Heavyweight contender Luis “King Kong” Ortiz was not in a talkative mood on Tuesday, but manager Jay Jimenez was in an argumentative one.
They were part of a media conference call, along with heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder and promoter Lou DiBella, to discuss the Wilder-Ortiz title fight, which is scheduled for March 3 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. New York.
While Wilder spoke his peace in a vociferous and entertaining manner as he answered question after question, as he usually does, Ortiz (28-0, 24 KOs) barely spoke.
The Miami-based Cuban defector refused to offer any opening comments when offered the opportunity by DiBella and then refused to answer virtually every question, most of which were centered on two drug test failures in three years, one of which cost him an interim world title in 2014 and one last fall for two banned substances.
The second failed test forced a fight with Wilder to be canceled, but it was eventually revived and scheduled for next week when the WBC ultimately accepted Ortiz’s reason for the positive test, which he said was caused by medication he was taking to control high blood pressure.
Before a reporter could even finish his first question to Ortiz, Jimenez cut him off and refused to answer, and instead claimed Ortiz had only failed one drug test — and then called that result into question.
Then Jimenez, upset that Ortiz has been labeled by fans and media as a “two-time drug cheat,” barked that Ortiz, 38, had already been tested seven times — a combination of blood and urine tests — by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association and the New York State Athletic Commission in the lead-up to March 3.
Wilder, who has been outspoken about performance-enhancing drug use in boxing, has belittled and mocked Ortiz for his drug test failures, and when Ortiz refused to answer questions about it, Wilder and Jimenez got into a shouting match.
Wilder, 32, of Tuscaloosa Alabama, was extremely frustrated when the fight with Ortiz, originally scheduled for Nov. 4, was canceled in late September after Ortiz’s failed drug test. Wilder instead faced late substitute Bermane Stiverne, whom Wilder had already easily outpointed in 2015 to win the title, and brutally knocked him out in the first round.
Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs), who will be making his seventh and seemingly his most dangerous title defense, has either faced a late opponent change or had a fight canceled three times because his opponent failed a drug test. Wilder was realistic when asked if he was at all concerned that, with a little over a week to go until the fight, Ortiz could again produce a failed test that would ruin another fight.
“That could happen,” Wilder said. “That’s a possibility. We always say once a cheat, always a cheat, and that’ll always carry with him. But that’s gonna be up to Luis Ortiz. I think Luis Ortiz is a smart guy and I think he’s gonna do the right thing up until this point. If he don’t, it’ll be shame on him to put people through so much stress, so much pain, like it was the first time. It’s ridiculous that we still have to be talking about this still, at this point in time, with drugs and cheating and stuff.
“But I think he’s gonna do the right thing. With that being said, I’m not worried about it. I’m confident in him, that he’s gonna turn up clean and he’s gonna give a great performance on the night of that fight, and we’re all gonna be winners at the end of the night.”
Although Ortiz refused to answer questions during Tuesday’s media call, he did offer his views earlier in the week at his training camp, where he denied taking any banned substance as a means to enhance his performance and said it was a mistake that he did not disclose his prescription on the paperwork VADA requires those in its program to fill out.
“A lot of people that believe in me and know me well know that I would not do anything that can jeopardize my future as a boxer,” Ortiz said in translated comments. “I have too much at stake: my family, my children and the possibility to provide for them.
“I had been taking that [blood pressure] medicine for two years. It was my mistake not to disclose that prescription drug in the paperwork. I never thought a prescription was going to bring me so much trouble. I was taking this medicine to treat high blood pressure, but apparently it’s also used to go to the bathroom a lot and mask other things. I drink two gallons of water per day. I go to the bathroom a lot already. I never put two and two together.
“I’m clean. The dose they found in my system was too low to mask anything at all. If I would have known this prescription drug was not allowed, I would have told my trainer and my doctor.
“I’m a heavyweight. I don’t need to make weight. Why am I going to go to the trouble of taking an illegal substance that makes you go to the bathroom a lot? I have no need. I simply didn’t know it was banned. If I would have known, I would have said something to my trainer or to the doctors. I think the fight was not meant to be at that point in time last year. Destiny played a part. It was supposed to be postponed. Now there are no excuses.”
The March 3 card also will include two other televised fights: Jermall Charlo (26-0, 20 KOs) taking on Hugo Centeno Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs) for a vacant interim middleweight belt; and interim super middleweight titlist Andre Dirrell (26-2, 16 KOs) making his first defense in a rematch against Jose Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KOs) after notching a controversial eighth-round disqualification victory against him to claim the vacant belt on May 20.