Heavyweight boxing should be riding the wave of the sport’s resurgence in 2017, but instead faith in the division is being ruined by those constantly testing positive for banned substances.
The much-anticipated heavyweight championship fight between WBC champion Deontay Wilder and challenger Luis “King Kong” Ortiz set for Nov. 4 at Barclays Center likely will be canceled after Ortiz became Wilder’s third recent opponent to test positive for a banned substance.
News of the positive test became public when the WBC tweeted late Thursday night it had received confirmation from the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association that Ortiz has tested positive for a banned substance under its “Clean Boxing Program.”
The Ortiz camp has claimed the positive test is a result of a drug the fighter was taking to treat high blood pressure. Boxers are required to list all medications they are taking with VADA. Ortiz will have a second sample tested, but it seldom differs once VADA declares a positive test.
Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs) was to put his WBC heavyweight championship on the line against Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs), a Cuban defector, who is among those making the division interesting again. Now the fight likely is off and promoters were trying to find a new opponent for Wilder, possibly Bermane Stiverne, who was scheduled to fight on the Nov. 4 undercard.
Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs) is the WBC’s mandatory challenger, and accepted step-aside money to allow Wilder-Ortiz to happen. But he has fought only once since Wilder defeated him in January 2015.
“We’re working on things with the WBC and waiting for their ruling,” promoter Lou DiBella said. “I think there will still be a great event Nov. 4. We’re process of working on it.”
Wilder was said to be distraught and angry when he heard the news. He was initially wary of Ortiz because the southpaw tested positive for nandrolone, an anabolic steroid, after his first-round knockout of Lateef Kayode in September 2014. He was suspended for eight months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He had fought six times since then without incident.
During a Sept. 20 press conference at Barclays Center to announce the fight, Wilder warned Ortiz not to come up dirty again.
“This time Luis Ortiz, don’t f–k it up,” Wilder said. “Stay clean. We will be checking. Stay clean. Don’t f–k this up for me or you because I want to prove to the world that I am the best.”
Ortiz becomes the third Wilder opponent in the past 16 months to test positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Wilder was in Russia in May 2016 when a title defense was called off six days before the bout after Alexander Povetkin tested positive for meldonium.
Wilder’s next defense was supposed to be against Andrzej Wawrzyk of Poland nine months later. But Wawrzyk tested positive of stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. Gerald Washington stepped in with less than a month’s notice.
“This guy can’t catch a break,” DiBella said of Wilder. “No one has been more victimized by PED use in the history of boxing than him.”
Wilder later won $5 million in damages in a civil suit filed against Povetkin and his promoters for breach of contract. But this rash of positive tests in the heavyweight division is a breach of everything the sport is trying to accomplish.
The heavyweight division gained much-needed attention when Anthony Joshua of Britain defended his IBF title by beating former champion Wladimir Klitschko in April. Wilder-Ortiz would have been just as big, featuring two unbeaten knockout artists fighting for the heavyweight championship.
DiBella had promoted the bout as a “great champion fighting a great contender.” But he mentioned Wilder’s disgust with boxers using PEDs during the September press conference.
“He’s had to deal with unclean fighters,” DiBella said. “Guys that were dirty taking PEDS, and fights canceled after an entire training camp.”
Showtime is scheduled to televise the card, and while a new opponent for Wilder likely will be named, it won’t be the same.
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