Four months after being pulled from his heavyweight title bout against Deontay Wilder for failing a drug test, fellow unbeaten Luis Ortiz will get a second chance at the WBC championship.
Ortiz (28-0, 24 KOs), a 6-foot-4 southpaw and Cuban amateur star, will give the champion Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) his long-awaited toughest challenge to date on paper when the two meet on March 3 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The card, presented by Premier Boxing Champions, will be produced by Showtime and could end up airing on CBS.
The pair of heavyweight giants -- Wilder is 6-foot-7 -- were originally scheduled to face off on Nov. 4 until Ortiz was pulled from the fight after the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency informed the WBC he tested positive for hlorothiazide and hydrochlorothiazide in a September using test.
Although the banned diuretics can be used as masking agents for performance-enhancing drugs, Ortiz and his team stood firm in claiming the root cause was his prescription medication for high blood pressure. The failed test could've been avoided had Ortiz advised VADA he was taking it.
The fact that Ortiz, 38, tested positive for steroids in 2014 left many unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt. But the WBC ruled in December that he acted in good faith and proved his innocence.
Wilder kept his Nov. 4 date and finished an overmatched Daniel Martz with one punch.by taking out his original mandatory challenger, Bermane Stiverne, in less than one round during their rematch. Ortiz, meanwhile, took a last-minute return bout on Dec. 8 and
After Ortiz's victory, Wilder entered the ring and faced off with him in a colorful exchange that was captured on the FS1 telecast.
"Stay by the phone baby, I've been wanting to," Wilder told Ortiz after the fight. "You messed this opportunity up. I blessed you with this opportunity the first time and what did you do?
"I'm always a man of my word. I never said something I haven't did. Luis Ortiz, you will have the fight. I will bless you again. But this time no excuses."
Should Wilder, 32, be victorious, the fight could serve as the final appetizer toward a much-anticipated heavyweight unification bout against England's Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs), who has quickly grown to become the biggest star in the sport.
A victory for Wilder, however, is far from a gimme. While Ortiz has turned in equally dominant (a 2015 knockout of former title contender Bryant Jennings) and pedestrian (a sleepwalking decision over Malik Scott in 2016) performances in recent years, it wouldn't be blasphemy to label him the division's most skilled fighter.
Not only can Ortiz box, he also possesses fight-changing power, particularly in his left hand. Ortiz is dangerous and talented enough to not only threaten Wilder's hope of making a monster purse against Joshua, but a victory over him could silence the many critics who point to the lack of quality opposition on Wilder's resume.
While Wilder's brand could certainly use a boost, particularly in the U.S., to elevate a future with Joshua into a pay-per-view success, he could benefit just as much from the critical acclaim.
"We are thrilled to welcome the heavyweight champ back to Barclays Center for his second-consecutive fight after a big first-round knockout of Bermane Stiverne in our ring last November," said Brett Yormark, CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment. "Deontay's long-awaited bout with Ortiz is sure to be one of 2018's best matchups."
Wilder, whose right hand might be the sport's most dangerous weapon, has made six defenses of the title he won by outpointing Stiverne in 2015. It remains the only bout in which Wilder has gone the distance as a broken right hand kept him from recording a knockout.