Undefeated American heavyweight Deontay Wilder will defend his World Boxing Council crown in March against unbeaten Cuban contender Luis Ortiz in New York, promoters announced Friday.
The move comes amid reports that rival unbeaten champions Anthony Joshua of Britain and Joseph Parker of New Zealand are in final talks to fight in March and could set the stage for the winners to meet for an undisputed crown later this year.
Wilder's title bout will be staged March 3 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the same venue where Wilder stopped Canada's Bermane Stiverne in the first round last November in the sixth defense of the crown he took from Stiverne in 2015, his three-year reign the longest in the division.
Wilder is 39-0 with 38 knockouts, his only fight to reach the distance the bout with Stiverne three years ago, while Ortiz is 28-0 with 24 knockouts, his most recent bout a knockout of American Daniel Martz last month.
"We are thrilled to welcome the heavyweight champ back to Barclays Center," said Brett Yormark, chief executive of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment. "Deontay's long-awaited bout with Ortiz is sure to be one of 2018's best matchups."
Joshua, the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champion, is 20-0 with 20 knockouts and according to the BBC nearly set for a March 31 bout at Cardiff against Parker, the World Boxing Organization champion who is 24-0 with 18 knockouts.
After stopping Stiverne in November, Wilder called out Joshua, saying, "I been waiting on that boy for a long time now. Listen mate. I know I am the best. Are you up for the test? I want Joshua. Joshua come and see me baby."
Joshua says his goal is to unify the titles and fight all champions by the end of this year.