The historic achievement Luis Ortiz and Sullivan Barrera dreamed about the past three months collapsed thanks to an onslaught of blows from their respective opponents.
Instead of returning to their Miami homes as world champions, Ortiz and Barrera only earned plaudits for gallant performances. The title belts remained in their opponents’ possessions.
Ortiz and Barrera attempted to become the first Cuban-born fighters to win world titles on the same day and city in 55 years. But their title challenges ended in technical-knockout losses late Saturday in two separate New York boroughs.
While Barrera was outclassed from the opening bell by emerging light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Pivol before the fight’s stoppage in the 12th round, Ortiz appeared a couple of combinations away from dethroning World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder with a knockout victory. But Wilder recovered and eventually stopped Ortiz in the 10th round of their title bout at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“This is boxing — what can you do,” Ortiz said. “I came prepared for 12 rounds. A punch can decide any fight.”
Ortiz (28-1) was the busier fighter in the opening rounds as Wilder appeared reluctant to engage. Ortiz set up his punches with a lead-right jab.
After four lackluster rounds, the fight’s pace intensified late in the fifth round, when Wilder finally found an opening and dropped Ortiz with two rights to the head.
Ortiz not only survived Wilder’s shots but turned the bout’s tide in the closing seconds of the seventh and nearly finished Wilder with a counter right to the head that set up a flurry of lefts to the head. Ortiz pressed Wilder on the ropes and continued to connect with lefts to the head and combinations to the body before the bell rang that ended the round.
“I came to do my job,” Ortiz said. “Against a person like Wilder, you cannot go after him crazy because you don’t know what he might hit you with.”
Ortiz’s cautious approach might have provided Wilder the escape he needed. Wilder utilized a right jab in the ninth round to offset Ortiz. Early in the 10th, Wilder floored Ortiz with two rights and a left hook to the head.
A tiring Ortiz reached his feet, but Wilder continued to attack with wild combinations to the head. Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) eventually found the suitable range and knocked down Ortiz a third time with a fight-ending right uppercut. Referee David Fields didn’t count and stopped the bout at 2:05 of the round.
“It was a great fight, and I performed well,” said Ortiz, who was ahead by a point on all three scorecards at the fight’s conclusion. “I almost had him, and I think I would’ve if there were a few more seconds in the [seventh] round.”
Unlike Ortiz, Barrera never had an opportunity at dethroning World Boxing Association champion Bivol in their bout at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. Despite sustaining a cut to the side of his right eye in the second round, Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) dominated with combinations to the head. Although he landed with occasional rights to the head, Barrera (21-2) couldn’t mount sufficient pressure to change the fight’s tide.
For Barrera, who trailed badly on the scorecards, the fight became a survival mission. Barrera, 35, nearly accomplished it, but Bivol caught Barrera with a right to the head that dropped him in the 12th for the bout’s only knockdown.
Although a bruised and tired Barrera reached his feet before the 10-count, referee Harvey Dock spared him from additional harm and stopped the bout at 1:41 of the round.
Friday (10 p.m., Showtime): Regis Prograis vs. Julius Indongo, 12, super lightweights.
Friday (11:30 p.m., Telemundo-Ch. 51): Gilberto Parra vs. Saul Juarez, 10, strawweights).
Saturday (10:15 p.m., Showtime): Sergey Lipinets vs. Mikey Garcia; 12, for Lipinets’ IBF junior-welterweight title; Kiryl Relikh vs. Rances Barthelemy, 12, for the vacant WBA super-lightweight title.