By Jake Donovan
As 2015 ended with Luis Ortiz emphatically announcing his arrival at (or at least near) the top of the heavyweight stage, 2016 began with a frantic search to land an opponent for his next assignment.
Such exhausting efforts have finally come up aces. BoxingScene.com was informed by Team Ortiz that a challenger has been found in Alexander Dimitrenko, with their World Boxing Association (WBA) interim heavyweight title fight to take place March 5 in Washington D.C.
The bout will air live on HBO, marking his third straight appearance affiliated with the network.
"I'm always ready to fight, it doesn't matter who I'm facing," said Ortiz. "I put faith in my team - Golden Boy Promotions and (manager) Jay Jimenez - and my job is to be ready for whatever comes my way."
Ortiz emerged as a heavyweight to watch following his 7th round knockout of perennial Top 10 contender Bryant Jennings last December at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. The evening marked the first HBO headliner for the unbeaten Cuban southpaw, who now lives and trains in Miami.
From the moment he put away Jennings to rack up his third win inside of six months, HBO and Golden Boy Promotions went to work on lining up his next fight date. A quick turnaround meant a mad dash by the Golden Boy staff to find a willing heavyweight to share ring space.
Waiting in the wings is a mandatory title defense versus Alexander Ustinov, with the fight as part of a recently announced WBA tournament in efforts to consolidate its collection of heavyweight titlists.
However, Ustinov's team decided that the amount of time given to train for a March 5 date wasn't sufficient. As he now has his marching orders of a confirmed title fight down the road, the Russia-born, Minsk-based heavyweight plans to hit the gym while allowing Ortiz a voluntary title defense.
The plan also allows for the mandatory fight to be formally ordered by the WBA, at which point Ustinov's team will begin negotiations with Golden Boy. From there, the two sides will have 30 days to reach a deal or else be subject to a purse bid, where Ustinov's co-promoters Vlad Hrunov - a wealthy businessman from Russia - and Frank Warren are confident of securing the promotional rights and bringing the fight overseas.
Meanwhile, Ortiz was still in need of an opponent for March. The trick was finding an available heavyweight ranked in the WBA Top 15, which led to landing the 6'7" Dimitrenko.
The 33-year old from Germany by way of Russia - who is represented by stateside promoter Greg Cohen - has won six straight fights following an 11th round knockout loss to Kubrat Pulev in their Sept. '12 IBF semifinal eliminator.
The March 5 telecast will also feature a vacant welterweight title fight between Sadam Ali - an unbeaten contender and 2008 U.S. Olympian - and former 140 lb. titlist Jessie Vargas.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox