By Jake Donovan
Deontay Wilder prides himself on being a man of his word. The unbeaten heavyweight titlist meant it when he said boxing fans shouldn’t expect an undisputed championship showdown with Anthony Joshua until at least 2020.
Happening well before then is a rematch with Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz. Wilder confirmed the rumors himself through his verified social media account Tuesday evening.
“Wilder v Ortiz II FIRE!” declared the reigning WBC titlist, just two weeks removed from a highlight reel 1st round knockout of Dominic Breazeale. “To all my fans, I want to announce that Luis Ortiz and I have signed for a rematch, with the date and site to be announced shortly. All my controversial fights must get dealt with ASAP!”
A date and location both remain forthcoming, but it is believed that the fight will take place in September. Two suggested dates and venues are September 7 at Staples Center in Los Angeles (as per L.A. Times’ Lance Pugmire) and September 28 in either L.A. or Las Vegas.
The announced bout is a rematch to their slugfest last March. Wilder overcame rocky moments midway through their Showtime-televised contest to drop and eventually stop Ortiz in the 10th round of their Fight of the Year contender.
Rumors swirled of a sequel shortly after handlers for Ortiz (31-1-0-2NC, 26KOs) turned down a $7 million package for a June 1 clash versus Joshua at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The heavyweight contender was offered the DAZN-headlining fight after Jarrell Miller was removed from the bill after having failed multiple drug tests in late March.
The package offered to Ortiz instead exposed two matters: the dysfunction among his team, as well as a glimpse into Wilder’s reasons for turning down his own offer to join the DAZN family, a nine-figure deal that would have guaranteed him two fights with Joshua.
The 33-year old from Alabama instead chose to stay loyal to the Premier Boxing Champions brand, which includes his long-standing relationship with Showtime. It resulted in his grudge match versus Breazeale airing on the premium cable giant’s flagship network as opposed to Pay-Per-View.
As much likely cannot be said of the rematch, as it will result in far too expensive a price tag for Showtime or Fox Sports to carry without going a la carte.
Wilder-Ortiz I aired live on Showtime, peaking at 1.2 million viewers. Wilder-Breazeale peaked at 990k viewers earlier this month.
Whatever is thought of the rematch, what remains unclear is Wilder’s claim of all controversial fights being dealt with ASAP.
There was nothing disputed about the first fight, other than finally getting to that point. It was originally slated to take place in Nov. 2017, only for Ortiz to test positive for a banned substance attributed to high blood pressure medication. His crime was not disclosing the medication when filling out the forms for Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) random drug testing, for which he received a temporary suspension.
Once the matter was cleared up, Ortiz was permitted to return to the ring in Dec. 2017 in scoring a 2nd round knockout of Daniel Martz. By that point, Wilder had already fought on the November date, tearing through Bermane Stiverne in the opening round of a rematch to their Jan. 2015 fight in which Wilder first won the title he’s now defended nine times.
Number 10 will come in a second fight with Ortiz, with no clear indication as to when one will come in a first fight with Joshua.
The unbeaten, unified titlist from England has gone public in wanting to speak directly with Wilder shortly after this weekend’s fight with Ruiz, which marks his stateside debut.
Whether Wilder decided to make his announcement four days prior to the fight was simply to upstage the event or just to get on with his own career is open to interpretation. Whatever the case, Joshua can at least focus on nothing else but Andy Ruiz.
What he does with his career come June 2 remains anybody’s guess—other than knowing it won’t involve an undisputed heavyweight championship showdown with Wilder.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox