Ortiz is Joshua's next opponent

Briton to defend his heavyweight title against Cuban fighter, after surprise exit by Klitschko

LONDON • The World Boxing Association (WBA) has ordered world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua to defend his title against Cuba's Luis Ortiz, the organisation said yesterday.

The 27-year-old Briton - who also holds the IBF (International Boxing Federation) and IBO (International Boxing Organisation) titles - had been due to face Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch of their April bout that Joshua won via an 11th-round knockout, but the Ukrainian announced his retirement on Thursday.

"According to the resolution sent on Jan 11, 2017, to both parties, it was reported that the winner of the Joshua-Klitschko fight, held on April 29, 2017, had to face Ortiz after 120 days," the WBA said in a statement.

"95 days have passed and, for this reason, the Championships Committee ordered to negotiate a fight between the British and Cuban boxers.

"Both parties were duly notified that, as of Aug 3, they have 30 days to reach an agreement or the fight will be called to purse bids."

Joshua, undefeated in 19 bouts, has also been told he must face IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria before Dec 2 or risk being stripped of that belt.

The 38-year-old Ortiz is also unbeaten, recording 23 knockouts in 27 career wins, and is a former WBA interim world champion.

Former champion Klitschko, who made 23 world title defences during his glittering career, has backed the Briton to lead the next generation of heavyweight fighters.

"My HEART is at PEACE as I pass the torch to @anthonyfjoshua - the next generation. Good luck little bro, I'm proud of you!" the 41-year-old posted on Twitter.

The Ukrainian, who held the WBO (World Boxing Organisation) title from 2000 to 2003 and the IBF, WBO and WBA titles from 2006 to 2015, would have made millions from the rematch with Joshua, although he still retires a very wealthy man with plenty of interests outside the ring.

"Money never was his motivation," Bernd Bonte, Klitschko's manager, said.

"The fire wasn't there any more. He thought there was a chance to beat Anthony Joshua in a rematch but he thought it would be a tough fight.

"He had to go to a 10-week training camp again and, if you don't feel the fire, it is better to finish your boxing career."

Klitschko, who also won the super-heavyweight gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and his elder brother Vitali, who held the WBO and WBC titles, dominated heavyweight boxing for nearly 15 years.

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline 'Ortiz is Joshua's next opponent'. Print Edition | Subscribe