LOS ANGELES — Heavyweight world titlist Deontay Wilder and Luis “King Kong” Ortiz made their long-expected rematch official on Saturday, formally announcing that they will meet again on Nov. 23 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The fight will headline a Fox pay-per-view card. The fighters and their teams gathered at Staples Center hours before the Errol Spence Jr.-Shawn Porter welterweight title unification bout at the arena to meet the media.
In addition, Premier Boxing Champions also announced the co-feature in which featherweight world titlist Leo Santa Cruz will go for a belt in a fourth weight division when he moves up to junior lightweight to face Miguel Flores for a vacant 130-pound title.
For Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs), 33, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who will be making his 10th title defense, retaining his belt is the final hurdle to a much-anticipated rematch with lineal champion Tyson Fury, who he fought to a disputed draw in December at Staples Center.
On Sept. 14 in Las Vegas, Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs), 31, of England, survived two horrendous cuts over his right eye in a unanimous decision win against Otto Wallin in Fury’s final interim bout before the rematch that has been planned since the spring — but with each man having to win two interim bouts to get to the sequel.
If Wilder comes through against Ortiz, Wilder-Fury II is slated to take place on Feb. 22 in a joint ESPN/Fox pay-per-view event in Las Vegas.
On paper, at least, Ortiz looms as a far greater risk to Wilder than Wallin was supposed to be to Fury.
“When I fought Ortiz, not only did he have the pedigree, but also he had the classification of being the boogeyman of the division,” Wilder said. “I agree with those who say that Luis Ortiz was my toughest fight to date. No one wanted to fight him and they still don’t. In the rematch there’s more confidence and more motivation to do what I have to do. I’ve already seen the style before. It’s going to make it more fun. I can’t wait to see how he tries to handle me when I’m at my best.”
Wilder said he was very ill going into their first fight yet still was able to prevail.
Although Wilder and Fury were close to finalizing an immediate rematch after their draw, Fury instead signed with Top Rank to have his fights on ESPN platforms. Eventually, however, Top Rank and Premier Boxing Champions, which handles Wilder, worked out a two-fight deal for the rematch and a third fight.
However, Wilder and Fury would each take two interim bouts first. Wilder blew away mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale in the first round on May 18, Fury did the same to Tom Schwarz in the second round on June 15 and then Fury escaped from Wallin two weeks ago. Now Wilder-Fury II hangs in the balance with the outcome of Wilder-Ortiz II. Ortiz aims to ruin those plans.
“I have to give Deontay Wilder a lot of credit for taking this fight because it shows he has the heart of a true champion,” Ortiz said. “He is not at all scared to take a dangerous fight, because let’s be honest, this is the most dangerous fight for him. In my opinion, he’s the best heavyweight in the world until someone beats him, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do on Nov. 23. ‘King Kong’ is coming to Las Vegas!”
Wilder first faced Ortiz in March 2018 in what turned out to be a dramatic fight of the year contender after a slow start over the first four rounds. Wilder knocked Ortiz down in the fifth round but then nearly got stopped during an Ortiz onslaught of punches in the seventh round before rallying for a punishing 10th-round knockout victory.
Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs), 40, a power-punching southpaw from Cuba fighting out of Miami, Florida, who has twice failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs, has won three fights in a row since the loss to Wilder, including on the Wilder-Fury undercard.
Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KOs), 31, of Rosemead, California, who has won world titles at bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight, will leave behind the featherweight division having had two title reigns and having made three defenses in his current reign, but not having had the major fight that he could have had: a title unification bout against fellow PBC fighter Gary Russell Jr.
“When I first started boxing my dream was to be a world champion, and I’ve been fortunate to win three different world championships in three different divisions,” Santa Cruz said. “I couldn’t imagine winning championships in four divisions. It’s something I never really dreamed of, and I’m very happy about this opportunity.
“I know Flores is another tough Mexican boxer like me. He always comes forward, so it’s going to be a fun fight for the fans. I’m really looking forward to fighting again in Las Vegas at MGM Grand. It’s going to be a really exciting atmosphere because you have Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz in a heavyweight championship fight, and Deontay always knocks his opponents out, but we’re hoping that our fight will steal the night.”
Santa Cruz was supposed to defend his featherweight belt against Flores (24-2, 12 KOs), 27, of Houston, on Feb. 16 in Los Angeles, but Flores suffered an ankle injury and withdrew, and Santa Cruz instead outpointed Rafael Rivera in a one-sided fight.
Flores has won two fights in a row, both in the junior lightweight division.
“I’m extremely excited to be getting this opportunity once again to fight Leo Santa Cruz and win a world title,” Flores said. “Being the co-main event on this Fox Sports PBC pay-per-view card with Wilder versus Ortiz headlining is incredible. This is a dream come true for me, and I’m going to take advantage of the situation.
“This moment in my life is something I’ve envisioned since I was a kid. On Nov. 23, you will see the best version of myself as I plan to be in the best shape of my life, with the goal of becoming a world champion, and what better way to do it than in Las Vegas at MGM Grand. Leo and I are going to put on a great show, that you can guarantee.”