One of the most difficult things to accomplish in any sport, let alone in boxing, is championship status. For many athletes it essentially represents the mountain top.
Getting to the top of that aforementioned mountain is difficult in itself but staying there, is a more arduous task.
For former Welterweight champion Victor Ortiz he’s been through the entire cycle. From prospect to contender, to champion to contender once again.
It’s almost hard to believe that Ortiz (32-6-3, 25 KOs) is only 32 years old. That’s still a relatively young age in boxing terms but its feels as though he’s been around forever.
In an interview with Boxing Insider radio, which airs every Tuesday and is available on iTunes, Spotify and Boxinginsider.com, Ortiz caught up with the panel to discuss several parts of his career including his infamous matchup with Floyd Mayweather, his absolute war with Andre Berto back in 2011, his views on the current state of the Welterweight division and where he sees himself fit in amongst this current group.
Even if you don’t like Victor Ortiz on a personal level, the relentless attitude he’s shown during his career is something to be admired. When Ortiz kicked off his career back in 2004, he looked like your typical star prospect. Seven fights resulted in seven wins, with five of those coming via stoppage. He had a bit of a slip in his 8th professional bout. A disqualification loss. But if you actually seen the contest, you would understand that it wasn’t through the fault of Ortiz. So that so called loss was swept under the rug.
Nine more fights resulted in nine more wins for Ortiz, but then another blimp on the radar appeared. During the first round of a matchup with Marvin Cordova Jr in 2007. During the bout, Ortiz was the recipient of a nasty elbow to the head in the first round. The blow opened up a gash big enough to fit two full sized quarters into it. Needless to say, the contest was stopped.
After eight more wins, with all coming by knockout, Ortiz was clearly on his way to making a name for himself. Yet, after a stoppage loss to Marcos Maidana he quickly coupled it with a majority draw with Lamont Peterson.
The jury was out on Ortiz. He was a solid fighter, but nothing special. So when he was called upon to take on then champion Andre Berto for the WBC Welterweight title, he wasn’t expected to do much of anything.
“I remember when I got down there and I seen all of the stats they had, and how badly I was going to get destroyed. They were pretty much giving me no chance,” continued Ortiz. “I was walking through the arena and I met some guy who was one of the promoters, I forgot his name but he was with a young woman and he told her, hey babe let me introduce you to the tomato can that we hired to get knocked out.”
As you might expect, Ortiz didn’t take those words too well.
“ I told him, hey you done f*cked up a beautiful career. I’ll see you tomorrow, then boom a few hours later, I became a world champion.”
The doubts coming from everyone we’re justifiable. The record of Berto was spotless and his performances were outstanding. Ortiz on the other hand, already had several losses and draws plastered all across his resume. None of it mattered.
With professional athletes, their motivation usually comes from the same source, the doubt of everyone else in their skills. Ortiz had plenty of doubt going into that contest but his motivation didn’t simply come from his doubters, but it also came from everything that was going on in his personal life.
“I had two jobs that year. I was working for Red Bull as a merchandiser and I was working for construction. On top of that I was going to college. I asked my college classes if they could give me the week off because I was going to go fight in Connecticut but they pretty much said do you know what the statistics are of you going out there and actually performing something that big, but I told them that I just need the time. They told me that I couldn’t miss the midterms but I told them hey I can pass them if you let me take them today or even when I come back I’ll take them but they wouldn’t let me so I had to drop out of college.”
“From there, I went to my job at Red Bull and they were saying that they couldn’t give me a week off but go handle your business and when you come back lets see if your still around. When I went to my construction job they said Vic, just come back with that damn belt or don’t come back at all.”
Ortiz did in fact come back with that damn belt but ask yourself this question, would you really go back to your job after you’ve become a world champion? The misconception in boxing is that, once you have become a world champion, the money comes in droves.
“That morning after the fight, I actually went straight to work. I only made $25,000 for the fight so it’s not like I made a ton of money.”
The money may not have been there but with such a huge victory under his belt, you would think that the fame and notoriety would be coming his way. Nope. Ortiz went back to his normal 9-5 and lived a very modest life. Of course, at times boxing fans would notice the newly minted world champion and take pictures with him but there was one story in particular that sticks out to Ortiz more than others.
