By Lem Satterfield
NEW YORK -- It was back in June of 2009 that a young southpaw named Victor ortiz of Oxnard, Calif., was being touted by Golden Boy Promotions as perhaps the next Oscar De La Hoya.
Armed with good looks and the nickname, "Vicious," Ortiz rode an 18-0-1 unbeaten streak with 14 knockouts that included eight straight stoppages into his clash with hard-punching Argentine, Marcos Rene Maidana.
The only setback on Ortiz's record of 24-1-1 had been a June, 2005, disqualification loss to Corey Alarcon, a fighter who entered their matchup with a record of 11-9.
Alarcon had been dropped for the second time in their bout when Ortiz was ruled to have punched him illegally, resulting in his being disqualified.
Ortiz's lack of poise surfaced yet again opposite Maidana, who was down once in the first, and, twice in the second, but who also floored Ortiz once each in the first and last rounds of a classic that ended with Ortiz losing by sixth-round knockout.
Although Ortiz rose from the knockdown, he essentially quit fighting against Maidana, a loss whose ending prompted questions about Ortiz's psyche that have haunted him for years.
"Two years ago, the loss to Maidana just killed me. It shattered everything that I stood for," said Ortiz. "Everything that I had worked hard for went down the drain that night and I paid for it."
In April, the 24-year-old Ortiz once again showed the bravery of a champion, rising from two knockdowns and scoring two of his own during a unanimous decision that dethroned previously unbeaten WBC welterweight king Andre Berto (27-1, 21KOs) in Ortiz's 147-pound debut.
The win improved Ortiz unbeaten streak to 5-0-1, with three knockouts and attracted the attention of 34-year-old six-time champion Floyd Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs), who has elected to emerge from a long layoff to challenge Ortiz on Sept. 17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Mayweather and Ortiz were on hand during a Tuesday press conference in New York promoting their bout, which is being dubbed, "Star Power."
"Victor Ortiz is a young, hungry champion that bounced back from a brutal loss. Honestly, I picked Victor Ortiz for that reason," said Mayweather, who will return to the ring for the first time since winning a unanimous decision over former world champion Shane Mosley in May of 2010.
"I'm going to bring the pressure just like I did in the Shane Mosley fight," said Mayweather. "I plan on being aggressive and giving the people what they want. Hopefully, we can meet in the middle of the ring."
The rebuilding of Ortiz was a work in progress, starting with a December, 2009 seventh-round knockout of Antonio Diaz, whom Ortiz dropped in the third round.
That was followed by an ambitious, four-fight schedule of 2010, starting with February's 10th-round stoppage of Hector Alatorre that was followed by a May of 2010 unanimous decision over 37-year-old former world champion Nate Campbell.
It appeared that the beast had been re-awakened in Ortiz with September's sensational, third-round knockout of former WBA champion Vivian Harris, who had openly questioned Ortiz's courage as a result of his effort against Maidana.
But doubts surfaced, yet again, two months later following Ortiz's 10-round, majority draw with Lamont Peterson, this, after having dropped his rival twice in the third round.
At that point, it had appeared that Ortiz was on his way toward another win, only to allow Peterson to rise, beat separate counts of referee Vic Drakulich and to generally out-box Ortiz for the remainder of the fight.
But Ortiz has vowed not to allow himself to lose his grip against Mayweather.
"I don’t have anything to lose. I’ve always wanted to go down in history as an all-time great," said Ortiz. "I have that opportunity. I’m not going to let that opportunity slip through my hands."