Good, bad, worse: Luis Ortiz makes power play at 42

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A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

Luis Ortiz has 42-year-old legs and 22-year-old power. We’ll see what he can accomplish under those circumstances.

The Cuban southpaw got up from two knockdowns to stop Charles Martin in the sixth round and remain a relevant heavyweight on New Year’s Day at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

Ortiz wasn’t seriously hurt the two times he went down but I wonder whether aging legs played a role in his inability to absorb punches. They just didn’t seem sturdy at times.

The better boxer of the two never strayed from the game plan, though. He continued to fight behind his jab and wait for opportunities to take advantage of his ability to change a fight with one punch.

His chance came in Round 6, when he discombobulated Martin with an overhand left and was able to finish the job moments later.

The victory in what was billed as a title eliminator allowed Ortiz to remain in the thick of the heavyweight mix, although it’s unclear how he might fit in at the moment. Titleholders Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk have other plans.

That means Ortiz probably will have to win what would amount to another eliminator, against a heavyweight contender at the level of Andy Ruiz Jr., Joseph Parker, Frank Sanchez and Robert Helenius.

Ortiz still has the ability to be competitive with all of the above and contend for a world title, as he demonstrated on Saturday. That is if his legs cooperate.

BAD

I’ll never forget Emanuel Steward yelling at Wladimir Klitschko to finish off an overmatched, but stubborn Eddie Chambers late in their 2010 fight in Germany.

The late, great trainer knew the value of a knockout in terms of public perception. Fans might admire a fighter who outpoints his opponents. They’ll fall in love with a fighter who ends his fights inside the distance.

Steward would’ve been yelling the same thing at Frank Sanchez on the all-heavyweight Ortiz-Martin card.

Sanchez, a polished boxer, had no trouble with late replacement Christian Hammer. Ortiz’s countryman did more than enough to win the fight, as a shutout decision indicated. He just didn’t do enough to close the show.

He never took the risks, never shifted into another gear, which would’ve been required to stop Hammer (26-9, 16 KOs) give fans something to remember.

I have mixed feelings about Sanchez’s tactics. I acknowledge that Sanchez (20-0, 13 KOs) is who he is, an excellent technician whose instinct is to box, not brawl. That style has always worked for him. Why change?

Well, I also agree with Steward. If Sanchez is ever going to be a star, he’s going to have to do more than outpoint his opponents in dull fights.

WORSE

The Viktor Faust-Iago Kiladze fight might’ve been the most memorable bout on the Ortiz-Martin card – for both good and bad reasons.

Faust (9-0, 7 KOs) and Kiladze (27-6-1, 19 KOs) gave viewers as wild a 4 minutes, 44 seconds of fighting as they’ll ever see, as the principals went down a combined five times before Faust, a prospect from Ukraine, won the scheduled eight-round fight by knockout.

That was the good. Everyone loves crazy brawls. The decision to stop the fight and what followed wasn’t as fun.

Referee Samuel Burgos stopped the fight because he didn’t like what he saw from Kiladze, who was on the wrong end of the fifth knockdown. My first thought was, “Nooooooooo! Kiladze isn’t hurt any worse than Faust is!”

However, after I settled down, I could see I was being selfish. I just wanted the fight to continue. Burgos’ job is to assess a fighter’s condition at a given moment. He did that.

There is no defense for Kiladze’s reaction after Burgos’ waved his arms to signal the end of the fight. The enraged fighter hit the ref with a light jab, which undoubtedly will result in a fine and/or suspension.

I understand Kiladze’s frustration. He had a chance to beat a good prospect, which would’ve been a boon to his career. Still, fighters cannot under any circumstances put their hands on officials.

Strange fight.

RABBIT PUNCHES

I never really understood the fuss about Michael Coffie, who lost a decision to Jonathan Rice in a rematch on the Ortiz-Martin card. Coffie (12-2, 9 KOs) is admirable in many respects. The Bronx native is a former Marine who saw action in Afghanistan. He started boxing at an ancient 30 years old yet worked his way into meaningful fights. The problem? He always faced a steep uphill battle to progress beyond journeyman status. And now, after back-to-back losses to Jonathan Rice, he appears to have hit his ceiling. Coffie should take pride in what he was able to accomplish. The odds were against him from the beginning. Meanwhile, Rice (15-6-1, 10 KOs) has some ability. He might be able to beat a next-level heavyweight if he takes his training seriously. He came in too heavy for the fight with Coffie. … We saw a special prospect before the pay-per-view portion of the Ortiz-Martin card. Frank Martin (15-0, 11 KOs) appears to have all the tools – both God-given and learned – required for stardom, as he demonstrated in his fourth-round knockout of Romero Duno (24-3, 19 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round lightweight bout. Afterward, Martin, 26, mentioned Devin Haney’s name. It’s probably too early for that type of challenge but I suspect Martin could be competitive with any 135-pounder right now. …

Gerald Washington (20-5-1, 13 KOs) doesn’t give up, as I learned during an interview after he suffered back-to-back knockout losses against Deontay Wilder and Jarrell Miller in 2017. He bristled when I asked him whether he considered retirement, saying, “I’m not a quitter.” I admired that. Thus, I won’t be surprised if the 39-year-old plods on after being stopped by Ali Eren Demirezen (15-1, 12 KOs) on the Ortiz-Martin card. The problem is that he has now lost five of his last seven fights, an unproductive run that might signal that the end is near. … The knockdown in the last round of the Sanchez-Hammer fight was evidence that the use of replay review should be expanded. That wasn’t a knockdown. Fortunately, the mistake was irrelevant given the one-sided scoring in Sanchez’s favor. However, that type of missed call could decide a close fight. Florida officials might want to take that extra step in the interest of fairness and accuracy.