By Jake Donovan
It was business as usual for unbeaten heavyweight titlist Luis Ortiz. Another successful workout put in at head trainer Herman Caicedo’s gym in Miami, a new opponent for which to prepare after several more have opted to run in the other direction.
“They’re all pussies,” Ortiz claims to BoxingScene.com of his heavyweight compatriots.
An overwhelming desire to grab them is perhaps the only thing he has in common with controversial business mogul Donald Trump. Whereas the disgraced, misogynistic Republican presidential nominee desires the actual female body part by any means he sees fit – consent or otherwise – the type on Ortiz’ mind is of course of the figurative variety, the boxers above 200 lbs. whom have become awfully selective in the fights they’re willing to accept these days.
Ortiz has long ago established a reputation as a high-risk, low-reward heavyweights. The alternative was to accept short money for the sake of remaining active. option dried up, however, due to a number of reasons – the number of available dates drastically decreasing, the number of willing opponents minimized due to promotional affiliation and his being stuck in the middle of a World Boxing Association (WBA) heavyweight title consolidation tournament that has gone nowhere.
Even with World heavyweight king Tyson Fury vacating his titles, the version of the WBA belt in Ortiz’ possession is of no greater value to sought-after contenders. Just ask Alexander Ustinov and Carlos Takam, the two most recent heavyweights to head for the hills when it came time to commit to facing the unbeaten Miami-based Cuban southpaw.
“I am very disappointed in all of the fighters whom are running away from fighting me,” states Ortiz, who has been out of the ring since a 6th round knockout of Tony Thompson in March.
Whereas the bout with Takam was on the table but ultimately pulled – Takam instead opted to pursue a showdown with fellow-France based heavyweight Johann Duhaupas – the fallout with Ustinov was a massive disappointment to Ortiz. The mandated title fight has been on the docket for much of 2016, only for money and an assortment of other reasons repeatedly causing delays.
“These guys have basically jerked us around all year,” points out Caicedo. “After Thompson, we thought we’d be getting Ustinov in June… then July… then it was August. Finally when we have the chance to fight the guy, more stuff comes up and we’re even longer without a fight.”
Part of it was – in the eyes of observers on the outside looking in – self-inflicted, as Ortiz opted to cease his co-promotional pact with Golden Boy Promotions, which meant removal from a slot on the Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez-headlined September 17 Pay-Per-View event in Arlington, Texas. A willingness to play ball just a little while longer would’ve meant performing in front of 51,000 fans at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
Instead, came the decision to move on and ride solo with longtime local outfit Dade Promotions.
“After buying out my contract with Golden Boy, everyone kept referring to me as a free agent but that’s not the case,” Ortiz notes. “Dade Promotions, my manager Jay Jimenez, my trainer Herman Caicedo – this has always been MY team, the reason for my success. Golden Boy was a 50% partner but wanted 100% of the credit for my career.”
Internal issues along with the desire to open up the potential opponent field – meaning, facing heavyweights under adviser Al Haymon – led to the eventual split, as well as waiting out the terms of a purse bid with Ustinov. Ortiz was willing to travel to Russia, Las Vegas or anywhere in the world the other side desired.
Location never became an issue as much as the manner in which drug testing would be conducted. Ortiz – who recently enrolled in the WBC’s Clean Boxing random drug testing program, in the event he can one day unify the titles – wanted more stringent testing than to which Ustinov’s side was willing to consent. The result was yet another entry of the WBA tournament hitting the scrap heap.
“I don’t believe Ustinov ever wanted to fight me,” insists Ortiz. “They used the drug testing as a loophole to back out. I’m sure the WBA will rectify this somehow.
“In the meantime I will continue to press on.”
That mindset led his team to temporarily partnering up with England’s leading promoter, Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom Boxing outfit. Ortiz will appear under their banner on November 12, facing Malik Scott in Monaco.
The advantage to aligning himself with Hearn, of course, is the hope of getting a crack at his prized possession, fellow unbeaten heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua. The rising superstar from England – who captured a Gold medal for Great Britain during the 2012 London Olympics – is due for a fall ring return, potentially versus former World heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko.
Regardless of whether that fight plays out or whomever comes out ahead in such an event, the goal from there is for Ortiz to land the winner. He still has to first get past Scott, a veteran heavyweight gatekeeper but more importantly a boxer who embraced the opportunity to face Ortiz when no other heavyweight on the planet would even dare utter his name.
“Even with the ordered WBA tournament, none of those guys will face me,” states Ortiz. “From the very beginning we suspected that they’d wind up handing over the belt to me due to everyone else running like cowards. I’m not really sure what’s happening with that right now. All I know is none of the guys in the tournament want to fight me.
“Some have already expressed that publicly, others have dropped out and won’t fight anyone involved. I believe (the tournament) has dissolved, but what needs to happen is anyone else with a claim to a WBA title or top ranking either needs to fight the best or be forced to step down.”
From there, the Cuban boxer – who turns 38 years young in March – can focus on hunting much bigger game.
“Then I can move on to unifying the titles versus Joshua and Deontay Wilder, as I’m not gonna stop until I’m the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. These cowards keep stepping out of my way but eventually they’ll have to step to me.”