By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Jarrell Miller would fight Luis Ortiz anyway.
Miller has heard Deontay Wilder say the same thing, that the unbeaten WBC heavyweight champion still wants to face Oritz, even though Ortiz is embroiled in more performance-enhancing drug drama. The difference is, Miller doesn’t think Wilder means it.
The outspoken contender claims Wilder “is just saying that so he can look good,” and that he never really wanted to fight Ortiz on November 4 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The WBC ruled Wednesday that it won’t sanction Wilder-Ortiz as a title fight and instead ordered Wilder to face Bermane Stiverne in a rematch that night.
“Deontay’s definitely scared of Ortiz, just the way he acts,” Miller said before a press conference Tuesday in Manhattan. “But most of his team is more afraid for Deontay than Deontay’s afraid for himself. Most definitely, because the team knows how much money they’ve put behind him already, and they’re starting to get those benefits back. But they know that their biggest payday is with AJ right now, so they’d rather hold out and get that fight.”
Miller referred to Anthony Joshua, the British superstar who owns the IBF, IBO and WBA heavyweight championships. Handlers for Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) and Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs) have repeatedly stated that they’re building toward a showdown between those undefeated knockout artists sometime in 2018.
That’s why Miller suspected all along that Wilder wouldn’t fight Ortiz next month in what was supposed to be the most difficult fight of Wilder’s nine-year pro career. Miller admitted it’s a conspiracy theory, but he firmly believes it.
“I would still take the fight,” Miller said. “I’ll tell you the reason why, and y’all might think it’s a conspiracy [theory], but I tell you how it is and how I feel. Ortiz doesn’t look no way how he looked two, three years ago, if you look at his body and how he performed. Number one is, he signed up for that WBC drug program, so he’s been on that for months already, leading up to this fight. He’s been on blood pressure pills for longer than whatever this fight duration is. So they been knew about them pills or whatever he was on. But they use it a month out to deteriorate the fight and put less of an opponent in there, so Deontay can look good, get the win and then move on to a bigger payday with A.J. So for me, it’s a conspiracy.
“Usually, when something comes to my head first, that’s why it came to my head and that’s how I feel. So people can say what they want, but I already know how some of these people [are] with money, and their agenda is to put it in the media. But for me, that’s how I feel and that’s how I see it. Because they Ortiz is gonna give [Wilder] a problem. I think if Deontay stuck to his game plan, he might’ve still come out the winner. But like I said, they know how limited he is.”
Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs, 2 NC) contends he tested positive for two diuretics late last month because he is taking medication to control his blood pressure. The Cuban southpaw tested positive for an anabolic steroid three years ago, though, and thus hasn’t been given the benefit of the doubt in the court of public opinion.
Based on the WBC’s announcement, Stiverne, the mandatory challenger for Wilder’s title, is expected to replace Ortiz in a fight Showtime is scheduled to televise November 4.
Las Vegas’ Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs) struggled to defeat Derric Rossy (31-13, 15 KOs) in his only fight since Wilder beat him by unanimous decision to win the WBC title in January 2015. Stiverne had accepted a six-figure sum to step aside and allow Wilder to fight Ortiz, and was supposed to box Dominic Breazeale (18-1, 16 KOs) on the Wilder-Ortiz undercard.
If Wilder-Ortiz would’ve happened, Miller wouldn’t have been surprised if Wilder won.
“I think it’s 50-50,” Miller said. “I don’t know. The reason I say it’s 50-50 is because Deontay’s a strong guy, in my opinion, with that right hand. He lacks boxing ability, but he has the equalizer, which is the punch. Ortiz is a sharpshooter and really does punch hard. But age is a factor. They do say Ortiz is 38. I don’t know how old he is, exactly. But it’s 50-50, age versus youth, power versus skill, so I think it’s a 50-50 fight. But I think it kind of [favored] Deontay because it’s his promotional company and their card, so it’s for them.”
Miller, meanwhile, was in Manhattan on Tuesday to promote his own fight on the Daniel Jacobs-Luis Arias undercard November 11 in Uniondale, New York. Brooklyn’s Miller (19-0-1, 17 KOs) will oppose Poland’s Mariusz Wach (33-2, 17 KOs) in a 10-rounder that’ll open HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” broadcast from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.