Paternal empathy motivated Wilder to grant Ortiz a second chance


A degree of paternal empathy with Luis Ortiz was a motivating factor for Deontay Wilder to grant him a second shot at his WBC heavyweight title.

Ortiz (28-0) was forced to withdraw from a fight with Wilder (39-0) last November after failing a drugs test, and the reigning champion duly dispatched stand-in Bermane Stiverne with a brutal knockout.

Wilder agreed to take on the 38-year-old Cuban following his return, despite being tipped for a unification fight against IBF and WBA belt-holder Anthony Joshua, who will face WBO king Joshua Parker on March 31.

Having seen his daughter struggle with spina bifida, the American sympathised with Ortiz, whose little girl was diagnosed with the inherited skin disorder epidermolysis bullosa, and wanted to help him support his family.

"Me and Ortiz have some similarities, we've got something in common, and that's our children," Wilder told a news conference ahead of Saturday's fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

"We know his story about his daughter, and you guys all know my story about my daughter, so when I saw that I thought, 'You know, I've got to bless him with a second opportunity because he's trying to support his family just as well as I'm trying to support my family.'

"So, from a father to a father I gave him that opportunity."

However, Wilder was primarily motivated to prove himself as "the best" by refusing to steer clear of a powerful, unbeaten foe.

"Not only do I think Ortiz is one of the best technical fighters in the business, with his Cuban background and style, and a lot of people have labelled him the boogeyman of the division. And coming up, you've seen many guys have avoided him - even champions have avoided him," said Wilder.

"And I've always said that I was the best. I say it all the time. I think I get on peoples' nerves because of the things I say all the time because I believe in myself.

"If I don't believe in myself then I can't convince others to believe in me. I can't get America to get behind me and say 'Believe in me because I'm this and that,' and I don't show it.

"When you're dealing with Luis Ortiz, they didn't want to fight him. They avoided him. So I said, here was the opportunity to bless Ortiz with this opportunity. I say I'm the best, they say he's the best. And this is what boxing is all about. The best fighting the best."

Ortiz attended the conference wearing a glove on his right hand while his left was uncovered, but he denied it was due to an injury.

"It's just because it's cold outside, that's all!" he said, before removing the glove and opening and closing his hand multiple times.

"This is my time and this is my opportunity and it's going to be a great triumph.

"I'm going to win and I'm going to take his belt."