One fight can change everything. Perhaps no man in boxing understands that more than Victor Ortiz, a man who has seen the one fight swing take his career to unforeseen lows and now shocking highs.
After being brought along as a sort of "next Oscar De La Hoya" and even being promoted by Oscar, a long future at the top of the fight game seemed assured for the Mexican-American power puncher. Victor got his career off to a 24-1-1 start, the lone blemishes on his record being a disqualification loss and a technical draw due to an accidental headbutt in a fight Ortiz was clearly winning.
Then came Marcos Maidana. Ortiz met Maidana in a thrilling fight that saw Ortiz score a knockdown in the first, Marcos got up, knocked Victor down in that same round before getting knocked down twice more by Ortiz in the second. Maidana would not back down, and he stormed back, cutting up Ortiz and knocking him down in the sixth round. Ortiz, facing an opponent who would not back down for the first time in his career told the referee he could not continue.
The first time in his career that Victor was met with a stiff challenge, he seemed to look for a way out. Worse yet, after the fight, Ortiz seemed to be looking for a way out of the sport entirely.
Scott Christ of Bad Left Hook summed up the way most of the boxing media viewed the fight at the time:
But his post-fight comments are troubling. Some are already wondering whether or not Ortiz will ever step into a ring again, and they're perfectly right to do so. The 22-year old slugger from Oxnard was outgtunned by a nasty opponent, but he quit. And not only did he quit, but after the fight, he remarked, "I'm young, but I don't think I deserve to be getting beat up like this. I got a lot of thinking to do."
There are a LOT of fighters that came up through the ranks very fast, were deemed the next big thing, and then met the brick wall. For Ortiz, it might well be Maidana, the heavy-handed slugger that wouldn't accept a loss despite three knockdowns. After he'd beaten Ortiz up fairly badly, he made him quit. In Maidana, there was no quit. In Ortiz, there seemed to be nothing but.
I do not mean to disrespect Victor Ortiz, but his post-fight comments invited this sort of criticism. Does he love boxing? Is he willing to take the lumps? Is he mentally capable of being the fighter that Golden Boy Promotions want him to be?
The fighter who seemed a sure fire star had violated sacred boxing law. He quit in the ring and seemed to be ready to quit on the sport.
Following the loss Victor had a string of uninspiring performances against also-rans and middle of the road fighters, culminating in a draw against Lamont Peterson, somewhat ironically on the undercard of Maidana's biggest fight to date against Amir Khan.
Ortiz appeared to have been reduced to second tier status and was booked in a fight against Andre Berto in which many fans felt Ortiz was simply playing the "opponent" role.
The Berto fight was Victor's first step up to welterweight and he looked better than he had in years, taking his power up a weight class and looking to have better endurance. Ortiz and Berto went toe-to-toe in a thrilling affair and Victor took the unanimous decision in a 2011 fight of the year contender. But more important than the win, was the fact that Ortiz survived multiple knockdowns and didn't show an ounce of quit. In fact, after being knocked down in the sixth round, with Berto pouring on punches, Ortiz unloaded with a counter that toppled Andre to the floor.
Just like that, with a single impressive showing, Victor was viewed as a potential superstar. And it didn't take long for the opportunity of a lifetime to come along as he will get the chance on Saturday, September 17 to face Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (41-0).
But is Ortiz actually a threat to Floyd, or is he simply a hot name picked to tick Floyd's win counter one number higher?
It has been over a year since we've seen Floyd in a boxing ring and a for a fighter whose success is so heavily predicated on speed and timing being out of the ring for a year at thirty-four years old, rust is a bit of a cause for concern.
Then there's Floyd's recent resume. Since 2007 Mayweather has fought:
- 34 year old Oscar De La Hoya. Oscar had gone 2-2 in his previous 4 fights and would go 1-1 in his final two after the Floyd fight. His wins were a disputed decision over Felix Sturm, a TKO of Ricardo Mayorga and a decision over Steve Forbes. Floyd won this fight by narrow split decision.
- A natural light welterweight in Ricky Hatton. A legitimate fight, but Hatton isn't the big, strong welterweight that Ortiz is.
- A great fighter in Juan Manuel Marquez. But Marquez is a lightweight who moved up for the fight, and Mayweather chose to weigh-in at 146 instead of the 144 pound catchweight, paying a monetary penalty to out-size JMM by even more than was expected.
- An old Shane Mosley. Mosley was a legitimate welterweight but was thought by many to be well past his prime despite an impressive showing against Antonio Margarito.
So it's not as if Floyd has been keeping very active, or facing men like Ortiz. Men who are in their prime athletic years while being big, strong, legitimate weterweights. And Ortiz's southpaw stance could also be a factor given that in a career which has seen very few "close" moments, some of his most "troubled" in-ring moments were against southpaws Zab Judah and DeMarcus Corley.
Finally, the much slower and offensively limited Mosley was able to badly hurt Floyd in their 2010 clash, an indication that Ortiz should have moments where he can manufacture the kind of offense that can affect Floyd.
It seems fair to say that Victor Ortiz, once written off by many as a failed prospect, may well represent the biggest test Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has faced in years. And we may be treated to a passing of the torch on Saturday night. Or, maybe we've read too much into a single fight once again, and Ortiz is still more hype than reality.