If one were to take a survey of Boxing fans that ranged from the casual fan to the true enthusiast and ask the question of what they look forward to prior to a World Heavyweight championship fight and more specifically what draws their interest and anticipation, a likely answer will be when two fighters who are known as “Knockout Artists “square off against each other. Although the same could easily be said about two fighters of similar reputation in any weight class throughout the sport, there is something unique that for whatever reason draws considerable interest regarding the Heavyweight division. When two “Knockout Artists” are pitted against each other such anticipation/interests are only enhanced when talking about two undefeated fighters.
Such a scenario will take place on March 3rd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY as undefeated WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder will defend his crown against undefeated WBC number three rated Heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz. Wilder, who is currently the longest reigning world champion in the division has been dominant in successfully defending his championship six times since winning the title in January 2014 with a twelve round unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne, the only time the Wilder has gone the distance in thirty-nine professional fights stopping thirty-eight of his opponents registering a career knockout percentage of an incredible 97%.
The thirty-two year old native of Tuscaloosa, AL, Wilder has also had to deal with the frustrations of scheduled fights falling through not because of injuries sustained by himself or his would be opponent, but because of an element that has frankly become an epidemic throughout all of sport. The element of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) use and to be more specific banned substances, which for Wilder has unfortunately resulted in scheduled fights being cancelled.
This first became an issue for Wilder when his scheduled bout with then WBC number one contender Alexander Povetkin, which was supposed to take place in Russia in May 2016 was cancelled after it was revealed that Povetkin had tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium. The second instance of the champion having a scheduled title defense go array was prior to his last fight where he was scheduled to face Ortiz, the challenger however, was revealed to have tested positive for a banned substance last September forcing the cancellation of the planned bout that was set for November of last year.
Wilder however, defended his title on the scheduled date against the man he took the WBC world championship from, Bermane Stiverne on November 4th destroying the former world champion by scoring three knockdowns to earn his sixth title defense by scoring a statement making first round knockout. The champion’s second victory over Stiverne began the anticipation of an eventual showdown with undefeated unified IBF/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua. Before that fight can materialize, both champions will defend their portions of the World Heavyweight championship in separate bouts. For Wilder his challenger is again scheduled to be the man he was supposed to face in his last fight Luis Ortiz.
Ortiz, who compiled an impressive record of 343-19 as an amateur has been a long time contender in the Heavyweight division since turning pro in 2010. The thirty-eight year old native of Camaguey, Cuba has defeated all twenty-eight of his opponents as a professional, scoring knockouts in twenty-four of those wins registering a career knockout percentage of 80%.
Despite what has been a stellar career both on the amateur and professional level, the subject of failed tests is something that has placed a cloud of uncertainty with regard to Ortiz. It is important to note that the failed drug test last September was not Ortiz’ first infraction with regard to the subject of banned substances.
Some might recall a fight that Ortiz had back in September 2014 when Ortiz scored a first round knockout over previously unbeaten Lateef Kayode. The fight, which was to determine interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Heavyweight ratings was changed from a knockout win for Ortiz to a no contest by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) when it was revealed that Ortiz had tested positive for a banned substance.
In regard to his failed test prior to the first attempt at getting a world title shot against Deontay Wilder, the World Boxing Council (WBC) chose not to suspend Ortiz, but did take steps to ensure that the challenger was fit to fight. The WBA however, did suspend Ortiz from its Heavyweight ratings for one year. After his second failed test and questions regarding whether or not he would be able to maintain his rankings, Ortiz climbed back into the ring in December of last year where he scored a second round knockout over a very “Game”, but outclassed Daniel Martz.
This now leads us to Wilder and Ortiz again being scheduled to face each other for Wilder’s WBC Heavyweight world championship. Although some have and will take issue with the fact that Ortiz is being given what amounts to a second opportunity to face Wilder for his portion of the World Heavyweight championship after failing in his pre-fight testing, it is important to remember that the subject of Performance Enhancing Drugs is one that is effecting all of sport in one facet or another and it is logical to assume with two previously failed tests against him that if Ortiz were to fail a third test either before this fight, after the fight during post-fight testing, or at some point in the future that the consequences would be more severe than merely a banishment for a period of time in an organization’s respective rankings and/or financial penalties.
As this observer has said in the past when discussing the subject of testing both before and after fights in the sport of Boxing, it is something that frankly needs to be discussed as the subject of its own column as there are many factors that one must consider before forming an opinion such as an athlete’s medical history and other elements that could factor into the testing process and what is deemed a clean test or a failed test. There is no doubt however, that the subject of Ortiz’ previous failed tests has been a topic of discussion and contention as this fight approaches.
The unfortunate thing about this is it does overshadow what appears on paper to be a very intriguing fight between two fighters, both unbeaten, both known for their punching power, who can both get an opponent out of there with either hand. What one should also consider is what might be in store for the winner of this fight.
After all, the month for March will end with another bout for portions of the World Heavyweight championship as Anthony Joshua will defend his unified IBF/WBA/IBO crown against undefeated WBO world champion Joseph Parker in Cardiff, Wales in a fight that will further unify the division. Although the sport is no stranger to criticism and at times mocking laughter when it comes to the subject of multiple world champions and fighters who hold interim/regular champion designations in sanctioning organizations respective ratings, what should not be overshadowed is in an era of multiple world champions per weight class, four undefeated fighters will enter the ring to do battle for portions of the World Heavyweight championship.
It can indeed be an overused cliché of this observer at times to say as Yours truly often has over the years in saying “Anything can happen at any given time in the sport of Boxing, and that is what makes the sport so great.”, but one can only hope with every portion of the Heavyweight championship of the world being put on the line over the coming weeks starting with Wilder-Ortiz that whomever emerges victorious in these two fights will then turn their respective sights toward each other in what would be a fight to determine an “Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion.” If indeed that does happen those of us who cover the sport as well as the fans who tirelessly support Boxing in good times and bad will be able to say true progress for the long-term benefit of the sport has been made.
It would be a refreshing change after all to see efforts toward determining one Undisputed world champion be followed through and it would be even more beneficial to the sport and everyone involved if steps in that process were made without circumstances that can only be described as what would be another “Black Eye” for Boxing. With Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker awaiting their showdown, the spotlight will focus on Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz. We will see who emerges as a potential opponent for the winner of Joshua-Parker on Saturday night.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Wilder vs. Ortiz takes place on Saturday, March 3rd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The fight can be seen in the United States on Showtime beginning at 9PM ET/PT on cable/satellite providers and will also be streamed live on the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps. For more information about Showtime, Showtime Sports, the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps please visit: www.sho.com.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the fight can be seen on Sky Sports Main Event (formerly Sky Sports 1) beginning at 2AM (Sunday, March 4th Local UK Time.) For more Information about Sky Sports as well as channel listings in your area please visit: www.skysports.com. Check your listings internationally.
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