Photo: Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom
Many factors have the potential to stop a fighter's career momentum, but, outside of injury, promotional issues are among the most damaging (just ask Mikey Garcia). Cuban heavyweight Luis Ortiz appeared to be an unstoppable force on his way to a title opportunity as he scored knockouts over Bryant Jennings and Tony Thompson to extend his KO string to four and his record to 25-0 (22 KO) with two no-contests. However, his switch from Golden Boy to Matchroom Sports in England has enforced a 232-day layoff, the second longest of his career. With a fight already scheduled for Dec. 10, Ortiz will return against Malik Scott, a 36-year-old who has gone 3-2-1 (both losses by KO) after starting his career with 35-straight wins and is coming off his own year-long layoff. Will this Scott be great or will "The Real King Kong" smash him to bits?
Force of Nature: After a positive drug test voided his one-round crushing of Lateef Kayode, Ortiz has won four straight, all by KO and all within seven rounds. In fact, Ortiz hasn't seen the eighth round in nearly six years. In his four fights against Byron Polley (KO 1), Matias Vidondo (KO 3), Jennings (KO 7) and Thompson (KO 6), Ortiz averaged 50.5 punches per round, landed more often (16.9 vs.11.4 per round overall, 3.9 vs. 1.7 jabs per round, 13.1 vs. 9.5 power shots per round) and did so more accurately (34% vs. 31% overall, 16% vs. 14% jabs, 49% vs. 40% power).
One potential issue could be defense; Jennings, probably Ortiz's best opponent to date, landed 47 percent of his power shots but a massive right uppercut in the seventh rendered that sobering figure moot. In his last fight against Thompson, Ortiz tightened up the defense (20% overall, 15% jabs, 26% power) and scored knockdowns in rounds one and three before registering a 10-count knockdown in round six. In that fight, Ortiz landed 35 percent of overall punches, 55 percent power punches and out-landed the 44-year-old journeyman 88-43 overall and 58-22 in terms of power punches. Overall, in his last four fights, Ortiz has landed nearly half his total punches (49.2% vs. division average of 34.2%) and 49.4 percent of his power shots (division average 41%). Meanwhile, opponents landed 39.8 percent of their power shots in that stretch.
One Dimension: While Ortiz is all about power, Scott is all about the jab. In fights against Kendrick Releford (W 8), Bowie Tupou (KO 8) and Vyacheslav Glazkov (a hotly disputed D 10), Scott landed 6.5 jabs per round and connected on 26 percent of his attempts while holding his foes to 18.7 attempts, 3.7 connects and 20 percent accuracy. He landed more than eight more punches per round (20.8 vs. 12.2) and that weapon set the table for his power shots, which landed 49 percent of the time, while limiting his foes to a 27 percent mark.
But when the jab is taken away, Scott struggles. Dereck Chisora held Scott to 1.2 jab connects per round and 5 percent accuracy in scoring a sixth-round TKO victory while Wilder never allowed Scott a punch edgewise in scoring a 96-second knockout win. (In fact, Scott's only punch of the bout was a missed jab). Scott has won two 10-round decisions since the Wilder disaster and, like Ortiz, Tony Thompson was his most recent opponent. Scott's jab wasn't nearly as prominent as was the case in past fights as he attempted just 8.7 per round and landed 2.0 per round, but the out-of-shape 44-year-old was even less successful (21.4 thrown/0.6 connects per round). Scott appeared in full control of the match until a short right suddenly decked Scott near the end of the ninth. Scott arose, won the 10th round, out-landed Thompson 110-78 overall and 90-72 in terms of power punches and captured the decision. However, the chin that failed him against Chisora and Wilder, nearly did so again versus Thompson. Against a vicious puncher like Ortiz, that flaw could be fatal.
Prediction: Like Amir Khan vs. Canelo Alvarez and Kell Brook against Gennady Golovkin, Scott must fight perfectly for 12 straight rounds to pull the upset while Ortiz, like Alvarez and GGG, only needs to land one big one. The over-under should be measured in seconds rather than rounds. Ortiz by highlight-reel KO.