by David P. Greisman
If our greatest heroes are those whose surplus of heart makes up for their deficiencies in talent, then it makes sense that our greatest villains shouldn’t be their opponents, but rather those whose surplus of talent can’t make up for their deficiencies in heart.
It would make sense, then, to celebrate the failings of Victor Ortiz.
It would make sense to look at his latest loss, to watch a fighter decide he no longer wanted to fight, to see him quit on his stool, to know that he had given up both on this fight and the fight that would have followed — a return to a pay-per-view main event, a shot at redemption and a guaranteed payday.
Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Victor Ortiz.
It would make sense that he would falter again, to be his own worst enemy in an enterprise where the man standing across from him should be enemy enough.
His first loss, in 2005 against Corey Alarcon, came in a fight he was clearly winning before the opening round was over, only for him to hit Alarcon illegally on a break and lose by disqualification.
His second loss, in 2009 against Marcos Maidana, came in a fight in which he had put his opponent down three times in the first two rounds, but also went down twice himself — once in the opening round and once in the sixth. He quit, then, too, rising from the canvas but refusing to go on.
“I was hurt,” Ortiz said after that fight. He was trying to explain himself but was only able to dig himself deeper. “I’m not going out on my back. I’m not going to lay down for nobody. I’m going to stop while I’m ahead. That way I can speak well when I’m older. May the best man win, and tonight he was the best man.
“I’m young, but I don’t deserve to be getting beat up like this,” Ortiz had said. “I have a lot of thinking to do.”
He’d take even more of a beating because of those comments, assailed for not having a fighter’s mentality, for not being tough enough to fight on when a fight got tough.
He’d succumbed under physical pressure against Maidana. He’d succeed under mental pressure two years later against Andre Berto.
With his career on the line, Ortiz found himself in another firefight, trading knockdowns with Berto, each man being sent to the canvas twice. Yet this time Ortiz would rise to the occasion, earning the victory and repairing his reputation.
Five months later, it was again in tatters.
The Berto win had placed Ortiz on the biggest pay-per-view of the year against the best boxer in the world — Floyd Mayweather Jr. From the early rounds, he would dig the top of his head into Mayweather’s face. And in the fourth round, as Mayweather began to pull away, Ortiz followed his own flurry with a leaping head butt to Mayweather’s mouth.
In a memorable moment afterward, Ortiz apologized to Mayweather with a kiss on the cheek, then soon apologized to Mayweather again with a tap of the gloves, and finally followed up later with one more attempted apology, approaching Mayweather for an embrace, then backing away with his hands down. Mayweather landed a flush left hook and a finishing right hand, sending Ortiz down for the count.
Ortiz smiled at the situation. We seethed.
He was physically skilled but mentally flawed, too prone to fouling when adversity brought anxiety, too tolerable of defeat when a fight got too difficult.
It would make sense, then, that it would happen again against Josesito Lopez.
Ortiz hadn’t fought since the Mayweather loss, but circumstance had landed him another chance at a pay-per-view main event, this one this fall against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. That opportunity had presented itself when other fights had been canceled; Ortiz was supposed to have fought a rematch with Berto this past Saturday, and Alvarez was to have fought Paul Williams this coming September.
Yet Berto tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, and Williams was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. That ultimately led to Ortiz being named Alvarez’s next opponent.
But he’d already signed for this fight with Lopez. He simply needed to win and not get hurt.
Nothing is simple when it comes to Victor Ortiz.
Lopez, thrown in to be the fall guy, wasn’t an easy out, fighting up to his level of opposition and proving to be a stiffer challenge than Ortiz’s promoter must have expected.
Ortiz went to war, as he’d done with Maidana and as he’d done with Berto. It’d prove to be his undoing.
He was winning the fight on the official scorecards, though he might not have known that. The bout had been a give-and-take battle, and so it seemed a smart strategy when Ortiz began to box in the ninth. Lopez tagged him a few times toward the round’s close, though, and Ortiz began to retreat.
The round ended — and suddenly the fight did, too.
“My jaw is broken,” he told the referee.
Some seethed. Perhaps, they felt, his will had been broken as well.
It would make sense that he would falter again. Ortiz had fouled Lopez in the fifth round, hitting his ducking foe with a blatant shot to the back of his head. Now he’d quit, finding a way out of the fight, as had happened before.
