By Steve Kim
It was no secret that Stephen Espinoza, the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Showtime Sports, was not a fan of the fight between WBC heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder, and his number one contender Bermane Stiverne, who had met a couple of years earlier.
With their reticence about airing this bout, a pairing between Wilder and Cuban puncher Luis Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs) - a much more palatable bout to the public - was consummated for November 4th at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York.
But as Ortiz failed a VADA drug test, it put the whole card in jeopardy.
Eventually, it was decided that Stiverne, who was already scheduled to fight on the undercard against Dominic Breazeale, would end up facing Wilder as the main event on this night. Showtime announced this fight on Thursday.
Espinoza explained to BoxingScene.com - "The reality is always a give-and-take, and we ask things of fighters and ask them to do things and we have to be willing to be flexible when the time comes. So sitting here five weeks before the event and to no fault of his own, Deontay, he lost another opponent to a potential drug violation.
"It felt like the right thing to do was to support him. It may not have been the opponent that we wanted ideally but it's still a credible fight and an important fight in his career."
Back in January of 2015 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Wilder (38-0, 37 KO's) captured the WBC belt by out-pointing Stiverne over twelve rounds.
"There's some intrigue in the fact that Stiverne is in fact the one guy that has gone the distance with Deontay," Espinoza pointed out. "So it's still a high quality fight and it's a high quality card with a great co-feature in particular."
On this night, Shawn Porter faces the always rugged Adrian Granados in a welterweight contest. Rounding out this Showtime broadcast is Sergey Lipinets vs. Akihiro Kondo for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title.
Steve Kim is the news editor for BoxingScene.com