Former welterweight world titleholders Devon Alexander and Victor Ortiz have known each other since they were kids boxing as amateurs but never faced each other. Nor did they fight when each was near the top of the sport at the beginning of the decade.
But now, with both Alexander and Ortiz hoping to re-establish themselves, they will fight each other. The fight, an open secret in boxing circles, was made official Monday.
Fellow southpaws Alexander and Ortiz will meet in the scheduled 12-round main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on Feb. 17 (Fox, 8 p.m. ET) at the Don Haskins Center on UTEP campus in El Paso, Texas.
"This is a classic crossroads match in the truest sense. Both Devon Alexander and Victor Ortiz are battle-tested in one of the toughest, deepest divisions in boxing," said promoter Tom Brown of TGB Promotions, which is putting on the card. "Alexander has overcome some serious health issues and is looking to regain the welterweight championship. Ortiz, also a former champion, has always come to fight and doesn't back down from anyone. It promises to be an entertaining match."
Alexander (27-4, 14 KOs), 30, of St. Louis, also a former junior welterweight world titleholder, was out of action for 25 months while he battled an addiction to painkillers. But he returned on Nov. 21 and dominated fringe contender Walter Castillo, whom he knocked and outboxed en route to a 10-round unanimous decision.
"I'm excited to get back in there against a fighter like Victor Ortiz," Alexander said. "We've known each other a long time but never fought in the amateurs, so this should be interesting. My speed, quickness and smarts will win me this fight. Victor checks out sometimes when he can't hit you, so my skills will be the difference. I'm ready for any challenge that's brought my way. When I'm 100 percent, nobody can beat me."
Ortiz (32-6-2, 25 KOs), 30, of Ventura, California, is just 3-4 in his past seven fights, a stretch that began when he lost his world title by fourth-round knockout to Floyd Mayweather in 2011. Ortiz has often had his heart questioned as well, but he returned from a 15-month layoff on July 30 to knock out journeyman Saul Corral.
"I'm ready to give all I have to defeat Devon Alexander and get my crown back," Ortiz said. "My priority is to make a strong comeback and putting myself in a position to have my straps once again. I demonstrated what I was made of and did what I said I was going to do in my last fight.
"I'm facing a great fighter in Devon Alexander and someone I've known since we were kids. I don't hate him, but I will not be his friend on fight night, and he won't be mine. I'm ready to prove everyone wrong starting on Feb. 17."
Three other fights on the card were also made official.
In the co-feature, super middleweight prospect Caleb Plant (16-0, 10 KOs), 25, an Ashland, Tennessee native who recently relocated to live and train in Las Vegas, will fight former world title challenger Rogelio "Porky" Medina (38-8, 32 KOs), 29, of Mexico, in a world title eliminator for the No. 2 position in the rankings of one of the sanctioning bodies. The winner will move a step closer to the 168-pound title held by Caleb Truax.
Also, former junior middleweight world title challenger Tony Harrison (25-2, 20 KOs), 27, of Detroit will face Jorge Cota (27-2, 24 KOs), 30, of Mexico, in an eight- or 10-round bout. Harrison will be looking for his second win in a row since Jarrett Hurd knocked him out in the ninth round of their vacant world title fight 11 months ago.
In another bout on the card, 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas (3-0, 3 KOs), 21, of Santa Maria, California, will face an opponent to be determined in a probable eight-rounder.