In eight years as a professional, Victor Ortiz has had some, shall we say, questionable moments. He quit against Marcos Maidana in 2009 and humiliated himself with a leaping head butt in a loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2011. Now this: On Saturday night, Ortiz stopped his fight against Josesito Lopez after the ninth round, complaining of a broken jaw.
In fairness, getting hit on a busted jaw is probably excruciatingly painful and Lopez, a tough, rugged 140-pounder who moved up in weight and took this fight on short notice after Andre Berto dropped out, was hitting Ortiz on the chin all night. The Showtime commentators suggested Ortiz broke his jaw in the ninth round, but earlier in the fight cameras showed Ortiz pulling cornerman Danny Garcia close in between rounds and whispering something the microphones could not pick up, which is often a sign that there is something physically wrong with the fighter that he doesn’t want repeated on the broadcast.
I don’t think I would be willing to go out and take sledgehammer shots on my jaw after breaking it. But I’m not looking at a multimillion dollar payday and a high-profile title shot against Saul Alvarez if I won, either.
That’s what Ortiz lost when he chose not to continue. Granted, the broken jaw would have prevented Ortiz from being ready to face Alvarez in September anyway. But the fight would have been made at some point, and if Ortiz had prevailed despite the injury -- he was leading on all three judges cards at the time of the stoppage -- chances are it would be even bigger.
Instead, Ortiz will once again be faced with questions about whether he has the heart to be an elite fighter. Yes, a broken jaw is painful. But Muhammad Ali broke his jaw during a fight with Ken Norton and fought the rest of the way. Vitali Klitschko’s face was split open by Lennox Lewis and he fought until the ringside doctors told him he could not. All great fighters face adversity; it’s how they overcome it that makes them great.
Ortiz will be back. He’s young and popular and his career will continue. But it seems unlikely he will ever live up to his enormous early potential. Ortiz has tremendous power but he doesn’t box very well and he comes to the ring looking more like a body builder than a boxer, which at times appears to hinder his movement. The fact that he had so much trouble with Lopez, a good but certainly not great fighter, suggests some changes need to be made.
As for Alvarez, well, he might as well put an ad out for an opponent on Craigslist. Fights with Paul Williams and James Kirkland have already been scrapped, and now Ortiz is out of the mix. There are options for him out there -- Gabriel Rosado, Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout are probably at the top of the list -- but they won’t generate anywhere near the buzz. And with HBO set to broadcast Julio Cesar Chavez-Sergio Martinez on Sept. 15th, the fight will likely force Alvarez’s date to be moved or taken off pay per view.
Lopez is not a realistic candidate for Alvarez -- that’s just way too big of a weight to make -- but he now has some serious options as well. There will likely be a rematch with Ortiz, and Lopez now joins a crowded group of exciting fighters between 140 and 147 pounds that should make for many action-packed matchups in the future.
-- Chris Mannix