Undefeated WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay "The Bronze Bomber’’ Wilder will face his toughest opponent to date when he meets hard-hitting Cuban southpaw Luis "The Real King Kong’’ Ortiz Saturday, March 3 from Barclays Center in Brooklyn,New York.
The co-feature of the evening will see the return of undefeated former 154-pound world champion Jermall Charlo, a powerful knockout artist who is looking to prove that he is a dangerous contender in the middleweight division. Once-beaten contender Hugo Centeno Jr. will test Charlo’s 160-pound credentials when they meet in a 12-round match to determine the WBC interim champion, with the winner immediately stepping into the picture for middleweight supremacy.
"We’re very excited to bring the heavyweight champion of the world, Deontay Wilder, back to Brooklyn for his seventh title defense," said Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. "This fight is happening because Deontay wanted to silence his critics by taking on the biggest challenge available. Deontay has an axe to grind with Ortiz and will swing it on March 3. Former 154-lb. champion Jermall Charlo is already a top player at middleweight and plans to prove he’s carried his power with him by facing one of the division’s best prospects, Hugo Centeno Jr., who is coming off a huge knockout victory in his last fight."
True heavyweights in every sense of the word, the 6-foot-7, 228-pound Wilder and the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Ortiz have 62 combined knockout victories.
The 32-year-old Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs), the only reigning American heavyweight world champion, is a knockout artist with the power to end any fight in spectacular fashion. His only professional match that went the distance was the fight in which he won his world title with a dominant 12-round unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17, 2015 -the birthday of legendary heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. The champion out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama added Stiverne to his list of knockout victims in his last fight with a devastating first round destruction in their rematch at Barclays Center on Nov. 4.
Wilder was originally supposed to fight Ortiz that night, but Ortiz was pulled from the match after he tested positive for a banned substance. Ortiz was later cleared after the WBC determined he had failed to list medication that he was taking on his pre-testing paperwork, which triggered the positive test. He was assessed a fine and allowed to resume boxing.
Wilder, a Bronze Medal winner for the U.S. Olympic boxing team at the 2008 Beijing Games, has successfully defended the title six times. This will be his third title defense at Barclays Center. In his first defense at Barclays Center, Wilder scored a memorable ninth-round knockout over Artur Szpilka back in Jan. 2016.
"I’m looking forward to returning to Barclays Center to defend my title for a seventh time,’’ Wilder said. "Luis Ortiz is one of the toughest guys around and he’s supposed to be the boogeyman in the heavyweight division. But I’ve never been afraid of the boogeyman and I’ve knocked out every opponent that I’ve faced. I plan on keeping that streak going. Everyone standing in my way of becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion has to go down. It’s Luis Ortiz’s turn.’’
The 38-year-old Ortiz (28-0, 24 KOs), of Camaguey, Cuba by way of Miami, Fla., will make his Barclays Center debut when he meets Wilder for his first title shot. The hard-hitting southpaw turned pro seven years ago after defecting from Cuba and has since been steadily climbing the heavyweight ladder. He cemented his standing in the division with victories over veteran contenders Bryant Jennings, Tony Thompson and Malik Scott and is the No. 1-ranked contender by the WBC. In his most recent fight, Ortiz scored a devastating second-round knockout of Daniel Martz in Miami, Florida on Dec. 15.
If Ortiz wins, he will become the first Cuban born fighter to win a heavyweight world championship.
"This really is the best versus the best as far as the heavyweight division, and everyone who knows boxing knows that,’’ Ortiz said. "There’s been too much talking already. It’s time to fight. All I ask now is that the winner of this fight receives the respect from the other man, from the public, from the media and the fans that they deserve as the best heavyweight in the U.S.’’
Charlo (26-0, 20 KOs) won his super welterweight title with a dominant knockout of Cornelius Bundrage in 2015 and eventually achieved the distinction of holding a world title in the same weight class (154 pounds) as his twin brother after Jermell won a title in 2016. After successfully defending his 154-pound title three times, Charlo of Richmond, Texas decided to move up to 160 pounds to win another title in a different weight class. In his debut at 160-pounds the 27-year-old scored a TKO victory over Jorge Sebastian Heiland at Barclays Center on July 29.
"I really love fighting in Brooklyn and at Barclays Center," said Charlo. "The fans in Brooklyn always show me a lot of love. Since my last fight I’ve had a chance to work on my patience and work on improvements to my game. I’ve got the same feeling that I had before I won my first world title. I want to be a champion at 160 more than I did the first time at 154. More than anything I just want to get back in the ring. Centeno is a tough fighter. He’ll be a hard test for someone who isn’t at my level. I’m not taking anything away from him. But he’s just another fighter that’s in my way. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone else in this fight. I’m all about proving things to myself now. In the 160-pound division you’re hearing my name more and more. It’s more than you did when I was at 154 pounds.’’
The 26-year-old Centeno (26-1, 14 KOs) caught everyone’s attention when he scored a stunning knockout of Immanuwel Aleem in his last fight on Aug. 25. It was enough to springboard Centeno into middleweight title contention. Centeno of Oxnard, California successfully rebounded from a tough TKO loss to Maiej Sulecki on June 18, 2016 with a victory over Ronald Montes before his match against Aleem.
"I’m excited for the opportunity," said Centeno. "I think my last outing had a lot to do with this/ It helped to put me in this position. Charlo is a great fighter with a lot of talent. I feel like we have similar statures. It’s going to be an interesting fight. I think it’s going to come down to who is the smarter fighter that night and who has more left in the tank toward the end. This is a life-changing, career-changing fight for me that could lead to bigger and better things. I’m coming to win."