Heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder announced on Tuesday night that his next fight will be a rematch with Luis "King Kong" Ortiz.
That means regardless of whether unified world titleholder Anthony Joshua retains his three major belts against Andy Ruiz Jr. on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York, there won't be an undisputed title fight between Joshua and Wilder this year, a match that looms as the biggest in boxing.
But Wilder-Ortiz II comes as little surprise. Even before Wilder scored a sensational first-round knockout of mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale on May 18 at Barclays Center in New York, Wilder and his team had a plan in place in which he would fight Breazeale, then Ortiz this fall, and then likely face unbeaten New York-based Polish contender Adam Kownacki in early 2020.
On Tuesday night, Wilder made the Ortiz rematch official.
"To all my fans, I want to announce that Luis Ortiz and I have signed for a rematch, with the date and site to be announced shortly. All my controversial fights must get dealt with ASAP," Wilder wrote on social media, though there was no controversy associated with the first Ortiz fight.
Although the date and site were not announced, the fight is likely to land at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the same site where Wilder fought to an exciting draw with lineal champion Tyson Fury on Dec. 1. The rematch with Ortiz is likely to take place in September and on Fox pay-per-view, a source with knowledge of the plans told ESPN on Tuesday night.
Wilder has been fighting on Showtime or Showtime PPV, but Fox is also aligned with Premier Boxing Champions, for which Wilder fights, and the network would heavily promote the pay-per-view during the Major League Baseball games it televises as well as during its early-season NFL telecasts.
Wilder, who will be making his 10th title defense, first met Ortiz on March 3, 2018, at Barclays Center, and they put on an action-packed contender for fight of the year honors. After a slow start, the action picked up considerably when Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) dropped Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) with a right hand late in the fifth round.
Ortiz, a Cuban defector based in Miami, stormed back and had a huge seventh round, battering Wilder with a series of clean punches and nearly knocking him out in the biggest crisis of Wilder's career. Wilder barely made it out of the round but survived the onslaught.
In the 10th round, Wilder blasted Ortiz with several right hands to knock him down for the second time in the fight, and then finished him moments later with a massive right uppercut that dropped the limp Ortiz to the canvas.
Wilder, 33, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, drew with Fury in his next fight and then knocked out Breazeale, after which Ortiz was in the ring talking up a rematch. At the postfight news conference, Wilder co-manager Shelly Finkel said the rematch was a good possibility, and now it's signed. Wilder had originally hoped to fight a rematch with Fury, but Fury balked, so Wilder faced Breazeale instead.
"I expect it to be a hell of a fight again," Finkel told ESPN, while declining to get into specifics of the date, location or broadcaster. "This guy is very dangerous. He's a big puncher."
Since the loss to Wilder, Ortiz, a 40-year-old southpaw, has won three fights in a row, including on the Wilder-Fury undercard to keep him on schedule for the rematch.
"I think that Ortiz was one of the most avoided guys in the division. They called him the bogeyman, and Deontay was the only guy who actively sought him out," Jay Deas, Wilder's trainer and co-manager, told ESPN. "Ortiz thought he would get a lot of opportunities for a big fight based on his performance against Deontay, but he didn't. He became more avoided. I commend Deontay for once again wanting to fight the guy nobody wants to fight.
"It was a challenge the first time. He's technically so good and punches very hard, and he has a wealth of experience. We got the job done with a less-than-ideal camp. Deontay was under the weather going into the fight. So I feel really good about the rematch. I think it's a great fight and a great fight for the fans."
But it is not the fight with Joshua.
"That's never been our fault," Deas said about a fight that both sides have, at times, tried to make happen. "We offered Joshua $50 million, and it was real, and they said no, and they offered us $15 million, and we said yes, and they still decided not to do the fight. It's clear who has wanted the fight. I like to deal with no games. With Ortiz, no games. With Fury, no games. With Breazeale, no games."