They say that as one door closes, another one opens. And as the door was slammed shut on an immediate rematch between WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury, it may have put Luis Ortiz — who faces Christian Hammer on Saturday at the Barclay Center — in prime position to get another shot at “The Bronze Bomber” who defeated him last year in a memorable slugfest.
With the three major heavyweights (Wilder, Fury and Anthony Joshua) spread out across the boxing landscape, quality opponents are at a premium.
“I feel that 1,000-percent it speeds up the opportunity for me to fight Wilder again and even Joshua,” said Ortiz trough his trainer, Herman Caicedo. “It’s unfortunate that the rematch [with Wilder and Fury] isn’t happening because I thought it was a good fight and I would have liked to have seen the second fight.”
For months it seemed as though Wilder-Fury II was imminent but as Fury made the decision to sign with Top Rank, the rematch fell apart — for now. Now both heavyweights will look for interim fights in the first half of 2019 before trying to make the second chapter of their rivalry in the second half of the year. Wilder’s manager, Shelly Finkel, has made it clear that Wilder will return to the ring in May.
And a credible foe will be needed.
“Definitely, I want to be back in that mix, right away,” said Ortiz (30-1, 26 KOs) who lost to Wilder last year in a thrilling back-and-forth barn burner in 10 rounds. “I would rather be fighting one of those guys here in March but that destiny will have to be later. I’m prepared to fight anybody.”
Should he get past Hammer (24-5, 14 KOs) as expected, the 39 year old Cuban southpaw, will make it clear who and what he wants next.
“Yes, absolutely I’m going to ask and demand that I get either the rematch with Wilder or an opportunity with Joshua,” said Ortiz. “Wilder has already proven that he will step up, I’m not worried about him accepting a good challenger on his terms. I’m very unsure — as is the whole boxing world — on if Joshua would allow Eddie Hearn to make that fight with a real offer.”
Logistically, given that Ortiz is under the Premier Boxing Champions banner, and the fact that Joshua is facing Jarrell Miller in June, another go-around with Wilder makes more sense and easier to consummate for May.
Wilder-Ortiz was one of the better fights of 2018, it saw Ortiz hit the deck in the fifth, but then rally in the seventh round to stun Wilder badly, and for about 45 seconds it seemed destined that he would have the green belt around his waist. But alas, Wilder’s chin giveth, his punch taketh, and Ortiz was halted in the 10th round.
Many things can happen in the course of a fight that can alter the result, for Caicedo, it was what took place prior to it, that rankles him to this day.
“There were issues with the commission and them wanting to check his blood pressure because of the incident prior where the fight got cancelled and post-poned because of the blood pressure medication,” explained Caicedo, referring to the situation where Ortiz’s failed a drug test because of his prescription to treat his condition, that ended up delaying this match-up by several months.
Caicedo says it was “ridiculous” that his boxer was made to come to the Barclay Center at noon, while he didn’t fight till around 11 p.m. on that March evening last year.
“And he stayed in that locker room, cold as hell, no bed, no nothing, just sitting on a chair for 10 hours before he fought,” he recalled.
Every hour or so, the commission would come in and check on Ortiz’s blood pressure, according to Caicedo.
“Yes, absolutely I’m going to ask and demand that I get either the rematch with Wilder or an opportunity with Joshua.”
“He didn’t know he was fighting till it was nine o’clock,” continued Caicedo. “It’s possible that promoter Lou DiBella and Wilder knew he was fighting, in their hotel rooms relaxing till about eight o’clock, nine o’clock, when they showed up. But we were being tortured, as they say.”
As Ortiz was finally given the green light Caicedo said it wasn;t much they could do.
“By that point you can’t go back to the hotel room, for what?,” Caicedo pointed out”
“Luis is healthier, mentally he’s in a better place after the loss,” said Caicedo, who believes that in a rematch with Wilder, a more patient Ortiz will be able to put away Wilder once he’s inevitably hurt.
Ortiz still has to get past Hammer this weekend. And even then, the hardened veteran of the sport, takes nothing for granted. He promises that he has a laser focus on the task at hand.
“When it comes to my career, when it comes to the past three, four years in the sport, I don’t have any confidence in any of the top heavyweights stepping up to fight me, other than Wilder,” he says, full well knowing that he is the very definition of high risk-low reward. “So it makes it very easy to stay focused on Hammer because I know [other opponents] are never going to be in a rush to fight Luis Ortiz.”
For Ortiz, it’s not just important that he comes out victorious, but do so in a manner that will create a demand for his services.
“I feel like people have to be cornered, challenged and embarrassed publicly, to have no choice in the scenario, in order to fight me. They haven’t fought me willingly. I have zero confidence that I’m at the top of anyone’s list. So being focused is very easy.”