The highly anticipated Nov. 4 showdown between heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder and Luis "King Kong" Ortiz -- undefeated power punchers facing their best opponent -- projected to be one of the most significant fights of the year.
But now the fight probably will be canceled, after Ortiz tested positive for banned substances in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association-administered drug test, promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN late Thursday night.
Wilder and Ortiz are scheduled to meet in the main event of a Showtime-televised card at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in the most significant heavyweight fight of the year -- other than titleholder Anthony Joshua's 11th-round knockout of former longtime world champion Wladimir Klitschko on April 29 in the front-runner for fight of the year.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, who is in Baku, Azerbaijan, for the organization's annual convention, disclosed the positive test on social media late Thursday night -- early Friday in Baku -- saying the organization "has received confirmation from VADA that Luis Ortiz has tested positive for a banned substance."
According to the letter sent by VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman to Sulaiman and others disclosing the positive test, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, Ortiz gave a urine sample for a random drug test conducted on Sept. 22 at his training camp in Miami. The results were returned on Thursday, and Ortiz's "A" sample tested positive for the banned diuretics chlorothiazide and hydrochlorothiazide, which are used to treat high blood pressure but also can be used as masking agents for performance-enhancing drug use.
Ortiz, 38, who tested positive for steroids after a 2014 fight, can have his "B" sample tested at his own expense, but it is highly unusual for a "B" sample to test any differently than the "A" sample.
"I can verify the information Mauricio put out," DiBella, promoter of the fight, told ESPN. "I'm flabbergasted and particularly crestfallen for my fighter. Deontay Wilder is a great champion and a clean champion and probably has been victimized more than any other fighter in the history of the sport."
On Sept. 20, Wilder attended a news conference in New York to announce the fight and perhaps foreshadowed what was to come. Ortiz, who was unable to make it to the media event in person because bad weather in South Florida caused his flight to be canceled, joined by telephone. Wilder, aware of Ortiz's past positive drug test, warned him not to jeopardize the fight.
"Stay clean, because we'll be checking," Wilder told Ortiz. "Stay clean. Don't f--- this up for me, nor you, because I'm gonna prove to the world that I am the best."
This is the third time in the past 18 months that one of Wilder's opponents has failed a drug test. The other two fights were also canceled.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs), 31, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was scheduled to go to Moscow to make a mandatory defense against Alexander Povetkin in May 2016 when, nine days before the fight, Povetkin tested positive for the banned substance meldonium in a VADA test, forcing the fight to be canceled. Wilder and DiBella later won a $5 million breach of contract lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Povetkin -- who failed two VADA tests in eight months -- and his promoter, Andrey Ryabinsky of World of Boxing.
In February, Wilder was scheduled to defend his title against Poland's Andrzej Wawrzyk. But Wawrzyk also failed a VADA test under the WBC's Clean Boxing Program and was replaced on short notice by Gerald Washington, whom Wilder stopped in the fifth round.
In September 2014, Ortiz scored a blistering first-round knockout of Lateef Kayode in Las Vegas to win an interim heavyweight world title. However, the pre-fight urine sample that Ortiz provided to the Nevada State Athletic Commission tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone in the postfight drug screen. The belt was taken away, the result of the fight was changed to a no-decision and Ortiz was fined and suspended for eight months by the commission.
Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs), a 6-foot-4, 240-pound southpaw who was an amateur standout in Cuba before defecting and turning pro in 2010, has fought six times since then without any issues with his drug tests.
Wilder, who has defended his title five times, has embraced random drug testing and been very outspoken against fighters who use performance-enhancing drugs.
"It is sad for the sport, and I just hope something even more can be done about this situation before it ruins the sport of boxing," Wilder told ESPN in February, before he faced Washington. "I want to see some punishment done. I want to see if you do this, if you put steroids or anything that has your body doing what it is not naturally supposed to do, I think you should not only get suspended, but maybe indefinitely.
"They need to take their career away, because this is ridiculous. I am naturally strong without weights. Without training. With anything, I am God-given, Alabama-country strong. I have always been that way. But just imagine if I used anything to enhance my body. Did you see my fight with [Artur] Szpilka? Just imagine if I had something in my body. That man would have been dead, because I thought he was dead. I hope it just gets cleaned up."
DiBella said it was too soon to say what would happen with the Nov. 4 card if the fight with Ortiz is canceled, although he said it might be possible that Bermane Stiverne, from whom Wilder won the title by one-sided decision in 2015, could be elevated from his undercard bout against Dominic Breazeale to face Wilder in a rematch.
Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs), 38, of Las Vegas, is Wilder's mandatory challenger but has not fought in two years, in part because a title eliminator against Povetkin was canceled because Povetkin failed a VADA test the day before the fight in December. Stiverne took a step-aside payment from Wilder to allow for him to fight Ortiz in an optional defense because there were no television deals to be had for their mandatory rematch. The thought was that if Stiverne came off the layoff and defeated a reputable opponent such as former world title challenger Breazeale (18-1, 16 KOs) on the undercard, it might make the mandatory fight more attractive to a buyer.
DiBella said he would deal with things on Friday and planned to talk to Wilder's team, Barclays Center officials and Showtime Sports boss Stephen Espinoza.
"I want to get a good night sleep and deal with it on Friday," DiBella said.