Perhaps it is time for Victor Ortiz to change his nickname from “Vicious Victor’’ to “Tap Out’’ Victor?
For the second time in his career, Ortiz quit in the midst of a fight and for the third time he looked for a way out, the latter being his bizarre hugfest with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. while in the midst of taking a beating that led to him first head butt Mayweather like a billy goat and then eat a rapid fire combination that knocked him out as he tried to plead for forgiveness by repeatedly grasping Mayweather after referee Joe Cortez said, “Let’s go!’’
To be fair, Saturday night was slightly different but he still failed to adhere to the warrior’s code that rules boxing. In what had become a surprisingly close fight, Ortiz found himself getting as good as he was giving against Josesito Lopez, a journeyman junior welterweight who was refusing to be overwhelmed even though Ortiz can crack despite his apparent heart defect.
According to Ortiz early in the ninth round, Lopez “busted my jaw.’’ At the end of the round Ortiz ignored the pleading of his corner and signaled to referee Jack Reiss that he was through.
“Say what?’’ Reiss asked, incredulous. “What’s broken? Are you stopping the fight?’’
Ortiz was at that point struggling to free himself from the grasp of trainer Danny Garcia, who was pleading for him to continue. He then looked at Reiss when he asked if he was stopping the fight and said “Yes.. My jaw’s broken.’’
According to his manager, Roberto Arellano, Ortiz’s jaw was indeed broken in two places and was re-set the next day with a plate screwed into it. Certainly the pain was immense but sadly for Ortiz boxing isn’t called the hurt business for nothing.
Absorption of absurd amounts of pain is a requirement if one is to maximize one’s gifts in prize fighting. It is expected and demanded. This is not UFC, where a man can quit with no penalty. Quit inside a boxing ring once and you are seen as suspect. Do it twice and you become thought of the way Lopez expressed it Saturday night after his hand was raised.
“I’m a man,’’ said Lopez (31-4, 19 KO), who fought much of the night with his left eye half closed and his right swollen. “I’m not intimidated by nothing. He tried to intimidate me but it didn’t work. Victor has no heart!’’
Harsh though that may seem to civilians and absurd as it may sound to many who do not understand boxing’s harsh demands, there is nothing worse that can be said about a fighter than those four words: “Victor has no heart.’’
Fighting with a broken jaw for nine more minutes would have been excruciating. It is far easier to tell someone else what they should do with their pain than it is to face your own. Yet the demands of boxing are clear when you sign on. You do not quit.
That is what separates fighters from the rest of the population. When good sense and every fiber of your body is screaming at you to retreat, they go forward. When it is clear the pain is unbearable, they fight on. It is the warrior’s code, the fighter’s heart. Sadly, Victor Ortiz does not follow the code nor have that heart.
He can punch like a mule and it would be unfair to say he is totally without heart because he is not. He fought bravely against Andre Berto and for much of the fight with Lopez. Both lashed him with big punches and he fought back. The problem for Ortiz is when the opponent not only continues to lash him but appears to get the upper hand and asks him to pay a price for victory he feels is too high.
When that happens, Ortiz folds up and quits as he did against Marcos Maidana in 2009, did in a more curious way against Mayweather and did over his corner’s protest Saturday night. Would fighting on with a broken jaw be common sense? Of course not but is boxing common sense in the first place? No it is not.
Fighting with a broken jaw is far from without precedent. Ken Norton broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw in the second round of their 1973 fight in San Diego. Ali fought on despite increasing swelling and lost a split decision. But one does not have to go that far into history to find an example of the warrior’s approach to a broken jaw.
In 2006, Arthur Abraham, then IBF middleweight champion, had his jaw broken in two places by Edison Miranda in the fifth round. Abraham fought on after initially saying he wanted to stop, won the fight and the next day had 22 screws and two plates riveted into his jaw. He was widely praised for his bravery and ate out of a straw for some time.
Had Ortiz at least tried to go on one would have more respect for his decision but unlike Ali, Abraham and others in boxing’s painful history, he did not. His jaw appeared to come unhinged in the latter moments of the ninth round and he ran for the remaining seconds and understandably so.
But after coming to his corner he not only refused to listen to his trainer but called the referee over and said his jaw was broken and he could not go on. Would not go on is a better way to put it.
After he quit against Maidana in 2009 after being knocked down and pummeled, Ortiz told a national TV audience, “I’m going to stop while I’m ahead, and that way, I can speak well when I’m older. We’ll see what happens from here on out, man. I’m young, but I don’t think I deserve to be getting beaten up like this. So I have a lot of thinking to do.”
His conclusion was to return to boxing and he did well enough. He won a welterweight title, got up off the floor to beat Berto and provided fans with some sizzling action because his defense is as bad as his offense is good. But he fouled blatantly against Mayweather once he got frustrated and his first night back after a nine month layoff he blatantly fouled Lopez several times as well, rabbit punching him behind the head. Admittedly Lopez at times was dipping low but as Reiss told Ortiz twice that didn’t give him the right to drill him in the back of the neck, a particularly vulnerable area for a boxer.
Ortiz did it more than once and he did it more than twice, truth be told. Reiss threatened to penalize him but did not. Soon Lopez would, cracking his jaw with a sweeping hook that landed with Ortiz’s mouth open. That, too, was fitting because frankly he talks too much and fights too little.
But now he has a lot more thinking to do because, frankly, a boxing ring is not the place for him. Victor Ortiz can punch like a mule and he can be vicious at times but long before he fought Mayweather James Toney, a boxer who is as old school as Ortiz is New Age, predicted Ortiz would quit again. James Toney was right.
When faced with the harshest side of the business he himself chose, Victor Ortiz at least twice has chosen the one act that is unacceptable.
He tapped out. Now maybe he is too.