Deontay Wilder is one stiff challenge away from fighting Tyson Fury again, next year on Feb. 22 in a big-time heavyweight fight in Las Vegas.
In order to get to his rematch with Fury, however, Wilder must first have another meeting with former foe Luis Ortiz, the fighter he brutally knocked out last year in a close and competitive bout.
The encore performance will take place Nov. 23 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The fight will be distributed on Fox pay-per-view and feature relentless fighter Leo Santa Cruz as the co-feature bout against Miguel Flores for the vacant WBA super-featherweight title.
Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs), the WBC champion, plans on holding his end of the bargain by winning the fight against Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) much like Fury did with Otto Wallin two weeks ago to further avoid disruption and disarray in the sport’s glamour division.
“When I fought Ortiz, not only did he have the pedigree, but also he had the classification of being the boogeyman of the division,” said Wilder, 33, who survived a pummeling in the first fight to secure the win. “I agree with those who say that Luis Ortiz was my toughest fight to date. No one wanted to fight him, and they still don’t. In the rematch, there’s more confidence and more motivation to do what I have to do. I’ve already seen the style before. It’s going to make it more fun. I can’t wait to see how he tries to handle me when I’m at my best.”
Ortiz, a 40-year-old Cuban, is complimentary yet confident of his Alabaman counterpart ahead of the clash.
“I have to give Deontay Wilder a lot of credit for taking this fight because it shows he has the heart of a true champion,” Ortiz said. “He is not at all scared to take a dangerous fight, because let’s be honest, this is the most dangerous fight for him. In my opinion, he’s the best heavyweight in the world until someone beats him, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
The showdown will put a momentary halt to Wilder’s years-long run at Showtime, which opted not to break its coffers for the steep distribution fee that was required to broadcast the bout. The former Olympic bronze medalist had fought 12 times on the CBS-owned premium TV network, including his first fight with Ortiz and a PPV clash with Fury, but he’s now walking across the street to Fox, which has become a major player in the sport due to its partnership with PBC.
“There are no hard feelings,” said Stephen Espinoza, president of sports and event programming at Showtime. “It’s disappointing when we have to let a fight go to another network, but there are times when you have to pass on certain deals. We have to stick to our principles and business models as the boxing market undergoes significant change. There is a significant increase in the amount of money and buyers in the market without a corresponding increase in demand for the product.”
Espinoza emphasized that the network will hold a seat in the sport and compete with staging fights against the likes of DAZN, ESPN+ and Fox, and not surrender much like HBO did last year by ending its boxing programming.
Santa Cruz, another one-time Showtime staple, is a three-division titleholder and current WBA featherweight champion who will climb up to the 130-pound weight class and seek a crown in a fourth division, much like fellow Mexican countryman Canelo Alvarez is trying to do.
“I couldn’t imagine winning championships in four divisions. It’s something I never really dreamed of, and I’m very happy about this opportunity,” Santa Cruz said. “I know Flores is another tough Mexican boxer like me. He always comes forward, so it’s going to be a fun fight for the fans.”