Heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder will still defend his belt on Nov. 4, but it won’t be a much-anticipated fight against dangerous puncher Luis “King Kong” Ortiz as planned.
Ortiz was officially dumped from the fight on Wednesday when the WBC announced that it has withdrawn its sanction because of Ortiz’s positive drug test last week. Instead, Wilder will make his overdue mandatory defense against former world titleholder Bermane Stiverne, who had been scheduled to fight former title challenger Dominic Breazeale on the undercard but now will find himself in the main event of the card at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Showtime, which was going to televise Wilder-Ortiz, is expected to sign off on Wilder-Stiverne II, but no official decision had been made as of Wednesday night because Showtime Sports vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza was traveling.
Ortiz provided the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association with a urine sample for a random drug test as part of the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program on Sept. 22 at his training camp in Miami. When the test result came back on Thursday it was positive for two banned diuretics, chlorothiazide and hydrochlorothiazide, which are used to treat high blood pressure but also can be used as masking agents for steroid use.
Ortiz, who tested positive for the banned steroid Nandrolone following a 2014 interim world title fight in Las Vegas and was fined and suspended, claimed last week’s positive test was because he takes medication to regulate his blood pressure. However, Ortiz failed to disclose that he was taking the medication on his VADA paperwork, where it asks specifically for a list of substances being taken. Ortiz also did not ask VADA for a therapeutic use exemption.
“The WBC has concluded the process according to its Clean Boxing Program protocol in the adverse finding of Luis Ortiz,” the WBC said in a statement. “An official ruling has been sent to the corresponding parties. The WBC has withdrawn its sanction of the Wilder vs. Ortiz fight and Wilder will fight next his mandatory fight against Bermane Stiverne.”
Ortiz’s failure to disclose his medication was significant to the WBC. In its “emergency ruling,” a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, the sanctioning body wrote that “it has grave concerns about Mr. Ortiz’s ability to participate safely in a high-level competition [on Nov. 4] in light of his admitted chronic high-blood pressure condition and acute high-blood pressure episode.”
Ortiz told the WBC, according to the ruling, that he has had “at least one episode of acute high-blood pressure that required a visit to a hospital’s emergency room.”
The WBC also fined Ortiz $25,000, due within seven days of Wednesday’s ruling, and ordered that Ortiz “undertake a complete physical examination.”
In addition, VADA will design a specific random testing protocol for Ortiz at his expense, and it will continue for six months or up to the date of his next fight, whichever time is longer.
Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs), 31, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who will be making his sixth title defense, sought out the fight with Ortiz, who is universally regarded as one of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world and an opponent few wanted to fight. Wilder was tired of the enormous criticism directed toward him for a soft schedule, so his team made a deal with Stiverne to step aside to allow him to fight Ortiz first.
Wilder agreed to pay Stiverne and his promoter, Don King, a package of $675,000, with Stiverne also getting a spot on the undercard in order to allow Wilder to fight Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs), 38, a power-punching southpaw Cuban defector. But now Wilder will wind up facing Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs), 38, of Las Vegas, next anyway.
Promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN he has a deal in place with King.
The fight will be a rematch of Wilder’s virtual shutout decision against Stiverne to win the belt in January 2015. Stiverne has fought only once since, and that was a very close decision victory against journeyman Derric Rossy in November 2015 in a fight in which Stiverne got knocked down, although Stiverne had a title elimination fight canceled in December when opponent Alexander Povetkin also failed a VADA test under the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program.
“It’s obviously not what we wanted,” DiBella told ESPN. “We spent a lot of time to make a fight we thought was better for the fans,” he said. “Ortiz, in concept, was a really good fight, and we spent a long time trying to make it happen. But I understand the WBC had to do what it had to do based on the material in front of it. So Deontay will get in the ring and defend his title against Stiverne, who is still a top heavyweight, and we’ll have a great show.
“The mandatory hasn’t been fulfilled, and this will give us an opportunity to fulfill it, and it’s my belief Deontay will once again take care of business and we’ll be free to do the biggest and best fights after that.”
Ortiz is the third Wilder opponent to fail a drug test in the lead up to a fight in the past 18 months. All three were called off. Wilder sounded very emotional about the situation in a series of videos he posted to social media after Ortiz’s positive test came to light.
DiBella said he is concerned about Wilder’s state of mind but believes he will get it together.
“You always get concerned in these situations about distractions and a letdown, but Deontay is a professional, and I’m sure he’ll get his head in the right place and he’ll be ready in a month to do what he’s supposed to do,” DiBella said.
“He was preparing for a lefty, so in a weird way this might be an advantage to Stiverne, who was preparing for a tall conventional guy. I’m confident that Deontay will take care of business and overcome the disappointment and probably take it out on Bermane Stiverne.”