Some began to exalt Lopez for the way he won while excoriating Ortiz for the way he lost. That made sense. If our greatest heroes are those whose surplus of heart makes up for their deficiencies in talent, then our greatest villains are those whose surplus of talent can’t make up for their deficiencies in heart.
Yet for all the criticism deserved when a fighter won’t fight through adversity, that standard shouldn’t be the same when it comes to battling through injury.
Not everybody is Arturo Gatti fighting Micky Ward with a broken hand, Muhammad Ali fighting Ken Norton with a broken jaw, Timothy Bradley going the distance on injured feet or even Eddie Chambers battling 12 heavyweight rounds with one good arm. The injuries, the pain and the rush of adrenaline all differ, and how fighters cope with those consequences all depends.
Not everybody is Diego Corrales spewing blood from his mouth and begging the ringside physician for one more round. It’s an unfair standard, and one that’s only applied depending on the fighter. No one questions Israel Vazquez’s fighter mentality anymore, even though he quit with a broken nose in his first battle with Rafael Marquez. Sometimes it’s the right choice.
Ortiz’s mouth was as agape as those who watched the stunning conclusion to his fight. He dropped his head and spat out blood. He’d be in a hospital the next day, undergoing surgery.
There will be those who say his reputation needs to be repaired again, too. While it’s true that he’ll need to rebuild once more, he need not be reviled even more. There were already reasons to criticize Ortiz, to root against him and celebrate his failings. This loss to Lopez shouldn’t be another reason. Some fighters will be warriors. Some fighters will be quitters. And some will be both.
The 10 Count
1. In praise of Josesito Lopez:
It was just supposed to be a tune-up, a keep-busy fight for Victor Ortiz. He was initially supposed to have fought a rematch against Andre Berto this past weekend, but Berto tested positive for nandrolone, and Lopez was substituted in. Ortiz then was selected to face Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 15, headlining that pay-per-view, but with one fight to come before then. The Lopez fight.
It was just supposed to be a tune-up, a keep-busy fight for Victor Ortiz.
But it was the biggest fight of Josesito Lopez’s career.
For all of the talk about Ortiz unraveling whenever a fight gets tough, this fight was made tough because of Lopez, who came in intent on proving that he wasn’t just an opponent, but veritable opposition.
“I had to fight the fight of my life to win,” Lopez told Showtime’s Jim Gray afterward.
“And you did,” Gray responded.
Lopez, like Ortiz, hadn’t fought since the Ortiz-Mayweather pay-per-view last September. Lopez had lost a disputed split decision to Jessie Vargas that night. He’d been resigned to returning to the lower levels of televised boxing and had signed to face Kendall Holt on “Friday Night Fights” the night before the Ortiz-Berto rematch.
Holt pulled out of that fight. Ortiz needed an opponent. Lopez was given the opportunity — and he seized it.
2. Just how good was the fight between Victor Ortiz and Josesito Lopez? Just how shocking was the ending?
So good, and so shocking, that it made us forget the very good fight that preceded it on the Showtime broadcast in which Lucas Matthysse and Humberto Soto went to battle for five rounds.
3. And those fights were so good that little thought was given to the absence of Showtime commentator Antonio Tarver, who tested positive for the steroid drostanolone in the pre-fight drug test conducted before his June 2 draw with Lateef Kayode, according to BoxingScene’s own Ryan Maquinana.
Tarver, on his Twitter account, called the test result a “false positive” and said he’d tell the California State Athletic Commission everything he’d taken “prior to June 2 that could [have] caused this honest mistake.”
We’ve heard so many explanations and excuses from so many athletes that we now have good reason to presume guilt and force them to prove their innocence.
We do this because of a complete loss of trust in the sporting world in which so many have been caught dirty and so many more are thought to be dirty that have gone uncaught. This is a sporting world in which we’d be hard-pressed to find any competition that doesn’t have someone seeking an illegal edge or an unfair advantage.
This is a changing world. Other sports eventually bettered their drug testing, though only enough to appease some critics and not enough to actually solve the problem and catch all offenders. Drug testing in most athletic leagues is still a cat-and-mouse game and an IQ test, with systems that leave far too many loopholes to exploit.
Boxing needs more stringent testing. We might never know the full scope of the problem — even the Mitchell Report in baseball only gave a limited glance — but we should be combating the problem nonetheless. Some boxers are using illegal substances. Some are being caught. Others have found ways to get around the current testing. It’s time for the cats to catch up with the mice.
