Ortiz-Martin headline FOX PPV on New Year’s Day

The new year will kick off with a heavyweight bang, as five exciting heavyweight matchups take center stage on a jam-packed FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View on New Year’s Day live from Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

The main event will see top heavyweight Luis “King Kong” Ortiz take on former world champion Charles Martin in a 12-round IBF Heavyweight Title Eliminator. In the co-main event, unbeaten rising heavyweight star Frank “The Cuban Flash” Sanchez will square off against Puerto Rican Olympian Carlos Negron in a 10-round attraction.

The pay-per-view telecast begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and will also see heavyweight contenders Jonnie Rice and Michael Coffie battle in a 10-round rematch, former title challenger Gerald “El Gallo Negro” Washington in a 10-round showdown against Turkish Olympian Ali Eren Demirezen and unbeaten Viktor Faust facing Iago Kiladze in a 10-round attraction to open the pay-per-view.

With exceptional power and sublime technical skills, Ortiz (32-2, 27 KOs) has been a fixture atop heavyweight rankings for years, with his only defeats coming in memorable contests against former longtime heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. Born in Camaguey, Cuba and trained by longtime coach Herman Caicedo in Miami, Ortiz won three bouts between Wilder contests, defeating Travis Kauffman, Christian Hammer and Razvan Cojanu. Prior to that run, Ortiz picked up victories over the likes of Bryant Jennings, Tony Thompson and Malik Scott to build up his heavyweight resume. Most recently, Ortiz blasted out Alexander Flores in the first round of their November 2020 bout.

“I can’t wait to give my fans in South Florida a great show on New Year’s Day and earn another shot at the heavyweight title,” said Ortiz. “Charles Martin is a good fighter, but he’s standing in my way. The only thing on my mind is getting in the ring and making a big statement in this fight to show again why I’m feared by the heavyweight division.”

The 35-year-old Martin (28-2-1, 25 KOs) became heavyweight champion in January 2016 when he won by TKO against then unbeaten Vyacheslav Glazkov. After losing his title to Anthony Joshua, Martin has won five of his last six fights, with all of his wins coming inside the distance. Originally from St. Louis, now living in Las Vegas and currently training in Southern California with Manny Robles, Martin bounced back from a narrow decision defeat to Adam Kownacki in 2018 to earn three-straight victories, including most recently knocking out Gerald Washington in February 2020.

“Nobody wants to fight me and nobody wants to fight Ortiz, so we’ll fight each other,” said Martin. “I’m going to show the world on January 1 why I deserve a title shot. I’ve paid my dues and I want my belt back. Beating Ortiz is going to get me one step closer to that goal. In order to become two-time heavyweight champion, I have to get past Ortiz first, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

An amateur standout from his native Cuba, Sánchez (19-0, 13 KOs) now trains in San Diego with top trainer Eddy Reynoso. The 29-year-old has stayed busy on his rise up the heavyweight rankings, scoring three victories in 2020 as he earned a unanimous decision over Joey Dawejko and stopped Brian Howard and Julian Fernandez. Sanchez most recently scored a career-best win in October, dropping previously unbeaten Efe Ajagba on his way to a unanimous decision victory.

“I’m happy to be back so soon after beating Agjaba, but the work is only beginning,” said Sanchez. “There’s much more to be done. I believe I will be the first heavyweight champion in Cuban history. Negron is a strong, dangerous opponent. I’ll have to be my best, but I’m confident that I will come out victorious. I believe in my team, and my team believes in me. We’ll start the New Year off getting to 20-0, remain busy and make a strong case for a world title by year’s end.”

The 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian Negron (25-3, 20 KOs) rides a five-fight winning streak into January 1, including four wins by stoppage. The 34-year-old bounced back from defeats to Dominic Breazeale and Brian Howard to put together his win streak, which includes a March 2020 knockout over previously unbeaten Robert Alfonso. Negron has fought professionally since 2009 and now lives in Miami where he trains alongside Luis Ortiz.

“This is a great opportunity for me to get a win over a strong up-and-coming fighter and show everyone what I’m capable of,” said Negron. “I’m training hard and I’ve had great sparring in order to be ready for anything that Sanchez is going to bring. My experience and preparation are going to be the difference. I’m extremely motivated to give the fans a great fight and put myself in position to get a world title opportunity.”

