On Saturday night, two exciting heavyweight contenders squared off in New York to put them in line for a heavyweight title showdown. Those contenders were Bryant Jennings (19-2) and Luis “King Kong” Ortiz (24-0). The fight was toe to toe action you rarely see between heavyweights. It was clearly the antithesis of Klitschko vs Fury back in November.
Jennings has a boxer’s style, usually fighting on the outside, circling left to right, with excellent lateral movement. But trainer John David Jackson decided to change things up and have Jennings fight on the inside of the much bigger Ortiz. Jennings banged Ortiz’s head and body with vicious hooks and uppercuts. It was a risk Jennings was willing to take so he would not get caught at the end of a powerful blow from the Cuban puncher. It was a risk that did not pan out well for Jennings. Jennings was knocked down with a brutal uppercut and a straight left that made the referee step in and call the fight.
The fight shook the heavyweight division and showed “King Kong” is a force to be reckoned with. But my attention was drawn before the fight even started. I was touched by Ortiz’s inspiration. His inspiration is his four year old little girl who was born with a medical condition that included necrosis in one of her fingers. Ortiz said that he was willing to have one of his fingers amputated so when his daughter was old enough to see his father’s hand, he would tell her she was born just like her Daddy. I immediately thought of a couple of other boxers who were inspired to do great things in boxing because of the love and inspiration they received from their ailing daughters. Those boxers are two time Cruiserweight Champion Steve “USS” Cunningham and Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder.
It is truly amazing how “Daddy’s little girl” can be such an inspiration to the most lethal fighters to ever step in the ring. Cunningham’s daughter was born with a rare heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. It is a condition in which the left side of the heart isn’t fully developed. Jesse Dougherty quoted Cunningham referencing his daughter’s battle, “If she can do that, I think I can do anything in boxing, in life, I always take that into the ring.”
Wilder’s daughter was born with the congenital disorder spina bifida. X-rays revealed a hole in the spine shortly after her birth as well as the condition which usually confines a person to a wheelchair for life. Wilder was quoted by Lem Satterfield saying, ““She inspires me and we inspire each other each and every day, man. She inspires me still now,” said Wilder, “because when she was a year old, I promised her that Daddy would become a world champion.” Wilder fulfilled that dream and continues to take on any challengers.
It was interesting seeing the behemoth Ortiz getting very emotional talking about bringing his children to the United States and giving them a better life. Ortiz said, “It inspires me even more to obtain my dream, obtain my dream which is to be World Champion.”
Only children can bring out that kind of emotion out of a Daddy. I know this feeling all too well. Seeing your beautiful daughter suffering, you feel helpless. The only thing you can do is pray. It drives you to be a better man. A better person. A better father. A person who would sacrifice himself any day of the week for his family. It is an experience that drives you closer to God. Putting yourself whole heartedly before someone else is something you would have never dreamed of doing before seeing that little girl receiving round the clock care from nurses and doctors. But turning that stressful and horrible experience into something positive, such as earning a world title, is something truly special. It is something that you wouldn’t expect a tiny little girl to motivate you to accomplish. But these little girls did just that for Cunningham and Wilder. Now let’s see if it could come to fruition for Ortiz.
This is for you Annalise. Daddy loves you…