By Chris Robinson
The spotlight will again be on Victor Ortiz tonight as the former welterweight champion sets foot inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles to meet up with the capable Josesito Lopez. Ortiz has stamped himself as one of the more intriguing characters inside of the ropes and you simply never know how a fight with him is going to play out.
There is an added subplot to the Lopez fight, however, as a September 15th date with WBC junior middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez will await Ortiz if he is successful. A red-freckled Mexican superstar, Alvarez is one of the hottest names in the sport and a match between him and Ortiz would be can’t-miss television.
Wanting to explore the past, present, and future of Ortiz a little bit more, I caught up with longtime HBO analyst Larry Merchant yet again, as he has had the privilege of covering Victor's most memorable ring theatrics.
In his own words, this is what Larry had to share about his early impressions of Ortiz, his shocking upset loss to Marcos Maidana three years ago, his slugfest with Andre Berto, his super fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., and what a fight with Alvarez would mean.
Seeing early star potential in Victor Ortiz…
“Well, he had a great backstory and he looked like a serious prospect, also with a crowd-pleasing style. A Mexican-American kid who had the look at the feel that he might become a star. He had star potential, if he could actually perform. And he’s performed, in that he’s been in some very dramatic fights. Maidana fight, the Berto fight, and the Mayweather fight. He’s a drama king and here he’s got a chance to capitalize again, if he can win, and fight Canelo. He keeps creating good opportunities for himself.”
Rushed into a fight with Marcos Maidana?
“My sense of the matter was that, at that time, he may have been rushed because of the star potential he had. He seemed to be rushed into a scenario that he wasn’t quite ready for. But it was exciting as hell, maybe the fight of the year. And when you have a five-knockdown fight in six rounds, people tend to want to see both guys no matter what happens. And he got other opportunities and he seized the opportunity.”
Ortiz’s December 2010 split-draw with Lamont Peterson…
“I thought he won the fight. He was sort of recalibrating himself a little bit. Trying to be, after the Maidana, fight in which he got pulled into a war that wasn’t to his best interest as a fighter; he never used his skills, so coming out of that, he started to try to use his skills more. And he had opportunities to do that on a big stage. The Peterson fight, it was a good fight. Peterson fought well. Ortiz knocked him down and they both got a benefit out of it. It led to the Berto fight and he took advantage of that.”
Not selling Ortiz short heading into the Andre Berto fight…
“I think the general public, because of the Maidana fight, because Berto was undefeated, Berto was a big favorite, but I thought he had a chance going in. Even though he was moving up in weight, he looked like a natural welterweight. And to my recollection, he had had some weight problems before and the night of the fight he weighed in over 160. The weight wasn’t an issue against him. And he fought like he thought he was the stronger guy.”
Thoughts on Ortiz’s September loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr….
“That he couldn’t handle that moment with Mayweather. That Mayweather’ style frustrated him and discombobulated him and Mayweather, fair or foul, right or wrong, legal or illegal, made him pay for it.”
Anticipating a fight with Saul Alvarez…
“He’ll be a veteran in that fight, in terms of age. What is he now, 25, 26? And I think that Canelo will be 22 when that fight happens. It’s a shot. He’ll make money. It’s professional prizefighting and his personality and his style and his dramatics have catapulted him into some serious paydays. So, good for him. A Canelo fight, people would anticipate it.”