As heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder and top contender Luis "King Kong" Ortiz prepare for their rematch, it's hard not to think what might have been the first time around.
Facing by far the most dangerous opponent of his career, Wilder defended his title against Ortiz . Wilder, now 34, and Ortiz, 40, previously met March 3, 2018, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in a much-anticipated showdown between undefeated punchers.
It was an awful fight before it would eventually emerge as a fight of the year contender. Things heated up in the fifth round when Wilder finally broke through in the final seconds, connecting with a right hand across the face that buckled Ortiz's legs before flooring him with another right hand.
Then came the drama of the seventh round. After more than two minutes in which they did little more than jab -- and elicit booing from the crowd -- Ortiz rocked Wilder with a right hook and nearly stopped him in an unforgettable onslaught. Wilder managed to survive the final frantic 45 seconds of the round, but took so much damage that all three judges scored it 10-8 for Ortiz, even though there had been no knockdown.
Wilder recovered and scored a spectacular knockout with a right uppercut in the 10th round.
This is the story, told by those involved, of the final hold-your-breath 45 seconds of the seventh round in which Ortiz came within a whisker of a knockout victory that would have given him a world title and altered heavyweight history.
Deontay Wilder: Looking at that round, even on TV, it was like, 'Oh, my God, the ref is about to stop this fight.' It was so intense. It was electrifying. It had you on the edge of your seat you couldn't even sit down. He threw everything and the kitchen sink and he could not get me out of there and I think that messed with his head mentally. The seventh round was an amazing time for me. It allowed me to see what I'm really made of. It allowed the world to see what type of champion and a true champion that they have in America.
Luis Ortiz: As soon as I made the connection and hurt him and I saw him where he was and I knew I was going to finish him and that the fight was over, basically. I haven't had any other situation like that where I hadn't gotten a knockout in a scenario like that. So it's just a matter of putting some punches together and winning this fight. I don't really remember which punch it was. It's just like a flash. It was probably the right hook that did the damage, but after that I can't remember what was doing more damage.