ACCORDING to promoter Eddie Hearn, the reason Luis Ortiz won’t be challenging WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is because he wasn’t ready and not because he was ‘lowballed’ with offers.
It was thought Ortiz, a 40-year-old southpaw who has twice failed performance-enhancing drug tests, was Joshua’s first choice opponent when he learned that original foe Jarrell Miller had failed a couple of his own PED tests and was out of their scheduled fight on June 1. Though a dangerous defence on paper, Joshua, by all accounts, preferred Ortiz over lesser-known entities like Michael Hunter, Adam Kownacki and Andy Ruiz Jnr (who eventually landed the job). For a while it looked promising.
Ortiz, however, was apparently less keen. Indeed, on receiving what they deemed an unacceptable second offer, his team took to Instagram to say he was out of the running on account of them being ‘lowballed’ by offers. They quickly received the response they were looking for.
Such is the reactionary nature of social media people didn’t wait long to go after the head of Hearn for using underhand tactics at the negotiating table, believing the mention of Ortiz to be little more than a ruse. They presumed the Team Joshua preference was an easier defence, not a well-schooled Cuban with a granite chin and heavy hands. They presumed Ortiz was again being avoided.
But not so fast. With Ruiz Jnr sorted, and booked to face Joshua on June 1, Eddie Hearn now has the time to put a few things straight, starting with Ortiz and those accusations of lowballing.
Speaking to iFL TV, he said: “I got two phone calls when the [Miller] news broke straight away. One was Jay Jimenez who is Luis Ortiz’s manager.
“Jay Jimenez phoned me up and said, ‘I can’t believe this. I don’t think Luis will be ready.’
“I said, ‘Find out if Luis will be ready.’ He came back the next day or two days later and said, ‘Make us an offer.’
“I made them an offer $6 million – that was my first offer. There was no reply.
“On Monday I said, ‘I’ll call you.’ Later that day I came back and said, ‘Right, this is it: $7 million for June 1. [If he wins, he gets] a rematch for quite a bit more and if he loses, I’ll give you another fight for a lot of money for security.’
“I got nothing back.”
Because Ortiz’s team went public with their dissatisfaction, Hearn clearly feels no way about setting the record straight and revealing the minutiae of the offer Ortiz and his team would rather keep vague.
“Not only were you offered $7 million, but you tried to out us in the public eye, in the media,” Hearn continued. “To try and f*** our reputation and discredit us when you got offered $6 million and then $7 million for a fight.
“And how much did you get when you fought Deontay Wilder [in March 2018]? I don’t know, $1 million? If that?
“So you got offered seven times more to fight Anthony Joshua.”
Ultimately, Luis Ortiz won’t be fighting Anthony Joshua on June 1 and probably doesn’t deserve to, either. Talented though he is, if he and his team can’t spot the value in grabbing the chance of a lifetime with both hands, and in doing so potentially proving he is a world-class heavyweight rather than merely a two-time drug cheat, it’s probably better off being sent elsewhere.
And it has been. To Andy Ruiz Jnr’s credit, he has grabbed the very opportunity others have fumbled and, refreshingly, hasn’t had to check his training schedule or haggle over the final details of an astronomical payday to clear the decks and say yes.
Ohara Davies has fallen short in his two biggest fights to date, first against Josh Taylor in 2017 and then against Jack Catterall last year, but he remains an interesting figure nonetheless.
The outspoken Londoner, always good for a quote or two, gets back in the swing of things on June 28 at York Hall, Bethnal Green, and the good news is that he will be involved in yet another meaningful fight.
This time his opponent won’t be a fellow domestic rival, someone with whom he has needle, but will instead be former IBF world lightweight champion Miguel Vasquez. It’s a good fight. The sort of test Davies needs.
Vasquez, from Guadalajara, Mexico, beat Ji Hoon Kim in 2010 to become IBF champion and remained in possession of the belt for four years. In that time, he successfully defended the title against Ricardo Dominguez, Ammeth Diaz, Marvin Quintero, Mercito Gesta and Denis Shafikov. He was then relieved of duty by American Mickey Bey in 2014.
In recent times, Vasquez, 41-7 (15), has found good form hard to come by. He was last seen in the UK getting stopped inside nine rounds by Josh Taylor, despite producing a spirited effort, and was last year halted by Thulani Mbenge in South Africa. The Mexican is past his best then, no doubt, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact he will still represent Davies’ biggest win should he get it.
“It puts me back on the world scene and I feel like that’s where I truly belong,” said Davies, 18-2 (14). “I’m ready to make amends and right all the wrongs from my last fight.
“I know what mistakes I made against Catterall and now I’m going to capitalise. I’ve had a quiet few months since then, but I’ve been training every day, so I’ll be the best me when I get in there.
“Some people said I should fight a journeyman and ease myself back into things, but I know what I can do.
“York Hall is not far from my house. I might even get the bus down there on the night! London is my hometown and I’m comfortable here. I have my friends and family here, and that means a lot to me.”
Still only 27, Davies was always destined to do a lot of his maturing in public and his pro career, which started back in 2014, was always going to be indicative of this. There will be ups and there will be downs; good decisions and bad ones. But the choice of Vasquez as his next opponent suggests Davies is ready to knuckle down and get serious.