By: Eric Lunger
Premier Boxing Champions have recently announced that Victor “Vicious” Ortiz, former WBC welterweight world champion, will continue his comeback in a twelve-round bout against Devon Alexander, set for February 17 in El Paso, Texas. Alexander (27-4, 14 KOs) is also a former world champion, having held the IBF belt in 2013 before losing it to Shawn Porter.
Ortiz (32-6-2, 25 KOs) has always struck me as an enigmatic fighter: a man who both revels in and fears the violence unleashed by his boxing skills. Ortiz came to boxing from a rough childhood, a thing not unique in this sport by any means, but Ortiz’s journey was especially marked by hardship and adversity. Nonetheless, he found boxing, and Roberto Garcia found him, and Ortiz climbed to the heights of the sport, eventually taking on Marcos Maidana for the interim WBA junior welterweight title in June of 2009.
In that wild and memorable bout, both fighters were on the canvas multiple times, but Ortiz, having suffered a cut in the fifth and knocked down in the sixth, lost by TKO when the ring-side physician would not allow him to continue. Some felt Ortiz had quit in the fight, and Ortiz took a lot of criticism in the media for the way the fight ended. But the fight, in my view, was really over at the end of the fifth, when Ortiz took two thunderous shots from Maidana and was, essentially, out on his stool.
In 2011, Ortiz defended his WBC strap against Floyd Mayweather. After failing to land any effective shots on the elusive Mayweather, Ortiz bizarrely, but with savage intent, head-butted his opponent in the fourth round. Bewildered and baffled by what he had done, Ortiz kept trying to apologize and make amends. As he did so, he apparently did not see the referee’s gesture to continue boxing, and Mayweather unceremoniously knocked him out.
Ortiz’s ambivalent approach to this brutal sport was on display again in the second Berto fight in April of 2016. Ortiz looked good early, and scored a punishing knock down in the second round. But if you watch the fight closely, Ortiz kept trying to touch gloves at the end of the rounds, as if to assure Berto that his animosity was not personal. It’s as though “Vicious” Victor wants to mollify his boxing with a touch of kindness.
Ortiz presents an odd combination: a boxer with elite hand speed, coordination, and power, and yet he also possesses a temperament that seems to both embrace and abhor the violence inherent in the sport. Maybe boxing is a simple sport pursued by complicated people.
I’ve always enjoyed watching Victor Ortiz. His style is entertaining and, at times, elegant in its fluidity and logic. A man who had to grow up while still a child, a man whom life has kicked around pretty hard, and a man who found stunning success and bitter failure in boxing, this man is returning to the ring on February 17th. I don’t buy notions of redemption in sport. Redemption is bigger than athletics, and we will never really understand what demons Victor Ortiz had to face down outside the ring. Walk a mile in another man’s shoes before you understand him – it’s a good rule to try to live by. Which Victor Ortiz will we see on February 17? The consummate southpaw with punching power in both hands, or the reluctant combatant? Or maybe both.