“So there was this guy that I was stacking up this refrigerator of Red Bull for. And he says I look like this kid that just fought this past weekend so I tell him really? So I asked him what was the guys name and he says mines and I say no way that’s me!” Said Ortiz while laughing. “He was saying that the guy was on tv and had a tattoo on his back so I showed him the tattoo on my back and he was just like what are you doing working for Red Bull? I told him hey you gotta make a living bro.”
Ortiz may not have gotten the payday that he was looking for after his fight with Berto, but he did get the opportunity of a lifetime in his next fight when he took on Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to share a stage with someone like Floyd Mayweather. I personally think that we have unfinished but that’s just my opinion.”
That unfinished business that Ortiz is alluding to is when Mayweather left Ortiz staring up at the ceiling lights courtesy of a right hand in the fourth round. It was a bit of a cheap shot from Mayweather but something Ortiz warranted due to his constant headbutts throughout the match.
“I was young, 23 years old and I went into the fight with one of the biggest fighters in the world so I believe that not only did I have stage fright but also the fact that I was trying to perform with the elites.”
The lights may have been a bit too bright for Ortiz but the roughhouse tactics of Mayweather was what drove him over the edge.
“He kept hitting me with elbows. I took about 15 of them before I told the ref, elbows! But he kept hitting me with them. The last one that he hit me with felt like I was going to go blind or something so I launched a headbutt. But I only did that because my corner told me hey hit him with a headbutt an I’m sure he won’t do it again. Next thing you know the ref stops the action and I have my hands down and I get hit with a few punches and down I go.”
After his loss to Mayweather, Ortiz would go on to lose his next two contest to Josesito Lopez and Luis Collazo, both by stoppage. He’d get back on track by winning back to back fights since then but would come up woefully short in a rematch with the same man who helped make a star in the first place, Andre Berto.
If beating Berto in their first encounter back in 2011 represented reaching the mountain top of the Welterweight division, then losing to him five years later represented the bottom of it.
Over the last few years Ortiz has been inactive and its shown in his results in the ring. He’s fought just once time in 2017 and 2018. Scoring a knockout win against Saul Corral and a majority draw against former champion Devon Alexander.
With the time spent outside of the ring, the Welterweight division no longer resembles the one that he grew up competing in. Champions such as Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford are now considered the elite of the weight class.
There aren’t many observers who view Ortiz as a huge threat in the division anymore. Inactivity to go along with inconsistent performances have left his case for a top spot extremely tenuous. But the former champion just doesn’t see it that way.
“I’ll be honest man, I’m one of the most dangerous guys out there. Why? Because I have nothing to lose. I have losses, draws and a lot of knockouts. I have all of the experience in the world and I’m left handed. At this point in time, the real question is, who would really take that fight against me? I believe I’m still in the top 5 in the division or at least in the top 10.”
Juxtaposing Ortiz to any other current Welterweight champion or top tier contender would seem to leave him at a disadvantage. Simply put, he just doesn’t compare to his peers at the moment.
With that being said however, did anyone expect him to beat Andre Berto back in 2011? No, from the moment that contest was announced, there was apprehension from everyone as to what was going to take place. Ortiz beat the odds before and placed himself amongst the elite of the division. At only 32 years of age, he still has time to jump start his career. But with nearly two years away from the sport of boxing, time isn’t exactly on his side.
“For me personally, I would have been back in the ring long ago but I’m dealing with some personal stuff so I’m just trying to work through it. I’m with Freddie Roach now and we’re just working hard and staying ready. The moment my issues are behind me my life will go back to normal.”
For now, Ortiz plays the role of a spectator as he watches some of the world’s greatest fighters from a distance.
“I’m still a fan. I always enjoy watching Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence, Terence Crawford and some of Canelo every once in awhile.”
The sidelines that Ortiz currently sits on has certainly become arduous to do so. If Ortiz can simply get his personal issues in order, he could be well on his way to another title run.
Unlikely? Maybe. But so was his first championship run to begin with.