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Armchair Critics of Victor Ortiz Confuse Sport with Real Life

By Ivan G. Goldman

Critics proudly proclaimed that if Victor Ortiz were a real fighter he wouldn’t let a silly little broken jaw stand in his way. Not surprising. In my experience many people sitting at keyboards are almost supernaturally courageous, which is why they think it’s no big deal to be pounded over and over on a broken jaw by a determined pro like Josesito Lopez.

Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime

When Ken Norton cracked Muhammed Ali’s jaw in the first of their three contests Ali finished the fight anyway, and it added to his already considerable reputation. But later he admitted that if he knew it was broken he’d have quit. And Ali is one of the bravest fighters who ever lived.

Stevie Forbes, who visited Ortiz in the hospital, said Victor told him it was broken in round four. “I don’t know if any of you have had anything broke,” Forbes wrote on Facebook, “but to keep getting hit on it is a whole different level of pain.” Especially when it’s hanging open on a hinge.

When fans or anyone else think athletes must compete to the point of death or permanent disability, they’re confusing the manufactured drama of the entertainment world with actual life. It’s related to the way we suspend disbelief when we read a story or see it portrayed by actors. People who still think it’s real even after they’ve been reminded of the truth are similar to demented soap opera fans who send advice to fictional characters.

I recall once reading an article in one of the weekly news magazines that called John Wayne a genuine American “hero.” The writer failed to notice that unlike 16 million Americans who actually served in World War II, Wayne took a deferment, that when he appeared in all those war epics he wasn’t really wearing a uniform. It was a costume. With makeup. And after throwing those Hollywood grenades at the phony enemy he was often served a catered meal in his star quarters. But I digress.

The Showtime camera showed Ortiz whispering something in the ear of trainer Danny Garcia after round seven. Garcia whispered something back and added in audible Spanish, “You must fight on.” So Garcia, who learned his trade in the gym of his old-school father, Eduardo Garcia, wasn’t having any of it. Daddy Garcia sent Fernando Vargas back out there again and again against Felix Trinidad despite multiple knockdowns, including one from a vicious, intentional low blow. Vargas was suffering from a clear disruption in his motor skills, and thanks to Eduardo and bewildered referee Jay Nady, he would never again be the same fighter.

The late Ferdie Pacheco of Showtime was astounded that Gerald McClellan took a knee and ultimately quit after absorbing what must have been fifty clean sledgehammer shots from Nigel Benn in their 1995 showdown. Pacheco, who actually held a medical degree, failed to notice that McClellan was very clearly suffering a disconnect between his body and his brain from all those punches. He remains crippled to this day, blind, in a wheelchair, and addled. At the end of the broadcast Pacheco, to his credit, changed his mind and said it looked like McClellan was badly hurt, but some of these people never get it. Enough about them.

In a recent column I mistakenly predicted Telefutura’s card featuring junior feathers Rico Ramos against Efrain Esquivias was likely to be more exciting than the Showtime card. As it turned out, of course, Showtime gave us a great double-header that kicked off with Lucas Matthyse stopping Humberto Soto after five action-packed rounds. Ramos-Esquivias was a good fight, but Esquivias, despite throwing harder shots, couldn’t hurt determined Ramos, who was much busier and won a majority eight-round decision.

The Showtime telecast was crammed with drama, starting with the wonderful tribute to the late Johnny Tapia. Another compelling ingredient was the unseen presence of Antonio Tarver, unceremoniously dumped from the on-camera crew after testing positive for steroids after his draw with Lateef Kayode. As usual after such a lab finding, the culprit said it must be some mistake and he doesn’t know how it happened. Could they be catching these lab results off toilet seats?

Last-minute replacement Lopez, who can never seem to catch a break, deserves all the acclaim he’s getting for making his own luck. And to those who say this is the end of Ortiz, I say he remains one of the most exciting fighters out there.

Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE

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