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Happy 80th Birthday Carlos Ortiz – Today marks the 80th birthday of Hall of Famer Carlos Ortiz.  Carlos was one of the most travelled champions of modern times, going to nearly a dozen different countries in his career including such places as Italy, the Philippines, Japan, England, Panama, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and others.  He rarely had anyone come to him, preferring to fight in hostile places because the money was better.

Puerto Ricans have a long history of great fighters, one of the highest percentages per capita in the world considering the size of the small island, and they are very proud of Carlos Ortiz, one of their native sons. Let’s take a glance at the lightweight and super lightweight champion’s illustrious career on the occasion of his 80th birthday to shed light on why he is such a legendary champion.

Ortiz first won the super lightweight title, a disputed weight class. At Madison Square Garden, he knocked out Kenny Lane in the second round. It was a rematch as Lane had won a majority decision in their first meeting.

Ortiz would defend the title twice, handing Battling Torres his first loss and then saddling the great Duilio Loi with only his second loss in 108 fights.  A rematch against Loi on enemy turf in Milan, Italy would result in Ortiz losing his title on a highly debated decision.  He would go back to Italy for a rubber match only to lose more convincingly — perhaps adding credibility to Loi’s claim that he only lost the first fight due to injuring his hand in the second round.

In any case, Ortiz went on to achieve his dream when in April of 1962 he got his lightweight title shot against the longtime reigning champion Joe Brown.  He outclassed the aging veteran, winning a clear-cut 15 round decision. This really kicked off the prime of Ortiz’s career.

After achieving what he had initially set out to do by winning the lightweight championship, Ortiz took to the road, accepting challenges in Tokyo,San Juan, Honolulu and London before fighting fellow Hall of Famer Flash Elorde back in the Philippines and stopping him in the thirteenth round.

Ortiz was firing on all cylinders and maintained his status as the lightweight champion of the world for nearly three years before he ran into Panama’s Ismael Laguna in Panama City.  He dropped a majority decision. Having fought only one round the previous year he looked rusty, but perhaps it was more than that as  Ortiz would say in later years he had a bad bout of diarrhea from non-potable water he had drank.

Ortiz’s next bout was a rematch against Laguna in Puerto Rico on a rare occasion when someone came to him.  This fight was a different story than the first, as he was too clever and cagey for Laguna, looking sharp instead of rusty in winning the unanimous decision.  After that he traveled to Argentina where he fought the great Argentine fighter Nicolino Locche to a standstill draw in a chess match of amazing defensive skills.

Following the Locche fight was a title defense win in Pittsburgh against Johnny Bizzarro, the pride of Erie, Pennsylvania.  Then came one of the strangest encounters in ring history. In Mexico City, he put his title on the line against Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos. In that fight referee Billy Conn stopped the bout in the fifth round due to cuts suffered by Ramos, only to have the WBC secretary Ramon Velasquez jump into the ring in an effort to try and force Conn into allowing the fight to continue.  Ortiz was already outside the ring, having exited quickly to escape a shower of coins tossed into the ring, one of which lacerated the forehead of Ortiz’s trainer. When Ortiz refused to get back in the ring, Velasquez overruled Conn, declaring Ramos the winner. Bedlam ensued. (The title was subsequently declared vacant.)

At the time the WBC did not nearly have the power it does now as they had been formed just three years prior to the bout and Ortiz was their first lightweight champion.  The majority or people backed Ortiz and in New York, where Ortiz resided, Puerto Ricans turned out in droves to lodge a protest. Imagine if Marvin Hagler had been ruled the loser against Alan Minter as he ran to the locker room while being pelted by full beer cans? The fifth and final round of the Ortiz vs Ramos bout was ruled the round of the year – perhaps the amazing drama helping to give it a push.

Ortiz would then fight Flash Elorde again. Their match, at Madison Square Garden, played out in a fashion nearly identical to the first meeting. Then came the highly anticipated rematch against Sugar Ramos.  Ortiz won the rematch emphatically, knocking out Ramos in the fourth round to regain the WBC title many say he never lost in the first place.

Another decision victory over Ismael Laguna the following month marked the end of Ortiz’s prime, as he would lose his title to Carlos Teo Cruz in the Dominican Republic after a layoff of eight months. He did enter the ring again but by then was only a shell of his former self.

Happy 80th birthday Carlos Ortiz! One of the best fighters in the world in the 1960s and a real throwback fighter that traveled to different countries around the world to meet his challengers.

 

Picture: Ortiz in 1960, having his hands wrapped by trainer Sammy Cherin.

Happy 80th Birthday Carlos Ortiz / Check out more boxing news and videos at The Boxing Channel.

 

 

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