NEW YORK — Three years ago Victor Ortiz was on top of the boxing world, a welterweight champion barreling towards a showdown with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather. He was young, good looking with a compelling back story, a true star on the rise.
Today, Ortiz is something else entirely.
Ortiz’s fall began with the Mayweather fight, when he embarrassed himself by launching his head at Mayweather’s like a missile, and compounded that transgression by apologizing one too many times in the middle of the ring, leaving the door open for Mayweather to pot shot him a couple of times and finish a fourth-round knockout.
The slide continued in June, 2012, against Josesito Lopez. With a shot at junior middleweight cash cow Saul Alvarez on the line, Ortiz suffered a broken jaw, forcing him to quit on his stool after the ninth round. Since then, Ortiz has stayed busy outside of the ring — a brief stint on Dancing With The Stars was followed by a role in the upcoming Expendables 3 — but as a boxer, Ortiz has fallen off the map.
Ortiz doesn’t pretend that being lapped by a crowded field didn’t bother him. Quite the opposite, actually.
“It disgusted me to watch boxing, because a lot of these top contenders or top fighters that are there, they’re only there by mistake,” Ortiz said. “I couldn’t bear to watch fighters that I know I can beat time and time again. So I tried to stay away from watching it, and now I’m back and I’m all in.”
Ortiz’s road back begins on Thursday, when he faces journeyman Luis Collazo (34-5) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (Fox Sports 1, 9 ET). Ortiz (29-4-2) refuses to call it a comeback — “Right after I broke my jaw, a few days later I was in the gym, hitting a punching bag with my mouth wired shut,” Ortiz said — but nearly 19 months removed from his last fight, he clearly has some ground to make up. Yet because Ortiz’s promoter, Golden Boy, controls many of the top fighters between 147 and 154 pounds, Ortiz has a chance to climb back into the spotlight quickly.
“I think clearly there is a door open to a world title shot and to other big showdowns, no question about it,” said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer. “And I’m not going to go as far as to say, ‘Well the winner is going to fight Mayweather next,’ because I don’t think that’s really the statement, but I think the statement is that there is strings of big names out there in the welterweight division.”
Though Ortiz insists that he has enjoyed his recent experiences outside the ring, he says he is eager to remind people of what he can do in it.
“The movies and all that stuff, it comes and goes, but at the end of the day the reality of it is I’m a boxer,” Ortiz said. “That’s where I’m at home. That’s where I’m comfortable.”
– By Chris Mannix