title
Records at the time: Ortiz 23-0 (20 KOs); Jennings 19-1 (10 KOs)
Result: Ortiz TKO 7
Significance: Ortiz turned professional in 2010 with a reputation as an outstanding amateur from Cuba, which is known for churning out superb technicians. And he had won the “interim” WBA title by stopping Matias Ariel Vidondo in October 2015. However, at the time, he had yet to face a top-tier contender.
Enter Bryant Jennings. The capable Philadelphian had given long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko a tougher test than many expected in April 2015, raising his stock. He was a legitimate threat to the fast-rising Cuban southpaw in the first of three consecutive fights against cagey veterans. And Ortiz was up to the challenge even though he suffered flu symptoms the week of the fight. Jennings was the busier fighter but it was Ortiz who landed the bigger punches, including a left uppercut that put Jennings down for the first time in his career in round seven. Jennings stood up on wobbly legs but took more hard shots, which prompted the referee to stop the fight at 2:41 of the round. Just like that, Ortiz proved he was a bona fide title contender.
"Everyone,” Ortiz said afterward, “has to take me into consideration as a heavyweight.”
Date: March 5, 2016
Location: DC Armory, Washington, D.C.
At stake: No titles
Records at the time: Ortiz 24-0 (21 KOs); Thompson 40-6
Result: Ortiz KO 6
Significance: Thompson, 44 at the time he fought Ortiz, was in the twilight of his career but he had a solid track record. He had given Wladimir Klitschko some difficulty in the first of their two fights in 2008 and he stopped hot prospect David Price in back-to-back bouts in 2013, spoiling the Briton’s title hopes. He also had two victories over Ortiz’s former nemesis in the Cuban amateur program, Odlanier Solis. In other words, the 6-foot-5 southpaw was a solid, experienced heavyweight. And Ortiz manhandled him. He put Thompson down three times before stopping him at 2:29 of the sixth round in defense of his “interim” title. The dominating victory made it clear that Ortiz was ready for bigger challenges. He simply had to continue to win and bide his time. Thompson? The two-time title challenger never fought again.
Date: Nov. 12, 2016
Location: Salle des Étoiles, Monte Carlo, Monaco
At stake: Vacant WBA Inter-Continental title
Records at the time: Ortiz 25-0 (22 KOs); Scott 38-2-1 (13 KOs)
Result: Ortiz UD 12 (120-105, 120-106 and 119-106)
Significance: Scott, Deontay Wilder’s current lead trainer, didn’t have much power but his skill set and athleticism were formidable. And he was coming off back-to-back victories over Alex Leapai and Tony Thompson after he was stopped by Deontay Wilder in one round in 2014. Indeed, the notion that he could frustrate Ortiz – at least for a while – was reasonable. And then the opening bell rang. Scott decided quickly that it would behoove him to fight defensively against his hard-punching foe, which made for a less-than-scintillating bout and denied Ortiz the opportunity to shine. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t drama, however. Scott suffered three official knockdowns over the course of the fight. In the end, Ortiz had taken another step toward his ultimate goal: To take on one of the heavyweight champions, which would come soon.
Date: March 2, 2019
Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
At stake: No titles
Records at the time: Ortiz 30-1 (26 KOs); Hammer 24-5 (14 KOs)
Result: Ortiz UD 10 (100-90, 99-91 and 99-91)
Significance: Ortiz received his coveted opportunity to fight for a major title in March 2018, when he got up from a knockdown to hurt unbeaten champion Deontay Wilder badly with a right-left combination in round seven only to lose by a 10th-round knockout himself. Ortiz had suffered his first defeat but was praised for his effort. He rebounded with victories over Razvan Cojanu and Travis Kauffman to set up a fight with the solid heavyweight Hammer. He wasn’t able to stop the durable German but his excellent boxing skills were on full display, as he won all 10 rounds on one card and nine on the other two.
“Every heavyweight out there can know that I’m still ready at 40. [Anthony ] Joshua, Wilder, I’m ready!” Ortiz said afterward. Wilder was listening. He and Ortiz would meet again in his next fight, in November 2019. Ortiz again fell short, this time by seventh-round stoppage, but, at 42, he still dreams of winning that elusive world title.
For a closer look at Luis Ortiz, check out his fighter page.