The decision to proceed with a rematch with Deontay Wilder was never a concern for Luis Ortiz. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
Where to set up training headquarters, however, was a topic warranting deeper discussion. The Cuban southpaw literally lives in the gym, a one-bedroom suite set up in head trainer Herman Caicedo’s sports complex in Ortiz’s adopted hometown of Miami, Florida, whether he has an upcoming fight or just trains to stay sharp. It’s where the majority of his time has been spent since turning pro nearly 10 years ago, including for his first heavyweight title fight with Wilder in which he suffered a heartbreaking 10th round knockout last March.
The bout marked the lone loss of his career, having since won three straight heading into their Nov. 23 rematch, which airs live on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. With the determination to avenge his lone career defeat also came the decision to get a jump on making fight night feel like home, having spent nearly the past three months in Vegas preparing for this bout.
“It was a team decision,” Caicedo stated during a recent media conference call to discuss the title fight rematch. “We were mulling it over for some time with all the back and forth in getting the fight signed. We were considering different places, California and a few other places.
“The main thing was to get away from the distractions back home. Luis is a family man. His kids are in school, he wants to be there, attend their events and everything. All of that is very important of course, but we just wanted to create an environment where he only has to focus on the fight.”
Wilder (41-0-1, 40KOs) will attempt the 10th defense of the title he claimed in a Jan. 2015 decision win over Bermane Stiverne, with a win setting up another type of rematch as he eyes a second heavyweight dance with Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20KOs) with whom he fought to a 12-round draw last December.
Ortiz (31-1, 26KOs; 2NCs) wants to disrupt those plans along with becoming the first-ever Cuban boxer to win a heavyweight title. The 40-year old came dangerously close the first time around, recovering from a 5th round knockdown to badly stun Wilder late in the 7th round of their memorable slugfest in Brooklyn, New York. It was a moment he could never get back, as Wilder rallied to drop Ortiz twice more in stopping him in the 10th round.
Conditioning for that fight was one thing on which the top-rated contender has improved. While expecting to check in right around his normal fight weight—between 239-241 pounds—a noticeable physique transformation has taken place, as he is already considerably leaner at this point in training than has been the case for any given fight night.
“I’m the same weight, just lean and cut,” Ortiz noted. “It was a conscious decision to get into better shape. It’s been a productive 10, 11 weeks of training and we’re putting on the finishing touches.”
With the extra effort in training, though, has come the ultimate sacrifice—being more than 2,500 miles apart from those closest to his heart.
“It’s a lot of sacrifice and self-discipline,” Ortiz admits of having been away from his family for three months. “I miss my family, it only further fuels my desire to become heavyweight champion of the world.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox