Feature Story

Canelo who? Ortiz focused on Lopez

By Francisco Salazar
Photo: Gene Blevins – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy

The bright lights of Las Vegas. A significant payday. Headlining a pay per view card. These are all aspiring goals that most fighters aim to achieve one day throughout their boxing career. Or it is something that they wish occurs often, as it signifies their elite status in boxing. A small percentage of fighters are lucky to be able to achieve these goals. Not to mention having the right promotional company or management team behind these fighters is crucial as well.

Welterweight contender Victor Ortiz has experienced all that within his eight-year professional boxing career. He would love to get back to that proverbial mountaintop of the boxing world. He has the opportunity to do that as he is penciled to face Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 15th in a pay per view bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. That is all good, but Ortiz will need to defeat (or least score a draw) against Josesito Lopez this coming Saturday at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA before being able to punch that ticket to Las Vegas.

The 12 round bout between Ortiz and Lopez will headline a card presented by Golden Boy Promotions, in association with Goossen Tutor and Thompson Boxing Promotions. It will follow the scheduled 12 round junior welterweight bout between Humberto Soto and Lucas Matthysse. Both fights will be televised on Showtime.

The last time Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs) fought under the bright lights of Las Vegas, had a significant payday, and headlined a pay per view card was in his last fight on September 17th. Most know or saw what transpired that evening that resulted in the fourth round knockout Ortiz suffered at the hands of unbeaten Floyd Mayweather.

It has left a bad taste in Ortiz’s mouth since that fateful evening, one he would eventually like to vindicate.

“It’s to be continued with Mayweather,” said Ortiz. “It’s not a justified loss to me.”

And while Ortiz eyes a possible return fight with Ortiz and the fight in less than three months from now against Alvarez, he does have a motivated and eager opponent in front of him in Lopez.

Hailing from the Inland Empire city of Riverside, Lopez also last fought on September 17th in Las Vegas, losing a close 10 round split decision to Jessie Vargas.

Lopez (29-4, 17 KOs) and his promotional team have been vocal recently over how Ortiz finalized a deal with Alvarez while the Ortiz-Lopez fight had yet to happen. Lopez and his team consider makings of Ortiz-Alvarez disrespectful to Lopez.

Ortiz scoffed at the notion at an open workout on Wednesday afternoon.

“To be honest, I don’t care what anyone thinks,” said the 25 year old fighter from Ventura, CA. “Right now, I’m like ‘Canelo who?’ I’m focused on Lopez for Saturday night. I will focus on Canelo after Saturday night.”

While Ortiz has not see Lopez fight in person, he has seen plenty of film on the fighter who will turn 28 next month. Ortiz does give Lopez his due and praises him on his merits in the ring.

“He’s a good fighter. A decent fighter. He definitely has an enjoyable style to watch and puts everything out there.”

It does look like Ortiz, who is promoted by Golden Boy and managed by Rolando Arellano, is giving Lopez his full attention considering there is a lot at stake in Saturday’s bout. There was a lot at stake in the well-publicized meeting between Ortiz and hard-hitting Argentine Marcos Maidana almost three years ago, also at STAPLES Center.

Ortiz dropped Maidana three times during their bout before not wanting to continue in the sixth round after being hurt in the previous round. Ortiz showed a great deal of maturity and was able to psychologically move on from the Maidana fight.

He would go unbeaten in his next six fights, including his 12 round unanimous decision victory over Andre Berto last April. Ortiz was scheduled to face Berto in February in Las Vegas before Berto suffered an injury to his left bicep. The fight between Ortiz and Berto fell through last month when Berto was allegedly tested positive for a banned substance.

The lessons Ortiz learned in those fights may be the reason why he is not getting ahead of himself and is focusing only on Lopez.

“Psychologically, I learned to accept my defeat with Maidana. He beat me and I congratulated him for being the better man that night. I wanted the rematch and I offered him one a few months later. He didn’t take it so I moved on. It is what it is, but I still have a lot to prove.”

Ortiz has managed to keep stay positive despite all the postponements and different opponents within the last six months.

“It’s been a roller coaster for me. I feel like I’m at Six Flags or something.”

He has managed to stay busy by running in marathons and mud runs. Last month, he ran in the Los Angeles Marathon, where he ran the course in three hours and 20 minutes (3:20).

Still, this roller coaster could get bumpy as he has a worthy fighter in Lopez in front of him. Lopez is no slouch and will be at his best in an attempt to beat Ortiz.

Ortiz welcomes the challenge and is eager to prove that he is an elite fighter who should be fighting the likes of Mayweather and facing fighters like Alvarez on big stages.

“Good for him (Lopez) that he’s motivated for this fight.”

Yes, the big paydays there and the bright lights of Las Vegas await Ortiz. A September date with Alvarez. A possible rematch with Mayweather.

No one said climbing to the top is easy, but then again, no one said that returning to the top is easier. Ortiz could prove that theory correct on Saturday night.

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