Great news: This article, which usually requires a subscription, is FREE to read today. Enjoy! While you’re here, take a look at our gambling-focused tools and content, and sign up for our daily email newsletter to get the best sports betting insight and analysis delivered to your inbox.

Last week, boxing’s littlest dudes gave us a fight to remember. Let’s hope the big guys follow suit Saturday night in Brooklyn, because we’ve got ourselves a ripper.

The Setup

Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) and Luis Ortiz (28-0, 24 KOs) were supposed to be done with this by now. The two knockout artists were scheduled to fight Nov. 4 in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, Ortiz tested positive for two banned substances during a random drug test in September. “King Kong”did not deny taking the two banned diuretics, chlorothiazide and hydrochlorothiazide, but claimed they are present in high blood pressure medication that he takes. Nonetheless, it was the second failed drug test for the Cuban, so it isn’t shocking that a lot of boxing people aren’t taking him at his word.

Wilder stayed on as the headliner that night in Brooklyn, and he put on a show with a first-round KO of Bermane Stiverne at Barclays Center.

Wilder (-305) and Ortiz (+255) both have had their eye on a fight with Anthony Joshua, the golden goose of the heavyweight division, for some time, and this fight should serve as an eliminator for a crack at “AJ” by  year’s end, so the stakes are incredibly high. Who has the edge?

The Bronze Bomber

Even with his possessed performance against Stiverne, Wilder’s detractors continued their claim that he had yet to test himself against anybody above the “gatekeeper” level. It’s true the proud native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, hasn’t exactly run the gantlet, but he’s taken care of whoever has been put in front of him, and he’s done it in convincing fashion.

Wilder has never ducked fighters, either. “The Bronze Bomber” accepted a fight with top-three heavyweight Alexander Povetkin in Russia. The fight was called off after the Russian tested positive for a banned substance.

There’s no secret to what makes Wilder successful — his astonishing power. The 32-year-old has a 97% knockout rate over his career. The only fighter to ever hear the final bell against “The Bronze Bomber” was Stiverne, whom Wilder pummeled in a unanimous decision in January 2015 to win the WBC heavyweight title. Since then, the Alabamian has defended his title six times.

Aside from his power, Wilder is an incredible athlete and has a lot of speed for the division. He is also a better counterpuncher than he gets credit for. Take his victory over Artur Szpilka just over two years ago. Szpilka, who is an awkward southpaw, gave Wilder a hard time through the first eight rounds. The fight was a lot closer than people expected, but then Wilder got his timing down and sent the Polish heavyweight to the hospital with one shot.

Wilder isn’t the most polished fighter, but there’s more in his toolbox than people let on.

King Kong

Luis Ortiz is a hulking southpaw with a very high boxing acumen thanks to a wildly successful amateur career in his native Cuba, going 349-19 and fighting for the Cuban national team.

After turning pro in 2010, Ortiz breezed through a bunch of no-names and faded journeymen until he stopped Lateef Kayode in 2014. That fight would later be ruled a no contest because of a failed drug test, stunting Ortiz’s career until he finished Bryant Jennings in December 2015 and Tony Thompson in March 2016. At that point, Ortiz was beginning to get some press and became the “boogeyman” of the heavyweights. Nobody wanted to fight him.

That’s probably because there are no real flaws in Ortiz’s game. To go along with his top-level boxing IQ, he’s a terrific point-scorer and is very good at going to the body.

While there are no flaws in his skill set, there are other question marks surrounding Ortiz. There’s the aforementioned failed drug test, and many in the boxing community believe he is actually older than his listed age, 38. Ortiz has also been relatively inactive compared to Wilder, having only fought once since his win over David Allen in December 2016.

Wilder’s Path to Victory

If he is able to resist the urge to take unwarranted risks, Wilder should have a clear advantage in power and movement. Ortiz is a great defensive technician and a savvy counterpuncher, but he’s very slow, and that, more than power, is the edge Wilder would be smart to take advantage of.

Wilder is younger, sharper, and the more conditioned fighter. It may seem counterintuitive, but the “Bronze Bomber” may be the one who wants to ugly up this fight in the early rounds.

If Wilder can wear down Ortiz early and turn a boxing match into a swing frenzy, this one will be over inside the distance.

Ortiz’s Path to Victory

Ortiz is either going to need to knock Wilder out or be incredibly convincing to win, given his standing in the boxing world. The networks, promoters, and boxing hierarchy will want Wilder to win to set up a bazillion-dollar showdown with Joshua. But, if everything is on the level “King Kong” is a significant hurdle to those plans.

To leave no doubt, Ortiz will need to get inside Wilder’s jab. Even though he has a slight reach advantage over the former football player, the Cuban’s going to have to use his craft to get within range.

Outside of his boxing skill and IQ, the biggest advantage Ortiz will have is his size. At the weigh-in, the alleged 38-year-old tipped the scales at 241 pounds, while Wilder came in 27 pounds lighter at 214. That’s basically the difference between a middleweight and a lightweight. Zoinks.

Ortiz also has the advantage of being a southpaw, and Wilder, even though he beat Szpilka, looked befuddled throughout his fight with the lefty a few years back.

Should Ortiz impose his mass and frustrate Wilder by fighting smart in the early going, this thing will be a coin toss.

Pick

Deontay Wilder wins this fight more often than not, but that doesn’t mean there’s value on backing him at -340 (BetOnline).

For you to think that’s a good bet, he’d have to win more than 77% of the time. I have this bout a lot tighter than that, with the American having a 60% chance of winning. That would mean his odds should be -150, which as it happens is where the odds were at when their original fight was announced in the summer.

The out of the ring stuff is what it is, but I think that has swayed the line completely and has presented an incredible +EV opportunity with the better boxer Ortiz at +280. How often do you get a chance to bet the consensus better boxer at that price? Never.

Boxing record: 8-2-1, +18.35 units


Ortiz vs. Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) will air as the main event of a Showtime doubleheader from Barclays Center. Showtime’s telecast is set to start at 9 p.m. ET.

Photo credit: Brooklyn Boxing/PBC

Follow Michael J. Leboff on Twitter
@TheBigLeebowski