Luis Ortiz growing impatient with WBA heavyweight tournament
Luis Ortiz is slated to fight Alexander Ustinov as part of the WBA’s tournament to consolidate its three heavyweight titles. But securing that first step to challenging for the WBA championship has been tougher than any of Ortiz’s previous opponents in the ring.
The undefeated Cuban has been unable to come to terms with Ustinov’s camp on two prior occasions, his manager Juan Jimenez says, the most recent being an attempt to face Ustinov on the Canelo Alvarez-Amir Khan May 7 HBO PPV undercard.
Given Ortiz’s age (37) and his status as one of the top heavyweights, his team has grown concerned that Ortiz (25-0, 22 knockouts) is wasting the buzz he built in his last two fights, destructions of Bryant Jennings and Tony Thompson, chasing a fighter who doesn’t appear eager to face him.
While Ortiz is excited and honored to fight in the WBA tournament, Jimenez told RingTV.com, if a deal cannot be struck with Ustinov soon he may start to explore a scenario in which Ortiz would back out of the WBA tournament and jump to another sanctioning body in the hopes of locking in a meaningful fight.
“We want to fight,” Jimenez said in a phone interview. “We want to represent the WBA but we need a little stricter rules (to enforce the fight with Ustinov) so we can go forward. If the WBA doesn’t want to enforce Ustinov (we may go elsewhere). But we’d like to stay in the tournament because we’re so close to a title shot against the winner of (Tyson) Fury and (Wladimir) Klitschko. We’re anxious to fight and we’re upset that we lost the chance to fight on the Canelo undercard because we thought it was a big deal in Luis’ career. We can’t hold Luis’ career back because they’re not letting us fight.”
The WBA has mandated that Ortiz must face the 39-year-old Ustinov (33-1, 24 KOs) on or before June 19 after Ustinov formally accepted the fight in early February. Jimenez said he sent a letter to WBA president Gilberto Mendoza Jr. last week outlining his concerns and has yet to receive a response.
Jimenez, who said that Ustinov also backed out of a May 5 date to face Ortiz, is sensitive to the way he may come across. He doesn’t want to seem like he is threatening the WBA to take action on his behalf. And he is deeply sympathetic to Mendoza Jr., who lost his father, Gilberto Mendoza Sr. to cancer on March 11. So Jimenez is gently trying to prod the WBA into enforcing a match between Ortiz and Ustinov.
“We’re not mad at the WBA,” Jimenez said. “We just need some backing to go forward. Luis is not a spring chicken. He has a certain amount of years to be the best he can be. We want to prove it by fighting the top guys, (Anthony) Joshua, Fury, (Deontay) Wilder, Klitschko.”
Ortiz’s promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, said that talks are ongoing with Ustinov’s camp to make the fight happen before the deadline. However, they aren’t at a point yet where they will contemplate moving to another sanctioning body. “We are in negotiations now and will cross that bridge if need be,” said Golden Boy senior VP Eric Gomez in an email regarding abandoning the tournament. The WBA and Frank Warren, who promotes Ustinov, didn’t immediately return an email for comment.
The WBA’s heavyweight tournament hopes to merge the sanctioning body’s three titles into one unified champion. Currently, the WBA has a super champion (Fury); a regular champion (Lucas Browne, who failed a drug test after he beat Ruslan Chagaev on March 5 but has proclaimed his innocence) and an interim champion in Ortiz. Fres Oquendo is mandated to fight the winner of Browne-Chagaev by court-order in one group.
In the other bracket, Klitschko and Fury are supposed to fight their rematch this summer. The winner is then scheduled to face the winner of Ortiz vs. Ustinov. The winner of the two brackets then must face each other. But so far only one match has come to fruition and Ortiz’s camp is getting anxious.
Mitch Abramson is a former reporter for the New York Daily News. He can be reached on Twitter at: @Mabramson13.