Born in South Carolina and now fighting out of Los Angeles, Rice (14-6-1, 10 KOs) will look to repeat a career-best performance in the rematch against Coffie, after he stopped the previously unbeaten fighter in the fifth-round in July. Rice won six of seven fights from 2018 through 2019  before a pair of losses in 2020 against then unbeatens Efe Ajagba and Demsey McKean. In a pro career that dates back to 2014, the blemishes on Rice’s records have all come against previously unbeaten fighters.

“In my last fight against Coffie, I went in there to prove myself and do what I had been training to do,” said Rice. “It was sink or swim, and I came out on top. Now I have to go out there on January 1 and show that it wasn’t a fluke. This is a great stage for me to display my talents and prove that I’m capable of big things. I’m looking to give the fans a great performance and I know that Coffie is doing the same. Don’t miss this fight.”

Coffie (12-1, 9 KOs) hopes to bounce back from his first career defeat after dropping the first matchup against Rice in July. A Marine Corps veteran who picked up boxing after returning from overseas, Coffie quickly impressed in amateur tournaments enough to earn sparring assignments with Deontay Wilder and Adam Kownacki. He was born in the Bronx, but now trains in Orlando, Florida and broke through in 2020 with three dominating stoppage victories, including knockouts over previously unbeaten opponents Darmani Rock and Luis Pena.

“I want to get it back and make it an actual fight this time against Jonny Rice,” said Coffie. “Last time, I was in a position where I faced some adversity, and I had to make a decision to go through with the fight. I know that I can fight through adversity, and on January 1, I will be ready for whatever way the fight goes. On January 1, there will be a fight.”

Washington (20-4-1, 13 KOs) is a six-foot-six heavyweight contender who was a former college football standout at the University of Southern California and a U.S. Navy veteran. Born in San Jose, California, Washington most recently lost a contest against former heavyweight champion Charles Martin in February 2020. Prior to that fight, Washington had delivered a knockout of veteran contender Robert Helenius in July 2019. Washington was unbeaten in his first 19 pro fights before dropping his world title challenge to Deontay Wilder in February 2017.

“I’m looking forward to stepping back in the ring on January 1,” said Washington. “I’m ready to go to work and get myself back in position for some big time fights. My experience is going to be the difference in this fight. It’s going to be a great night of heavyweight action!”

A 2016 Olympian for Turkey, Demirezen (14-1, 11 KOs) has fought out of Hamburg, Germany in the professional ranks since turning pro in late 2016. The 31-year-old won his first 11 pro fights, including a second round stoppage of Rad Rashid to capture a European heavyweight title in 2018. Demirezen made his only other U.S. start in 2019, when he became the first person to go the distance against Efe Ajagba, losing by decision. Since that defeat, Demirezen has scored three-straight victories, most recently stopping Nikola Milacic in March.

“I learned a lot from my loss to Ajagba and I’m looking forward to getting another chance to box in the U.S.,” said Demirezen. “I’m still angry about the Ajagba fight, because I know that I could have won. I want to show now that I belong on this stage. I’m proud to be in this position to show what I can do and I’m going to make the most of the opportunity.”

The 29-year-old Faust (8-0, 6 KOs) turned pro in February 2020 after an extensive amateur career fighting out of his native Svitlovodsk, Ukraine. Faust knocked out his first four opponents, before winning dominant six and eight round decisions. After a first round knockout over previously unbeaten Jacek Piatek in May, Faust made his U.S. debut in October, dropping Mike Marshall twice on his way to a third-round TKO victory.

“I’m really excited to be back fighting in the U.S. again on January 1,” said Faust. “I’ve been welcomed warmly and fighting stateside already feels like my living room. I love the atmosphere. This is a great chance to show myself on this pay-per-view show against a very high-quality opponent. I won’t disappoint fans when I step into the ring.”

Kiladze (27-5-1, 19 KOs) returned to the win column in September, with a knockout victory over Mathew McKinney. Since he began fighting stateside full time in 2017, Kiladze’s losses have come against top heavyweights Adam Kownacki, Michael Hunter, Efe Ajagba and Joe Joyce, who sported a combined 45-1 record heading into their matchups against Kiladze. Originally from Georgia and now fighting out of Los Angeles, Kiladze owns a 2019 draw against then unbeaten Robert Alfonso and won six straight fights between 2014 and 2018.

