June 27, 2009 left us questioning Victor's heart, right or wrong, after he admitted he just couldn't take the heat against Maidana. He can answer the question tonight against Berto. (Hogan)
MASHANTUCK PEQUOT RESERVATION – Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. This is a lesson lost on Victor Ortiz.
It is all well and good to surrender under some duress, as he did on June 27, 2009 when he quit against Marcos Maidana. It is not well and good to admit it, as he ostensibly did after the fight.
It is all well and good to move up in weight, as he will do Saturday night when he challenges WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto in the MGM Grand Theatre at Foxwoods. It is not well and good to claim you made the move because every good fighter at 140 pounds was ducking you when, in fact, no one was doing any such thing.
It is all well and good to say you are a different fighter than the one who waved the white flag two years ago. It is not well and good to have not yet proven it in the only place that counts in boxing – inside the ring.
In the days and weeks leading up to Saturday night’s title fight on HBO’s World Championship Boxing, Ortiz has talked like Richard the Lion Hearted yet the questions persist – is that who he is or is he the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz who roars when on safe ground but shrinks when challenged?
Only Ortiz knows the answer but someone with his resume always sounds foolish, to be kind, when talking about how others fear him when they do not, how others are avoiding him when they are not and how he is going to come in and destroy an undefeated champion when he has yet to prove his own mettle.
“I’ve paid my dues,’’ Ortiz said on a recent conference call. “It’s my time! I’m ready for whatever comes my way. Not dodging or putting anyone aside.’’
This from a guy who has fought three shot fighters (Nate Campbell, Antonio Diaz and Vivian Harris), one fighter who never was and light-hitting Lamont Peterson and cannot even claim to have swept that field because he ended up in a draw with Peterson in his last fight when he appeared to lose his resolve in the late rounds.
Ortiz (28-2-2, 22 KO) certainly has the punching power to avoid late rounds with Berto and most anyone else. Even in the case of the fights with Maidana and Peterson, Ortiz dropped them before his own will began to falter. But that’s the point isn’t it? What happens when Berto, a powerful puncher who has no questions about the beating of his heart, cracks him a few times?
Confidence is a wonderful thing and a key element for success in boxing. But self-delusion is not confidence, nor is it helpful.
“When everybody runs from you at 140, you go up to 147,’’ Ortiz claimed. “(Maidana) is running left and right, dodging me. He sees me in his nightmares. When he gets the courage and comes out of the closet, he can meet me at 147.’’
First off, Victor, Marcos Maidana is the one who got off the floor three times and made you quit. You’re the one who got off the floor twice and wanted no more part of him.
Second off, Victor, no one in the 140 pound division ducked you. At least none of the division’s top fighters like Tim Bradley, Devon Alexander, Amir Khan or Zab Judah. Hell, even shopworn Erik Morales would have been more than happy to engage you in hand-to-hand combat had you or your people simply asked. The fact is you didn’t ask any of them because Oscar De La Hoya, your promoter, is no fool when it comes to boxing.
He knew who to avoid and that was, frankly, every top name in the junior welterweight division. That should have included even the mind-numbingly boring Peterson, who while a skilled boxer will never be mistaken for Joe Frazier when it comes to seeking the terms of engagement inside a boxing ring.
Despite dropping him twice early in the fight, Ortiz faltered when Peterson persisted and by the end one judge gave Peterson the nod and the other two called it a draw even though he’d been down twice early. In other words, no one but Victor Ortiz saw him as the winner yet now he’s talking as if those judges did unto him what Wall Street did unto the American taxpayer.
“Total bullsh*t!’’ Ortiz said of the decision that led him somehow to a welterweight title shot. “That’s in the past. You can talk about Peterson all you want. Call him. I thought it was complete bull. I’m focused on fighting the best 147 pounder in the world – Andre Berto.’’
About the only accurate thing Ortiz said there is the Peterson fight is in the past. He’s damn lucky it is but few would dispute the draw unless they thought Peterson won. As for Berto, no one in boxing would call him the best 147 pounder in the world. At least not as long as Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. are still drawing breath.
Ortiz keeps insisting he has power and the fact is he does. He has retired most of his opposition with a hard right jab followed by a thunderous left, a combination Berto will be wary of and watching for all night. If Ortiz lands it a few times he may get the kind of result he’s seeking and no one would be shocked because, frankly, Berto is not the best welterweight in the world although to be fair he hasn’t really had a chance to prove if he is or he isn’t.
Victor Ortiz, on the other hand, has already proven to some extent who he is. He’s a front runner with a bully’s intensity. As long as he’s landing the bombs he’s a very dangerous fighter with power and speed, but if he starts to get hit with incoming fire his own fires seem to dampen, slowly at first and then more rapidly until he acquiesces.
Ortiz is young enough to change that but he can’t do it with his mouth. He can only do it with his hands…and his heart.
Who wins the WBO Middleweight title fight Dec. 19th?