Heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder has heard all the critics, and he is oh, so tired of them. They are the ones who say that he has avoided tough opponents during his nearly three-year title reign.
Indeed, he has not exactly fought murders’ row, notching defenses against Eric Molina, Johann Duhaupas, Artur Szpilka, a long-faded Chris Arreola and Gerald Washington. But he did sign to fight top contender Alexander Povetkin and was headed to his home country of Russia to fight him last year when the fight was canceled after Povetkin tested positive for a banned substance less than two weeks before the bout.
But the criticism continued, and Wilder could take it no more. He instructed that his team, which was not too anxious to put him in an extremely dangerous fight, to make a tough one for him, and they have done just that. Wilder was on hand in New York on Wednesday for a news conference to formally announce that he will face perhaps the most avoided heavyweight in the division, Luis “King Kong” Ortiz.
They will meet Nov. 4 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in one of the most significant fights that can be made in boxing’s glamour division.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, and I’m excited that the time has come to meet Luis Ortiz,” Wilder said. “Ortiz is considered the boogeyman of the sport, and I am the hardest hitter in boxing. When you put us together in a ring, you will get one of the best heavyweight fights in a long time. I will unify the division. This I promise. This is the first step towards unifying. Any heavyweight that gets in my way is getting knocked out.”
Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs), 31, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will be making his sixth title defense and fighting for the first time since retaining his belt by fifth-round knockout of Washington on Feb. 25 in Birmingham, Alabama.
“This fight is happening because Deontay Wilder wants to beat the best, regardless of the risk,” promoter Lou DiBella said. “He will knock ‘King Kong’ off the Empire State Building for the world to see. This fight is happening because Deontay Wilder wants the world to know that he is afraid of no one, and that he’s prepared to fight anyone, and he’s the best heavyweight in the world today. I could not be prouder of him for making this fight happen.
“This is the toughest fight that Deontay Wilder could engage in right now. This is the most difficult opponent he possibly could fight. Luis Ortiz is the boogeyman of this division. You haven’t heard anyone scream about fighting Luis Ortiz. A lot of people were shocked when they heard that Deontay Wilder wants to fight him. He not only wants to fight him, but he insisted upon it.”
Wilder, who claimed a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics, is one of the hardest punchers in boxing. He can turn out the lights with one shot and has done so often. Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs), 38, a former Cuban amateur standout who defected and fights out of Miami, Florida, is capable of doing the same.
But Wilder believes he is the superior fighter and demanded the match.
“I am the best. I am the toughest heavyweight in the division. I am the man in the division. I don’t care what anybody else has going on. You’ve got to come through me,” Wilder said. “When I knock him out, I want my due respect. I’m the only American heavyweight champion of the world, and I am the man. Nobody is stronger physically, mentally and spiritually. They are all scared of me.
“I’m the heavyweight in the division with real knockout power. I put grown men down easily. On Nov. 4, Ortiz is going down. After that, you already know who is next. I’m ready to unify.”
Wilder would like to unify titles with two-belt titleholder Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs), 27, of England, who won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics and is coming off an epic battle with former longtime world champion Wladimir Klitschko, whom he sent into retirement following an 11th-round knockout victory on April 29 in the leading fight of the year candidate.
But with Joshua bogged down with a mandatory defense against Kubrat Pulev on Oct. 28, Wilder will fight Ortiz, and if the two titleholders prevail, the drum beat will continue for them to meet next year in easily the biggest fight in the division.
Ortiz, however, poses significant danger to Wilder. Ortiz has long been avoided because he is a devastating southpaw puncher with virtually no fan base and no economic clout. He made his name with a sensational performance in a seventh-round knockout of contender Bryant Jennings in December 2015.
But when he faces Wilder, Ortiz will be coming off an 11-month layoff, caused in part because of a hand injury that forced him to pull out of an April 22 fight with Derric Rossy.
Still, few have called his name until Wilder.
“If he’s the boogeyman, I can’t wait to shine a light on him because the boogeyman is only effective at night,” Wilder said. “And we’re in New York, so you already know what happened to King Kong in New York.
“The game plan is the same as usual. We’re going to use my attributes. I’m going to set him up until the time comes. Ortiz has a great set of skills, and I like his aggressive style. That’s one of the reasons I chose him. I wanted to beat him to prove that I am the man. It definitely won’t go the distance. Right now, I’m thinking about three rounds, but come Nov. 4, it might be in the first round.”
Said Jay Deas, Wilder’s co-manager and trainer: “Deontay has always wanted the biggest challenges. We won the belt in [Bermane] Stiverne’s hometown [of Las Vegas], and we were ready to go to Russia to defend the belt. These are two guys in the division no one wants to fight, but they’ve decided to fight each other.”
Ortiz was unable to make it to the news conference because bad weather in South Florida caused his flight to be canceled, but he joined by telephone.
“I’m ready to go and excited for the fight. I want to get to Nov. 4 so I can do what I have to do,” Ortiz said through an interpreter. “Wilder does a lot of talking. He’s nervous and keeps forgetting the date of the fight. I think he took this fight because he has no choice and no one else to fight. I think Wilder is going to run in this fight. He should be careful what he says before the fight, because I think he’s going to run from me.
“Wilder should sign his death sentence. I’m very different than anybody else that he’s fought. I punch harder than anybody else. I’m going to teach him not to mess with Cubans. Some skeptics are talking about my age, but look at [Floyd] Mayweather. I still have my speed and my quickness.”