The final piece of the puzzle appears to be in place for the Nov. 23 Fox Sports Pay-Per-View undercard.
Two more undercard bouts have been teased to support the heavyweight title fight rematch between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz, which takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. BoxingScene.com has learned that one of the preliminary contests will feature unbeaten Brandon Figueroa in the second defense of his secondary junior featherweight title versus Mexico’s Julio Ceja. The matchup was previously reported by BoxingScene.com's Ryan Burton, but without a date or location although apparently both of those problems are now resolved.
Once confirmed, the notable crossroads contest will join a PPV undercard accentuating the lower weight divisions. Already confirmed as the chief support, former three-division Leo Santa Cruz will move up in weight to face Texas’ Miguel Flores in a lightweight bout, while unbeaten knockout artist Luis Nery meets Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez in a battle of former bantamweight titlists which was first reported by ESPN Deportes.
Nery-Rodriguez and Figueroa-Ceja have yet to be formally announced or confirmed by Premier Boxing Champions representatives.
Figueroa (20-0, 15KOs) will enjoy the fourth fight of what has been a breakout campaign for the rising junior featherweight. No longer just the younger brother to former lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa, the 22-year old Weslaco, Texas product has emerged as a formidable threat following knockout wins over Moises Flores, Yonfrez Perez and Javier Chacon, all of which aired on Fox Sports platforms.
As he steadily increases the level of competition, Figueroa will face his most formidable test to date, even if his opponent is coming off of back to back losses.
Ceja (32-4, 28KOs) earned a major title on his second try, scoring rallying from a scorecard deficit and an opening round knockdown to knock out countryman Hugo Ruiz in their Aug. 2015 thriller. The win was sweet justice for Ceja, who two years prior landed on the wrong end of a disputed 12-round loss to Jamie McDonnell in their May 2013 bantamweight title fight.
The stay at the top was short lived for Ceja, who suffered a fluke 1st round injury stoppage to Ruiz in their Feb. 2016 rematch. A similarly hard luck ending came of his May 2018 clash with Franklin Manzanilla, where he was well in control of the action through four rounds, only to have to retire in his corner due to a severely broken nose which hampered his ability to properly breathe.
His lone fight since then came in June, surprisingly outboxing World junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux through seven rounds before suffering an 8th round knockout defeat live in Fox.
Headlining the PPV card, Alabama’s Wilder (41-0-1, 40KOs) attempts the 10th defense of the heavyweight title he’s held for nearly five years. He returns to the very venue where he first claimed the strap in a Jan. 2015 decision win over Bermane Stiverne. The feat marked the lone time in his career in which Wilder was forced to go the distance, although ending their Nov. 2017 rematch in far more emphatic fashion in icing Stiverne in one round.
Ortiz (31-1, 26KOs; 2 NCs) comes in riding a three-fight win streak since his heartbreaking 10th round knockout loss to Wilder in their instant classic last March. The 40-year old Miami-bred Cuban southpaw survived a mid-round knockdown to badly stun Wilder near the end of round seven before suffering two more knockdowns en route to the lone loss of his career. He’s since won three in a row, including a 10-round decision win over Christian Hammer in March.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox