Two men will enter the ring on Saturday night at the Pickering Casino Resort.
Barring a draw, one will emerge with his name firmly elevated to the world’s middleweight contender tier; the other will be left to reflect on the long journey back from a stinging defeat.
In the red corner, a Jamaican-bred tank in Kemahl Russell: The Hitman is always in shape, possesses rocking power in both hands — and was tied on the scorecards at the time of his only defeat, a 2017 fifth-round stoppage defeat to a World Title Challenger.
In the blue corner, a lone wolf from the notorious streets of Culiacan, Sinaloa in Rafael Ortiz: El Iraki, the reigning Champion of Mexico, still scarred from a stoppage defeat he believes came too early against a current World Champion in Germany.
Russell has the self-belief you would expect of a former North American Champion with God-given thunder in his hands.
“This is professional boxing, I’m always looking for the knockout,” proclaimed the Jamaican sensation, who has delivered 13 knockout wins in 16 professional contests. “I’m trying to be entertaining, be explosive and get him out of there.
“I’m going to steal the show and make a highlight reel out of this guy.”
Ortiz, a stoic 28 year-old, is somewhat more reserved but no less confident; after two championship defeats in Germany, Saturday’s fight in Canada is likely his last chance to break into the global elite.
“I accepted this fight because I know a win would be important for my career, and give me another shot at an international title,” reflected Ortiz. “Against Russell, I will have to use my brain. I have power, but my intelligence is going to be fundamental if I’m to have success in this fight.”
Both Russell and Ortiz are at the beginning of revenge tours.
In March 2017, Russell was tied on the scorecards against Sergiy Derevyanchenko before a fifth-round stoppage — and is eager to move quickly and return to the ranks of the world’s top middleweights.
“I see myself being ranked among the best in the world, I’ve been disciplined, dedicated, eating right — this is my life and lifestyle, and the work shows,” said Russell. “You’ve seen the difference.”
In fact, every fight fan at the Pickering Casino Resort has: Ring rust shaken off in a January stoppage win over Marcos Cornejo, followed by two thunderous knockdowns and a knockout victory in September against the typically durable Juan Carlos Raygosa.
“The second fight, I was more explosive, more movement, everything,” reflected Russell. “This third fight is going to be electrifying — don’t miss it!”
Introduced to boxing by former World Champion Chino Rivera, Ortiz has had a fruitful career but remains bitter regarding his WBO Intercontinental Title defeat in Germany — a sixth-round towel thrown by the stranger in his corner.
“They threw the towel, I was alone in Germany and they ended the fight without my consent,” said an embattled Ortiz from his grueling camp in Culiacan. “(Reigning IBO World Champion) Etinosa Oliha never put me down, and round after round I looked better. I came back a little sad, for my city and country.”
That initial sadness turned to motivation, and Ortiz — in fantastic shape, and with three of his last four wins coming via stoppage — has learned his lesson.
“Now, it’s about not leaving it to judges or anybody else,” said the Mexican southpaw. “I’m coming for knockouts, that’s it.
“That’s my only goal.”
Thus, the stage is set: Two heavy-handed middleweights from vastly different places.
Russell is an athlete, powerful and more polished each time he steps in the ring; Ortiz is gritty, and knows this is likely his last opportunity to ascend to the world level.
Over their respective careers, 70 per cent of their 37 combined fights have ended in knockout — and a sharp bettor would know that Russell vs. Ortiz is unlikely to see the eighth and final round on Saturday night in Pickering.
One way or another.
United Boxing Promotions presents Kemahl ‘The Hitman’ Russell (15-1, 13 KO) against Rafael ‘El Iraki’ Ortiz (16-5-1, 9 KO) in an eight-round middleweight contest on December 2nd at the Pickering Casino Resort. Tickets are sold out.