By Francisco Salazar
It was April 16 of 2011 and Victor Ortiz was on top of the boxing world.
He had just defeated Andre Berto in a knockdown-filled brawl that ended up being that year's consensus 'Fight of the Year.'
Ortiz was celebrated as one of big Mexican-American stars in the sport and seemed to do no wrong.
Then came three consecutive losses, all of them by knockout within a two and a half year span. Those three losses to Floyd Mayweather, Josesito Lopez, and Luis Collazo never coming came close to equaling the success Ortiz had while he was being trained by Robert and Danny Garcia, at separate times.
Then came network television and movie roles. Both paid well and it kept Ortiz in the spotlight, only this time it was makeup that was applied on his face and not vaseline in between rounds of a fight.
While he was rubbing shoulders with Sylvester Stallone and Jake Gyllenhaal, the sweet science was too much to avoid.
A victory over Andre Berto this Saturday at the Stubhub Center in Carson, Calif. could be the fight that puts Ortiz back in the title hunt. Or it could give his detractors more fuel to critique him and call on him to quit his 'part-time' profession.
The 12 round welterweight bout will air live on FOX, beginning at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT.
There is no love-lost between Ortiz and Berto. During that five-year span, both ended up fighting Floyd Mayweather, signed with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), and have been the butt of jokes from those on social media for their actions outside the ring.
Ortiz (31-5-2, 24 KOs) has heard it all, yet doesn't let all the negative talk bother him. Then again, why would it? He has made millions in the ring, on the silver screen, and has made money pitching products, including the infamous FaceLube brand.
Lost in it all was his boxing career. When would Ortiz take his career seriously when it may seem the best days are behind him?
Not so fast, said the 29-year-old.
"I want to be a world champion again,'' Ortiz told BoxingScene.com after a training session at Knuckleheadz Gym in Ventura, Calif., where he currently resides. "And Andre Berto is standing in my way of that goal."
That may sound cliche, but there is a greater reward in defeating Berto.
There is a strong dislike towards one another, where it boiled over at the recent press conference to announce the fight. During the customary face-off, both trash-talked each other before shoving one another.
While a win would be satisfying, knocking Berto out would be the best for Ortiz.
"It's personal now," said Ortiz, who is now being trained by Joseph 'Hoss' Janik. "I never had a problem with him until now. This fight isn't going the distance. All I know is I'm going to knock him out."
It has been a while since Ortiz has been this focused on an opponent. The usually-jovial Ortiz can be seen with a smile on his face, but it has been all business during training camp for the Mexican-American.
The about-face of Ortiz leading up to the Berto fight may be the best thing for him, especially if he wants to continue fighting at the top level.
But he has to win. Ortiz reportedly turned down a few movie roles prior to accepting the Berto fight, which seem as though the acting career is on hold for now. Some may still not take Ortiz seriously, but that does not faze Ortiz.
"Not to sound rude, but I could care less what people have to say about me. I've lived my life with no regrets."
"Now I have the opportunity to fight on a big stage on April 30. I'm hungrier now than what I've been when I seas younger. I made the mistake of coming back too soon after the jaw injury (against Josesito Lopez), but I feel good as new."
Ortiz is not fighting for respect from anyone. If anything, he is fighting to find peace within himself. The success he found outside the ring was nowhere in comparison to what he has accomplished in the ring.
Ortiz believes he is capable to repeat that success leading up to the Berto fight.
"I will be a world champion again. Watch."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing