Ortiz vs Martin Can Prove Boxing Doesn't Have To Be Elite To Be Exciting

Neither man will be troubling Fury and Usyk, but their New Year's Day fight should be incredibly fun
10:30, 01 Jan 2022

Exciting sport is not solely predicated on the elite meeting the elite. While clashes of the world’s best are often entertaining, sometimes it is the athletes and teams a little further down the ladder that provide the biggest thrills. When former IBF champion Charles Martin meets ex-world title challenger Luis Ortiz on New Year’s Day, they do so with hope rather than expectation of meeting Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk at any point in the near future. But does not detract from what looks like a well-matched and potentially very fun heavyweight throwdown.

If the likes of Usyk and Fury are the Manchester City and Liverpool of the modern scene, think of ‘Prince’ Charles and ‘King Kong’ as a cup tie between Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United. A surprise former champion taking on an entity that went close to the very top, but could not quite capture the crown. 

Martin is mocked as one of history’s poorest heavyweight kings, due to the bizarre nature of his title win and the speed of his surrender of the title. When Tyson Fury vacated his IBF belt in 2015, Martin faced unbeaten Olympic bronze medalist Vyacheslav Glazkov for the title. During the third round of the contest, a slip caused Glazkov to tear his ACL, and his injury withdrawal meant Martin was a world champion. It was not how a fighter would choose to win the ultimate prize, but it was also not Martin’s fault his coronation was so hollow.

‘Prince’ Charles would choose Anthony Joshua, another Olympian, for his first defence. The St Louis slugger reportedly banked £6 million for the fight, but his performance led many to speculate the money had not been well spent. ‘AJ’ destroyed the champion in two rounds to lift his first world championship, and Martin was mocked after becoming the second-shortest reigning heavyweight king in history.

While Martin remains a figure of fun, and a ‘worst heavyweight champions’ list fixture, few have paid attention to the excellent work he has done since his moment in the sun. ‘Prince’ Charles has fought six times since, losing just once to knockout artist Adam Kownacki, and has stopped four of his five victims. His efforts have seen him rise to number two in the IBF rankings, and a win in this crunch clash with Ortiz could see him become an unlikely image on current champion Oleksandr Usyk’s radar before the year is out.

Ortiz is ranked by three of the four bodies, and his road back to world title opportunities goes through Charles Martin. The mighty Cuban has been there before, with the only two losses on his record coming from a pair of unsuccessful tilts at Deontay Wilder’s WBC strap. Ortiz rocked Wilder in those battles, and appeared on the verge of a knockout. The fine margins of boxing, and the explosive power of ‘The Bronze Bomber’ ended his attempts, but the challenger went close to lifting the crown.

Ortiz, who has also reigned as WBA interim champion, turns 43 in March. His career has been marred by drug suspensions in the past. There can be no further missteps for the aging ‘King Kong’. Ortiz carries the power and ability to trouble any active heavyweight, but time waits for no man. If he is to make an impact in the modern heavyweight ecosystem, the process must start with Martin.

Out of the pair, Ortiz looks the best placed for victory. He has mixed at a higher level than his opponent, and carries game-changing power. Martin can bang too, but only the hardest hitter in boxing, Deontay Wilder, has managed to halt the Cuban. Martin’s chin is no joke either, however. Only Anthony Joshua has managed to take out the man they call ‘Prince. The stamina factor favours Martin too, with Ortiz’s age and the fact he has only fought one round in two years potentially crucial. 

What we have our two men with complementary strengths and weaknesses, at a similar crossroads in their careers. Two fighters with everything to lose, and everything to gain. For the winner, they remain relevant. A name fighter in boxing’s most beloved division, world-ranked and available for any champion brave enough to face them. For the loser, it will likely be a defeat too far. Both men have their detractors, and the argument will be made if they can’t win this fight then there is very little else for them in the heavyweight division beyond the role of gatekeeper.

It’s not an elite level fight, there’s no world title on the line and the winner won’t end up on the cover of The Ring. But Manchester City vs Liverpool would be boring if they played it every week. Bring on Blackburn Rovers against Newcastle United.

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