The Nov. 4 heavyweight title match between WBC champion Deontay Wilder and Cuban destroyer Luis “King Kong” Ortiz was expected to provide much-needed clarity as to just how good the unbeaten sluggers truly are.
Instead, Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs) will likely need to find yet another last-minute replacement opponent for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. This marks the third time in 16 months that a potential Wilder opponent tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman revealed on Twitter late Thursday that Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs) had tested positive for banned substances in a test administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. Promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN that the fight is likely off.
The news is devastating considering the renaissance heavyweight boxing has undergone in 2017, thanks in part to an incredible April slugfest when unbeaten titleholder Anthony Joshua got off the canvas to knock out former champion Wladimir Klitschko in England.
Wilder-Ortiz was a dangerous fight for both, designed to provide clarity and move the division one step closer to defining a true, undisputed champion. But the failed test instead presents more question marks regarding the 38-year-old Ortiz, who tested positive for steroids after a 2014 first-round knockout of Lateef Kayode and was suspended eight months, costing him the WBA’s interim title.
ESPN obtained a copy of the letter sent by VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman to Sulaiman, which revealed Ortiz provided a urine sample for a random test on Sept. 22 during training camp in Miami. Ortiz’s “A” sample tested positive for the banned diuretics chlorothiazide and hydrochlorothiazide, which can be used as masking agents for PED use.
“I can verify the information Mauricio put out,” DiBella told ESPN. “I’m flabbergasted and particularly crestfallen for my fighter. Deontay Wilder is a great champion and a clean champion and probably has been victimized more than any other fighter in the history of the sport.”
According to a BoxingScene.com report, Ortiz and his camp are adamant that his positive test is a direct result of taking Losartan/HCTZ, a drug typically prescribed to treat high blood pressure and kidney disease in patients with type 2 diabetes.
During last week’s news conference in Manhattan to announce the fight, Wilder was openly leery about whether Ortiz was clean and warned his opponent multiple times.
“I would’ve been up for that challenge years ago, when we first brought this up,” Wilder said. “But we already know what happened. So this time, Luis Ortiz, don’t f— it up! Stay clean, because we’ll be checking. Stay clean. Don’t f— this up for me, nor you, because I’m gonna prove to the world that I am the best.
“I pray to God that don’t happen. That’s a big concern of mines. But if he do [take PEDs], I will know. I’ve got people all over the world. If he do, I will know if he’s cheating. I will know if he’s doing PEDs. A lot of these guys in the heavyweight division does it. They don’t even know. They don’t even know. I know. I know. But I ain’t here to rat ’em out.”
Wilder missed out on a May 2016 mandatory title defense in Russia against Alexander Povetkin when the former secondary champion tested positive for meldonium nine days before the fight. Wilder went on to win a $5 million breach of contract lawsuit in U.S. federal court after Povetkin failed a pair of VADA tests in eight months.
In February, Wilder’s scheduled title defense against Andrzej Wawrzyk was also called off after the native of Poland failed a VADA test under the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program. He was replaced by American Gerald Washington, who had success boxing early before succumbing to a Wilder knockout in Round 5.
Joshua, the IBF and WBA heavyweight champion, returns Oct. 28 on Showtime against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn, who promotes Joshua, was hoping to match his fighter against the winner of Wilder-Ortiz to produce the biggest fight the division can make in early 2018.