“King Kong” Ortiz Hits NY, Leaves the Skyscrapers Alone, But Promises Win Over Rossy
The man is a hulk of a being, with a face that suggests he could and would, if so moved, throttle you if you displeased him. Luis Ortiz, born in 1979, looking maybe half a decade older, was in NYC on Thursday and helping to bang the drums for his next fight, which will occur in Brooklyn, at Barclays Center, on April 22.
That aging, it would be understandable, considering the stress he’s gone through to get here, which is on the cusp of a massive opportunity, a live-changer shot at a crown, which would bring him and his family financial security for life.
Ortiz (27-0 with 23 KOs) banged his chest, in the manner of the fictional ape “King Kong,” whose name he has appropriated, at Gallagher's Steakhouse.
Good fit to his persona; by all accounts, he is outside the ring a placid sort, who patiently took press queries and was polite and chill with foe Derric Rossy (31-12) a Long Island native who is the top journeyman in the sport in the division, and deserves to be seen as a contender, rather than a gate keeper. Because Kong, the filmic headliner, has a brawn which suggest he’d be prone to terroristic rages at the drop of a hat. But, in fact, the ape is misunderstood, he merely wants autonomy, dignity, and only gets surly when provoked, by meddling humans. Ortiz, too, looks the part of a glowering assassin, but saves his fury for three minute stretches inside the ring.
He also has a soft side which makes him easier to root for. Ortiz came on a boat from Cuba eight years ago, and hopped off in Mexico, and somehow made it to Florida. He today is an American citizen, he told me in NYC, so you ICE agents can back off. (He grinned when I suggested I nominate him to explain to President Trump why the new focus on booting out immigrants who didn't jump through paperwork hoops to get here from frequently horrific homeland situations is misguided and cruel, too often.) Part of why he wanted to come here was because his newborn daughter was afflicted with a skin disease. The medical care in Cuba wouldn’t cut it. Docs there told him his daughters’ finger would have to be lopped off. You want to cut off someone’s finger, start with mine, Ortiz replied. She is stable here, in Florida, he happily told me Thursday. “She’s doing a lot better now,” said the fighter through an interpreter.
So he is fighting for her, to pay bills which can pile up rapidly and depressingly fast. He is also fighting time, because he is no spring chicken, like an Anthony Joshua. Kong had a run when he was seen as a fearsome and much avoided masher, but a stinkeroo against Malik Scott, and before that a sub thrilling takedown of aged Tony Thompson somewhat diminished the buzz built off a stoppage of solid Bryant Jennings.
Ortiz sought to kickstart his momentum signing on with Brit Eddie Hearn, but after two fights with him, as attached to Al Haymon, who also handles WBC champ Deontay Wilder.
Rossy will make the Cuban work, and the pairing pretty much guarantees the Barclays crowd will dig the undercard scrap beneath the Shawn Porter vs Andre Berto career-reigniter welterweight tango.
The big man has jumped through high hoops to be here, on the cusp. That boat trip, coming from an ultra poor existence in Cuba, and having to worry about his daughter, he deserves credit for perseverance. But Rossy isn’t going to lay down. This is the top opportunity he’s been graced with, and there’s no reason why if he beats Kong, he gets the reward Kong is expecting, a shot at the winner of the April 29 Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko faceoff.
“I think that would be next, I’m ready, tomorrow, the day after, it’s more managerial,” Kong told me.
And what sort of fight does Ortiz expect come April 22? It won’t look like that Scott farce, he told me. “What happened with Malik Scott won’t happen with anyone, because no one runs as much as Scott. I’m prepared to take care of Derric Rossy. I predict, I’m going to be a world champion.”