By Lem Satterfield
Heavyweight contender Travis Kauffman literally asked for bigger challenges—specifically 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7 former title challengers Gerald Washington and Dominic Breazeale—after swapping first-round knockdowns during a majority decision victory over late replacement Scott Alexander in June at Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California.
"I did ask for bigger challenges," said Kauffman, 33, who floored Alexander with a right hand before hitting the deck from a left hook. "Because I always wanted to fight the best, and because fighting guys nobody ever heard of, it is hard for me to get up for the fight."
Enter 6-foot-4, 240-plus-pound Cuban southpaw Luis “King Kong” Ortiz (29-1, 25 KOs), a 39-year-old title challenger who has stopped 13 opponents in his past 14 victories with 10 of those knockouts coming in four or less rounds and five being in the first round.
“To me everyone looks at Ortiz as the most dangerous heavyweight out there. When I got the call I said ‘Hell yes, challenge accepted. So many guys are scared to fight Ortiz, but if you are scared then you truly shouldn’t be a fighter," said Kauffman.
"I wouldn’t say it’s a crossroads fight because...I’m going to beat Ortiz, so this is a crossroads fight for him…To me, God’s answered my prayers because he knew how long I’ve been doing this and craved for a big shot like this.”
The 6-foot-3, 242 ½-pound Kauffman (32-2, 23 KOs) will face Ortiz on Saturday’s undercard of 6-foot-7 heavyweight Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) pursuing his eighth straight knockout in as many defenses against 6-foot-9 lineal champion Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) at The Staples Center in Los Angeles on Showtime Pay-Per-View (9 p.m ET/ 6 p. ET).
“I know I must knock Ortiz out in order to win because they will not give me the victory, and because they’re already talking about a rematch with him and Wilder,” said Kauffman.
“Ortiz is very skilled…I’m taking full advantage of this opportunity and I promise to be victorious. This fight is for my name and for my children so I’m going to give it my all.”
Kauffman ended a 15-month ring absence against the 5-foot-11, 224-pound Alexander (14-3-2, 8 KOs), who replaced left-handed former two-division champion Antonio Tarver on 10 days notice due to Tarver’s boxing licensing issues.
“I was at a point in my life when we got the call seven or eight weeks ago where I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my career. I’ve only been fighting once a year, I’m a single father of three boys, and I have another little boy due in April, so fighting once a year for me wasn’t cutting it because this is the only way I know how to provide for my babies,” said Kauffman.
“I was at the point of walking away if a big opportunity didn’t come up, and before I got this call I literally got on my hands and knees and wept and asked God if he no longer wants me to fight, and if so, to just show me another way to provide for my kids. If there was another way, then I wanted a sign. I promise you the very next day, my phone rang to fight Ortiz."
In July, Ortiz flattened Razvan Cajanu in the second round to rebound from a three-knockdown, 10th-round stoppage loss in March to Wilder, whom Ortiz had badly hurt and nearly out on his feet in the seventh round.
Cajanu had lost his previous fight in May 2017 by unanimous decision to then-unbeaten WBO titlist Joseph Parker. Parker lost his crown in March by unanimous decision to 6-foot-6 IBF/IBO/WBA champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) in England.
Another notable Ortiz victory was by seventh-round TKO in December 2015 over Bryant Jennings, who was coming off a unanimous decision to then-unified champion Wladimir Klitschko in April 2015.
“I’m fighting a guy literally every other ‘top heavyweight’ is scared to fight besides Deontay Wilder. I have worked with southpaw heavyweight Maurice Byarm, and I’ve also worked with huge punching cruiserweight Luther Smith from Maryland Luther Smith,” said Kauffman.
“And during the last two weeks I brought in Bryant Jennings, who surprisingly does very well from a southpaw stance. We brought him in because he’s been in the ring with Ortiz, so he was able to give us some insight along with my trainers being my father, Marshall Kauffman, James Cooper and Naazim Richardson.”
Kauffman had won 13 straight (8 KOs) entering a majority decision loss to southpaw Amir Mansour in March 2017 before facing Alexander -- a setback ending “My Time’s” streak of consecutive stoppage victories at three.
Kauffman was 18-0 with 15 knockouts before losing his first fight in September 2009 by fourth-round knockout to Tony Grano, ending his run of eight straight knockouts.
“This is the perfect fight for Travis. The sparring partners were fantastic. We'll beat Ortiz by being smarter,” said Marshall Kauffman. “This is the biggest shot that Travis has received, and Travis will shock the world against one of the most feared heavyweight boxers.”