By:Robert Aaron Contreras
Oddsmaking is a funny business, something like predicting the future. But when it comes to a rematch like this weekend’s Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz rewind, Wilder’s success in their initial meeting seems to have eliminated the fortuitous spirit of the wagering process.
Meeting again, on Saturday from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Wilder looks like a safe bet. The WBC champion is listed as high as a one-to-seven favorite (-700, Bet365). Ortiz opened at +300 and currently sits as steep as five-to-one (+501, SportBet). Nearly two years since their first go, Wilder remains unbeaten. He has now totaled 40 knockouts in his career. The highlight being of course that tenth-round KO over Ortiz.
Photo Credit: Premier Boxing Champions Twitter Account
In 2018, Ortiz was also relegated to the underdog role, but much closer at nearly even odds. The Cuban southpaw opened at +170 to Wilder’s -189. Come fight night, the psaphonic American closed at -400. It served as a precedent because Wilder was priced at -400 upon inking the second deal with Ortiz.
The punters and bookies have been happy to again bank on Wilder’s haymakers, shifting the odds even more decidedly in his favor. Considering the boxers in discussion have already fought—one decisively beating the other—is it not that simple? Should not Wilder’s previous victory close the curtains on boxing’s theater of the unexpected?
Never. Not in the sport’s maximum category at least. Divisional icon Evander Holyfield does not think so either.
“Why give a guy another chance who is that good?” Holyfield reacted, via FightHype.com. “I don’t know why Wilder did it.”
At jeopardy for Wilder is a mega-unification with Tyson Fury following their split-decision draw at the end of last year. Holyfield recognizes Ortiz presents no small risk, no matter how wide Wilder’s odds grow.
As of late, Holyfield has been interactive with the media. Aged 57, he shared his interest in returning to the ring against Riddick Bowe before delivering his prediction of boxing’s other blockbuster rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua.
Ruiz’s triumphant upset over Joshua provided major leverage in the eyes the bookmakers. Once a +800 dog, the suoid champion faces Joshua again at +250. It is a huge shift but still not good enough to give Ruiz favorable odds. But favorable odds did not help Joshua in the slightest. They do not help anyone.
If they did then any grudge match of a 50-50 fight (as Wilder vs. Ortiz predictably was) should statistically lean toward the loser—just as 50 percent probability stipulates.
Recall that before the referee waved things off, the clash was dead even: Wilder counted for two knockdowns but was nearly finished by Ortiz in the seventh period. To be sure, it will not be the same Ortiz in the ring on Saturday. He is older after all, passing that frightening threshold into the golden 40s.
The challenger’s age, though, will not be the only thing different. Ortiz was vocal about chalking up his loss to Wilder to poor cardio, citing fatigue in the closing stages of their battle. For assistance he has linked up with nutrition and supplement guru Victor Conte. While Conte remains infamous for his role in the BALCO scandal of 2005, boxing’s elite continually praise his work. Devin Haney and Mikey Garcia were just a couple of the latest.
Work with Conte is paying dividends for Ortiz. Social media has chronicled the Cuban’s supreme physique. And BoxingScene reported his being in “better shape” than 2018’s version.
It is always easy to bet against the previous loser in the series. Memories are easily mistaken for intuition, images percolating into the imagination: a faceless referee standing over a sunken heap of Ortiz—warped like Picasso’s “Old Guitarist”—all to the backdrop of Wilder turning away smiling, toward the flashing cameras, victorious.
It happens. In May, Emanuel Navarrete doubled down on his doubters. He pelted away at Isaac Dogboe for the second time. The first was a massive seven-to-one upset for the super bantamweight crown.
But contrasting examples might be Canelo Alvarez’s rivalry with Gennady Golovkin. After much support for Golovkin the first time around, the Mexican luminary then made sure to make his closing unanimous decision stick. As the results did when he trumped Sergey Kovalev, the Russian who first extended Andre Ward—fighting equally, if not robbed—before being felled and stopped inside the distance. Kovalev was similarly crumbled at the hands of Eleider Alvarez before the next time wreaking vengeance.
One more. How many times was Juan Manuel Marquez turned away before putting Manny Pacquiao to sleep?
It is clear the only guarantee in rematches is a sorry ending for determinist thinking. Holyfield understands this. Bookies not so much.
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