Sports

Miami resident Luis Ortiz aims to become first Cuban-born heavyweight champion

Deontay Wilder exchanges punches with Luis Ortiz during their WBC Heavyweight Championship fight at Barclays Center on March 3, 2018 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Deontay Wilder exchanges punches with Luis Ortiz during their WBC Heavyweight Championship fight at Barclays Center on March 3, 2018 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Accustomed to fighting in different time zones during his rise to heavyweight contention, Miami resident Luis Ortiz took it a step further in the preparation for his world title-rematch against Deontay Wilder.

Ortiz abandoned the familiarity of trainer Herman Caicedo’s gym in Southwest Miami for Las Vegas, site of his second bout with Wilder on Nov. 23.

“I wouldn’t be here in Las Vegas if I wasn’t serious about being all-in for this fight,” Ortiz said. “I would have stayed home in Miami. I haven’t seen my family in months and that’s worse than any Deontay Wilder punch.”

Soon after the bout was announced in September, Ortiz and Caicedo established camp in Las Vegas. For Ortiz, the training relocation serves as a vital strategy in his attempt at ending Wilder’s four-year title reign and becoming the first Cuban-born fighter to win a heavyweight belt.

Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) was seconds from accomplishing the feat when he challenged Wilder in March 2018. Late in the seventh round, Ortiz punished and nearly finished Wilder with power shots. The minute’s rest before the next round enabled Wilder to recover and he eventually scored a 10th-round technical knockout victory.

“I don’t know if Deontay will be improved for this fight, but I will definitely be an even better version of myself on November 23,” Ortiz said. “If I get that opportunity like I got in the last fight, I’m not going to stop punching until it’s over. I’m going to seek and destroy.

“This fight isn’t personal against Wilder, but it’s personal because I want to erase the loss and that is a thorn in my side.”

Ortiz, 40, remained patient and active in his quest for the rematch. Given the first bout’s frequent display of power-punching exchanges that lifts the heavyweight division above other weight classes, Ortiz expected a quicker second opportunity against Wilder.

But Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) opted for title defenses against Tyson Fury and Dominic Breazeale. Wilder retained his World Boxing Council belt with a split draw against Fury and first-round knockout win over Breazeale.

While he waited for Wilder, Ortiz won three bouts in the 20-month span since the first fight.

“My main goal has always been to become heavyweight champion and that goal has not veered at all,” Ortiz said. “I haven’t lost any of that hunger. You don’t go through the torture of a training camp like this to just show up.

“I have no excuses with what happened in the first fight. This time, I come better prepared.”

AROUND THE RING

Late Saturday in Los Angeles, Billy Joe Saunders retained his World Boxing Organization super-middleweight title, knocking out Marcelo Coceres in 11 rounds, and Devin Haney successfully defended his WBC lightweight belt with a lopsided decision over Alfredo Santiago.

Despite the significance of both bouts, Saunders-Coceres and Haney-Santiago were undercards to the show’s main event — a six-round cruiserweight match between popular internet fighters KSI (Olajide Olantui) and Logan Paul.

KSI and Paul reportedly attract 20 million You Tube followers but never fought a sanctioned bout until Saturday. KSI defeated Paul by split decision.

Jamel Herring successfully defended his WBO junior-lightweight belt with a unanimous decision over Lamont Roach in Fresno, Calif.

COMING UP

Thursday (10 p.m., DAZN): Carlos Morales vs. Mercito Gesta, 10, lightweights.

Friday (10:30 p.m., Showtime): Erik Vega Ortiz vs. Alberto Palmetta, 10, welterweights.

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