By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I dig Victor Ortiz.
There… I said it.
Unlike many colleagues in the new world of “I’ve gotta find someone to rip” sports journalism – and contrary to those who navigate the comment rolls from the cozy confines of mom’s rent-controlled basement – I think he’s a tough-as-nails kid with as much heart as any other title-level fighter.
And probably equal, if not more, sense.
When it comes to his TKO loss to Marcos Maidana a few years back, purists and trolls of all stripes were left aghast as they peered through Gatti-tinted glasses and saw nothing short of a primetime, premium cable act of cowardice on the part of a TV-manufactured pretty boy.
“He’s finished,” they spat in unison, recoiling at the concept of surrender before brain bleed, and extolling the virtues of marble-mouthed heroes who’d sooner lose in a stupor than quit un-concussed.
The tough-guy crowd relaxed its stance a bit when Ortiz jumped up a weight class, got off the mat twice and jostled muscle-bound Andre Berto from the ranks of the unbeaten in one of 2011’s best scraps, and it co-opted him as a poster boy for fair play when Floyd Mayweather Jr. cold-cocked him on PPV.
All, it seemed, was right with the world once more.
Until he fought Josesito Lopez, and went and acted human again.
By choosing to sit on the corner stool and take an asterisked L instead of taking shots for nine more minutes on a broken jaw in a fight he was clearly winning, it seems Victor passed the point of no return with the same cadre of knuckle-draggers that had uneasily welcomed him back.
Out came the all-caps manifestos from the Fathead-laden apartments, labeling Ortiz as a sissy boy who’d never belonged in their good graces in the first place. And it didn’t help when one of the signature so-called “Fight Freaks” spoke out of every side of his mouth when reporting the event.
“It's not the first time Ortiz has waived the white flag. His reputation as a quitter began in 2009,” ESPN’s Dan Rafael wrote, five lines before reversing course and referring to the “warrior’s heart” that very same quitter displayed in the win over Berto – a fight he, too, lauded as among 2011’s best.
Rafael nimbly veered back to a tired Ali broken jaw reference in the subsequent paragraph – not mentioning when guys named Duran and Arguello took exits with less injury than Ortiz sustained – then swerved yet again by condescendingly conceding Victor’s injury “was legit” and pointing out he’d been “spitting streams of blood” in the ring and “could barely talk” in a subsequent post-fight get-together.
When the mandate is page views, it seems, it pays to play to every possible audience.
And, naturally, given that a recognized and respected media guy couldn’t even make up his mind on Ortiz in the course of four paragraphs, it’s hardly a shock that the lemmings who can’t reason without cue cards would have a problem developing a moderately literate viewpoint on him, too.
So when he returns to the ring against Luis Collazo this Thursday night on Fox Sports 1 (9 p.m. ET), all bets are off on whom they’ll seek to form their opinions for them.
Gentlemen, start your waffling.
Collazo, now 32, may not be the same guy who gave Berto his own fits when they met in 2009 – the slick Puerto Rican is 5-1 against nondescript opposition since that disputed loss – but he’s a pretty fair nut to crack for a guy who’s spent as much time on a dance floor as in a ring for the last two years.
Still, considering where Ortiz’s star power could bring him with a win, success here is mandatory.
He was on the short list of future Mayweather opponents provided by Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza during last summer’s run-up to the five-division champion’s downing of Saul Alvarez, with the logic that the distracted fourth-round KO shot didn’t provide a conclusive enough victory in 2012.
Given an impressive comeback against a recognized foe, the enhanced popularity he gained during a six-week stint with Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke and the competitive zeal he showed in 11 minutes, 59 seconds against “Money” – he’s as realistic an option as anyone else not named Manny or Tim.
“I’m 26 years old. I’m not going anywhere any time soon,” Ortiz said. “So at this point in time it’s just a continuation of my career. I never left. I never retired. I never did any of that. I was just taking a break healing, so now I’m back.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO/WBA middleweight title – Monte Carlo, Monaco
Gennady Golovkin (IBO/WBA champion) vs. Osumanu Adama (No. 3 IBO/No. 12 WBA contender) Golovkin (28-0, 25 KO): Seventh IBO title defense (fifth WBA); Fifteen straight wins by stoppage
Adama (22-3, 16 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Fourteenth fight against above-.500 foe (10-3)
Fitzbitz says: “News flash: If the most impressive Ws on your recent resume are a split over a 42-year-old Grady Brewer and a stop of 38-year-old Roman Karmazin, you’re not beating GGG.” Golovkin in 3
Vacant IBO junior flyweight title – Monte Carlo, Monaco
Nkosinathi Joyi (No. 2 contender) vs. Rey Loreto (No. 30 contender)
Joyi (24-2, 17 KO): Tenth title fight (6-2, 1 NC); Held IBO (2006-08) and IBF (2010-12) titles at 105
Loreto (17-13, 9 KO): First title fight; Won nine of 11 fights since mid-2011, after starting career 8-11
Fitzbitz says: “It wasn’t all that long ago that Joyi was considered a top commodity at 105 pounds, and it’s hard to envision a guy with 13 career losses keeping him from the belted class at 108.” Joyi in 8
Last week’s picks: 4-0
2014 picks record: 5-0 (100 percent)
Overall picks record: 553-194 (74.0 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.