Photo: Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom
By Diego M. Morilla
Unlike most sports, every match in boxing can be an opportunity to start anew or revive a stalled career. The bout that will pit Luis Ortiz against Malik Scott in Monte Carlo's Salle des Etoiles on Nov. 12 (HBO, 4 p.m. ET/PT with a replay at 11 p.m. ET/PT) will provide plenty of new opportunities ahead for the winner of a what could be a very interesting fight in an otherwise dull year in heavyweight boxing.
For that to happen, Scott (38-2-1, 13 KOs) will have to turn in a career-best performance against one of the most feared fighters in the division. Cuba’s Ortiz (25-0, 22 KOs) will undoubtedly have the upper hand as far as talent, pedigree and recent experience is concerned.
The doubts, however, reside on whether Ortiz can overcome the distressing streak of recent events that have taken him on a rollercoaster ride.
Earlier this year, his trip to Cuba to visit his family was literally halted at the airport minutes before boarding the plane due to an embargo-era rule still in place, and the impact of this heartbreak was noticeable on the usually moody fighter, who had longed to see his mother since he defected from his island-nation in 2009 to pursue his dream.
More recently, his scheduled bout during the Canelo Alvarez-Liam Smith card back in September fell through due to his request for a bigger purse, and that led to his split from Golden Boy Promotions. He will be operating under the banner of Matchroom Boxing, in what was a rare signing for the British promotional outfit which operates mostly within the confines of Old Albion.
True to his reclusive nature, Ortiz shut himself from the world to prepare for this fight against Scott, and he justified his silence with his typical call for more action.
“I haven’t fought in seven months, I am hungry for a fight!” Ortiz said during an interview with Boxeo De Colombia. “It is great that a promoter like Eddie [Hearn, head of Matchroom] has placed his attention on me. I feel renovated. I don’t care where I fight, my thing is fighting. Anywhere, anytime. I just want to be a champion.”
To expound further, Ortiz chose his trainer German Caicedo to do the talking.
“Luis should already be a champion. If everything goes well, in two or three fights he will be,” said Caicedo, who pointed out Ortiz’s recent streak of victories against the likes of Tony Thompson, Bryant Jennings and Matias Vidondo as proof to make his title case.
Taking down a motivated Malik Scott in a dispassionate environment as Monaco, however, will prove to be a much-welcomed test in Ortiz’s path towards a legitimate title.
“Who I am fighting means more than winning the title,” said Scott to reporter Helen Yee in a recent interview. “Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson at a time when Tyson was the most feared fighter in the world. That’s the type of victories that I want at this point in my career.”
Scott named Ortiz as part of a short list of fighters he has zeroed in as he tries to make it to the next stage in his career, with the other two being Anthony Joshua and David Haye.
A rangy and faster-than-average fighter with solid experience and decent pop, Scott will look to take advantage of Ortiz’s lack of speed and his proclivity to receive straight right counters. However, Scott will need to dramatically improve upon his last few performances. He bounced back from his two losses with a solid win over Australian Alex Leapai in the latter’s home turf, followed by a win over the always durable Tony Thompson in a fight in which Scott got off the canvas to win the bout. But Scott has a lot to make up for after his embarrassing stoppage against Derek Chisora in which he literally missed a finger or two on the referee’s hands as he was counting him out on one knee, which was followed by a devastating first-round stoppage at the hands of Deontay Wilder.
Still, Scott remains unimpressed with Ortiz’s status as the "King Kong" of the current heavyweight crop.
“I don’t see perfection. I don’t see invincibility,” said Scott in a recent interview. “I don’t see what the casual fans see. It’s my job to take advantage of those loopholes. If I can take advantage of them, he’s going to leave the ring with one loss. If he can take advantage of the things he’s seen in me, then I’ll lose. The best man will win.”
If Scott has his wish, the promise of another devastating, highlight-reel stoppage by the Cuban powerhouse will fail to materialize, and the fight will become a fork in the road for both fighters, with Scott steering towards the shortest road to his dream title bout.
"If I'm on my game on November 12, I'll shut him out,” said Scott. He's going to gas out early and I'll put on a boxing clinic. Ortiz is my pathway towards a world title opportunity, and this is my time to shine."