By Lem Satterfield
Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz believes three of the top heavyweights will be at The Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday when he fights Travis Kauffman on the undercard of Deontay Wilder’s pursuit of his eighth straight knockout in as many WBC title defenses against lineal champion Tyson Fury on Showtime Pay-Per-View (9 p.m ET/ 6 p. ET).
Noticeably missing, however, will be IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO counterpart Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) of England, who had stated that he will be home in bed.
"Unfortunately the fight's on too early for me, so I'll be sleeping,” said Joshua, 29, to Aaron Stokes of The Daily Star. “But I enjoy watching the highlights.”
Ortiz (29-1, 25 KOs) thinks Joshua’s absence means the unified champion is “scared” of America-side criticism, having 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 entering Saturday's clash with the 6-foot-3, 242 ½-pound Kauffman (32-2, 23 KOs).
“AJ should 1,000 percent be here at ringside,” said Ortiz, 39. “With three of the best heavyweight fighting in the same arena on Saturday night, he should absolutely be there.”
In July, the 6-foot-4, 240-plus-pound “King Kong” Ortiz scored a second-round stoppage of Razvan Cajanu to rebound from a three-knockdown, 10th-round stoppage loss in March to the 6-foot-7 Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), 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, loser of his WBO crown in March by unanimous decision to the 6-foot-6 Joshua in England.
“I believe that [Joshua’s] saving face and that he’s scared,” said Ortiz. “I don’t think Joshua wants to [face his critics] and deal with the questions from the public and the media regarding his [legitimacy] as a champion.”
Much of Joshua’s claims to supremacy stems from his 11th-round stoppage of 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko in April 2017, rising from the canvas in the sixth and scoring knockdowns in the fifth and last rounds of his third defense.
Wilder was ringside in England at Wembley Stadium when Joshua defeated Klitschko 17 months after a 39-year-old Klitschko was dethroned by 30-year-old Fury (27-0, 19 KOs), a 6-foot-9 boxer-puncher whose unanimous decision ended “Dr. Steelhammer’s” 11 ½-year reign at 22-0 (15 KOs) and made “The Gypsy King” the lineal and IBF/WBA/WBO champion.
“Anthony Joshua’s an uppity snob, and that’s why he’s not coming,” said Ortiz’s trainer, Herman Caicedo. “Anthony Joshua can’t keep claiming Klitschko [for his No. 1 status,] because Klitschko wasn’t s*** by the time he fought Joshua.”
Ortiz TKO’d David Allen in the seventh-round on the December 2016 undercard of Joshua’s third-round knockout of Eric Molina in Manchester, England. According to Ortiz’s manager, Jay Jiminez, “King Kong” fought Allen with the understanding that he would next face Joshua in accordance with an agreement with Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn.
But the fight didn’t happen, and Ortiz next stopped Daniel Martz in the second round in December 2017 with Wilder at ringside in Miami before losing to Wilder.
"I don't believe that A.J. doesn't want to fight. He's a fighter who has all of those belts and believes in who he is," said Caicedo. "But you've got Eddie Hearn telling him, 'are you crazy? You're making X, Y and Z any time you fight. Why are you gonna fight Luis Ortiz, who is gonna knock you out?'"
Joshua’s already scheduled the date of April 13 for his next defense at a venue in England, but does Ortiz believe Joshua will choose to face him in the event that Wilder loses and demands a return bout with Fury?
“Anthony Joshua should fight me if Deontay loses and Tyson Fury and him have an immediate rematch,” said Ortiz. “But I laugh at that notion, because it will never happen.”
Joshua's focused on Wilder.
“I need Wilder to win,” Joshua told The Daily Star. “That way it gives me more of an opportunity to fight him because, as champion, if he retains his belt, I think that’s the fight people have been yearning for.”