By Keith Idec
Andy Ruiz obviously wasn’t Anthony Joshua’s first choice to replace Jarrell Miller.
Once Brooklyn’s Miller failed three performance-enhancing drug tests, Joshua urged his promoter, Eddie Hearn, to make a deal with Luis Ortiz. Hearn says he ultimately offered Ortiz’s handlers $7 million, by far the biggest purse of his career.
Ortiz turned it down and eventually Southern California’s Ruiz agreed to terms to fight for Joshua’s IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles on five weeks’ notice. England’s Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) is focused on defending his titles versus Ruiz (32-1, 21 KOs), but he still doesn’t have a clear understanding of what made Ortiz decline to accept that type of life-changing money.
“I’m not here to disrespect Ortiz or anything like that,” Joshua told IFL TV this week. “Or make him out like I’m just gonna offer him a fight, he takes it and I’m gonna smash him. I wanted to offer him a fight because it was a good challenge and someone who could test me. But however, they turned down a lucrative offer.
“I don’t know if they were trying to hold us to ransom, they wanted more out of the deal, but they turned down the offer for reasons I don’t know. Look, these people have got smart people around them and whatever decisions they choose to make is far beyond my knowledge.”
Hearn has stated Ortiz turned down a lucrative opportunity to fight Joshua in a DAZN main event June 1 at Madison Square Garden because Ortiz has been assured by adviser Al Haymon that he’ll get a rematch with Deontay Wilder later this year. Ortiz hurt Wilder during the seventh round of their entertaining encounter 14 months ago at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but Wilder came back to drop Ortiz twice in the 10th round and stopped him.
Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) is scheduled to make a mandatory defense of his WBC title against another former American Olympian, Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs), on May 18 at Barclays Center (Showtime).
Joshua, meanwhile, was surprised Ortiz didn’t jump at the chance to fight him, even on short notice. The Cuban-born Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs, 2 NC) repeatedly has claimed Joshua is scared to fight him, yet the powerful southpaw passed on their fight when it was presented to him.
“In my opinion,” Joshua said, “when I had the opportunity to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world [against Charles Martin], they came to my territory [London], fought with my broadcaster [Sky Sports], I had to do all the PR work and stuff. I took the short end of the stick because I knew what it meant to get my hands on that [IBF] title. So, when I was called out by the heavyweight champion of the world, I said, ‘Rob, I wanna take this with both hands.’ He said, ‘Josh, it’s going into your 16th fight. Once you fight for the title, there’s no chance of coming back.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I want this opportunity, because I wanna be champion of the world.’ And we took it.
“So, when people are being offered an opportunity to become heavyweight champion of the world and, ‘Ah, it’s not enough. Oh, I ain’t got enough time,’ I’m thinking it goes against what I stand for, what my values and morals are. So, I don’t know why he would miss out on an opportunity, because it’s what everyone dreams of at the end of the day. That’s what dreams are made of.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.