4. It used to be that Shane Mosley was our best example of this, having only been caught up in the steroids scandal when BALCO was raided. That was nearly a decade ago.
Now we can point to a lesser-known fighter named Larry Olubamiwo, a British heavyweight who has been banned for four years for using “Anastrozole, Boldenone, Erythropoietin (EPO), Exemestane, Fluoxymesterone, Human Growth Hormone (hGH), Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, Letrozole, Methandienone, Metribolone (Methyltrienolone), Oxymetholone, Tamoxifen, Testosterone [and] Trenbolone,” according to the U.K. Anti-Doping website.
Olubamiwo admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs between 2006 and this year (he turned pro in 2008), but he wasn’t caught until 13 fights into his career, when he tested positive for EPO after his January 2012 loss to Sam Sexton.
Olubamiwo, 33, must return all of his medals, titles and prize money — £46,000, per the anti-doping panel’s order — before being allowed to fight again in four years.
Tarver, meanwhile, earned $1 million for the Kayode fight and was fined just $2,500 after this positive test.
5. Gary Russell Jr. is an American former Olympian and a standout featherweight prospect.
Erislandy Lara is a Cuban former amateur world champion and a standout junior-middleweight contender.
And yet their opponents are so forgettable that the highlight of the name-recognition-rich Showtime tripleheader they’re on this coming Saturday is a rematch between Cornelius Bundrage and Cory Spinks.
6. Don’t expect Victor Ortiz’s loss to mean that Showtime and Golden Boy will just give up on putting on a Canelo Alvarez fight on Sept. 15.
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer confirmed as much, according to various reports.
“We are looking at three possible names,” Schaefer was quoted as saying by BoxingScene’s own Luis Sandoval. “Obviously it wouldn’t be prudent for me to name those names right now because I’d like to negotiate with them first.”
One of those opponents might save Canelo’s next bout being aired on pay-per-view, Schaefer said. Otherwise, the bout could be on Showtime or on CBS, he said.
Alvarez has been groomed for a spot as pay-per-view headliner on the traditional two major fight weekends — Cinco de Mayo weekend and Mexican Independence Day weekend. Alvarez fought underneath a pair of Mayweather pay-per-views in May 2010 and May 2012, and he’s also fought on Mexican Independence Day Weekend for three straight Septembers, including the Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora pay-per-view in 2010 and the Mayweather-Ortiz pay-per-view last year.
There’s too much at stake for the stakeholders to give up just yet, despite the latest setback in finding an opponent for Alvarez, and despite the proposed competing card in Las Vegas that same day this September featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez.
7. How much money does Golden Boy throw at James Kirkland now to try to bring him back in the fold for the Alvarez fight? Or Miguel Cotto? Are Carlos Molina and Gabriel Rosado options now that a “regular” Showtime broadcast is an option?
My colleague, Cliff Rold, posed the question so many of us have asked, though more eloquently:
“Have they made Canelo-[Erislandy] Lara yet?” he wrote. “Just slide in the Cuban they are also promoting. They do promote Lara, right?”
They do, though “promote” might not be the best term to describe what Golden Boy is doing — or seemingly not doing — with Lara.
Sadly, Cliff, we’re not going to see Alvarez-Lara. It won’t sell on pay-per-view, and Lara’s not valuable enough to Golden Boy to potentially sacrifice Alvarez to him on a non-pay-per-view broadcast.
8. It might just be time for Floyd Mayweather’s team to make another emergency motion for an early release from jail…
9. Boxers Behaving Badly update: Roy Jones Jr. must’ve forgot…
…that the man who was supposed to be his next opponent this coming Saturday had a serious criminal case hanging over his head.
Dawid Kostecki, a 30-year-old light heavyweight from Poland, has been sentenced to two and a half years behind bars for running three “escort agencies,” according to thenews.pl.
Two years ago, Kostecki was arrested and accused of forming and leading a criminal group and receiving money from prostitution and drug dealing, allegedly getting money “from three brothels run by his mother and sister between 2003 and 2007, and trading amphetamine,” according to a report at the time from the Polish Press Agency.
Drug possession charges were later dropped, according to BoxingScene’s own Alexey Sukachev.
Kostecki is 39-1 with 25 knockouts.
10. If only Kostecki had fought out of Nevada instead, much of this would’ve been legal…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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