Jonnie Rice on win over Coffie: ‘I had to fight a little bit like Deontay Wilder’

Heavyweight Jonnie Rice (14-6-1, 10 KOs) got a big opportunity at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, when he stepped in for Gerald Washington(COVID-19) to score a technical knockout over previously unbeaten Michael Coffie (12-1, 9 KOs) in the main event on Saturday night(FOX).

Referee Eric Dali called a stop to the action at the 2:19 mark of the fifth round after Rice was tagging Coffie in the corner.

Rice had lost two straight fights before battling Coffie on Saturday night, including a unanimous decision loss to Efe Ajagba last September, but he fought inspired against Coffie and dominated the fight from start to finish.

While Rice was a late replacement, according to him, he was ready.

“I wasn’t a late replacement,” Rice said. “I was waiting for an opportunity. We replaced someone, but we weren’t late. We were right on time. I was training every day. I was training with Michael Hunter. I did 20 rounds, 10 and 10, last Friday before I got the call. So when I got the call, I was ready.”

Rice was surprised by how Coffie fought. He expected Coffie to be more of the aggressor. However, it was the opposite. Rice was the one dictating things in the ring. In his mind, it was like Deontay Wilder versus Luis Ortiz, and he was Wilder.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect to overwhelm Coffie like that,” Rice said. “I knew Michael Coffie from his fights, but not because he had a great record but because he was a sparring partner for Deontay Wilder. In my head, I played the little game that I was Luis Ortiz’s sparring partner for his second fight against Wilder. So technically, it was Luis Ortiz’s vs. Deontay Wilder’s sparring partners. We’re going to see what happens. I was playing with that in my head. I had to fight a little bit like Deontay Wilder and then a little bit different.”

The 34-year-old did not call out anybody after the fight, but at this point, the goal for Rice is to be a world champion and make a bunch of money doing it.

“I want it all. I want what every boxer wants,” he said. “I want to be world champion. I understand that my record doesn’t say that, but I want the world to watch my progress. I’m not in the right mind to be calling people out. I’m just going to be ready for the opportunity, and when it comes, I’m going to answer the call. I’m going to get as much money for it as I can. And you know one thing, I’m going to put on a show.”

Coffie did not look good on Saturday night, but all the credit goes to Rice; he was well-prepared and fought a great fight. Now, maybe more significant opportunities are on the way.

Mielnicki dominates Kidd

In the co-main event on FOX, New Jersey native Vito Mielnicki Jr. (9-1, 6 KOs) knocked out Noah Kidd (6-4-2, 5 KOs) in the second round of their welterweight contest. Mielnicki scored a knockdown in the opening frame, causing the crowd at Prudential Center to erupt with cheers for the hometown favorite.

Mielnicki continued to batter Kidd in the second round, forcing Kidd to take a knee. Referee Eric Dali had seen enough at that point and stopped the action at the 2:32 mark of the second round.

“Kidd was fading fast,” said Mielnicki. “That’s why I started to pick up the pressure. He was starting to wilt. I learned in my past performance that when you have someone hurt you have to finish the job.”

Mielnicki was supposed to compete in a rematch against James Martin, but Martin missed weight. Kidd was originally scheduled to fight on the non-televised portion of the undercard, but filled in as Martin’s replacement against Mielnicki.

“There were no issues with the change of opponent,” added Mielnicki. “I trained for a more technical fighter. Kidd was more awkward than Martin. We got the job done in front of my hometown fans, so I’m happy.”

Having noticed the tremendous amount of support at Prudential Center, Mielnicki concluded, “This is my home and these are my people. Whenever we fight in Jersey this is where we’re doing it. I’m looking forward to many more fights here.”

Dirrell stops Brooker

In FS1 action, veteran contender and Olympic bronze medalist Andre Dirrell (28-3, 18 KOs) got a technical knockout win over Christopher Brooker (16-8, 6 KOs) in their light heavyweight bout. Referee Richard Gonzalez stopped the fight at the 2:58 mark of the third stanza.

The FS1 co-main event featured unbeaten heavyweight Norman Neely (9-0, 7 KOs) defeating Juan Torres (6-4-1, 3 KOs) by unanimous decision (60-54, 60-54, 60-52).

The FS1 opener showcased super lightweight contender Karl Dargan (20-1, 10 KOs) knocking out Ivan Delgado (13-4-2, 6 KOs). Referee Harvey Dock called a stop to the action at the 1:09 mark of the third round.

Photo/credit: Frank Micelotta/FOX