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Feature Story

Ortiz returns tonight

By Francisco Salazar

On the night that Victor Ortiz lost to hard-hitting Marcos Maidana, fight fans and boxing insiders claimed that Ortiz was not the same fighter as they had seen in previous fights. Gone was the aggressive, action fighter with the killer instinct to put fighters away, like he had done against Jeffrey Resto and Mike Arnaoutis. Instead, in the ring on that warm June night at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles was a fighter who was not sure where he was after getting knocked down twice in that 12 round bout.

With the sixth round stoppage defeat, Ortiz lost an opportunity to win not only a world title, but to solidify his standing as the next big boxing attraction. Now, he hopes for vindication as he yearns for another opportunity.

Ortiz begins his climb back up the 140-pound division when he faces hard-hitting contender Antonio Diaz in a 10 round bout tomorrow night at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, IL. The bout will precede the anticipated 12 round rematch between Juan Diaz and Paul Malignaggi, which will be televised on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark.”

The bout is part of a 10-bout card, presented by Golden Boy Promotions, DiBella Entertainment, and 8 Count Productions.

June 27th was supposed to be a coming out party for Ortiz. He was headlining a major boxing card in a large venue and was fighting about 65 miles from his hometown of Oxnard, CA.

However, Maidana ruined the party and became a world titleholder at Ortiz’ expense. There were criticisms and negative comments about Ortiz and questions on where his heart was in the sport.

Now, Ortiz (24-2-1, 19 KO’s) is facing former contender Antonio Diaz, who held a minor title belt about 10 years ago. Although the defeat to Maidana left Ortiz with a bad taste in his mouth, he is focused 100% on Diaz.

“I’m not going to judge Diaz on what he’s done in his last couple of fights,” said Ortiz, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. “I know that he is a tough fighter. I know that he is a former champ. I’m expecting a hard fight from him and I’m not taking him lightly.”

Diaz (46-5-1, 29 KO’s) has won his last seven bouts in a row, spread out over five years.

Ortiz has had a few setbacks in the ring since turning pro in June of 2004. A year after making his professional debut, Ortiz fought for the first time in Oxnard in front of a hometown crowd. Fighting veteran Corey Alarcon, Ortiz dominated the fight in the first round, even knocking him down.

When both fighters were clenched together, Ortiz heard the referee say break. After both fighters stepped back, Ortiz threw a punch that grazed Alarcon head. Alarcon went down, claiming he was fouled because Ortiz hit on the break.

With Alarcon down, the referee ruled that Alarcon was knocked down with an illegal punch thus awarding a disqualification victory for Alarcon.

It was not so much that Ortiz lost in front of former teachers, classmates, and friends. IT was the matter in how he lost that fight that got to Ortiz.

“To be honest, the disqualification loss and draw (Marvin Cordova) hurt me more mentally,” acknowledged Ortiz, who graduated from Pacifica High School and hopes to enroll at nearby Ventura College for the spring semester. “When I got dropped in the Maidana fight, I have no recollection whatsoever of that fight. In fact, it’s made easier to forget.”

Ortiz stated that he broke his wrist three days before the Maidana bout in training. He took multiple cortisone shots in the hours leading up to the fight, where he felt hindered his performance on that night.

“I honestly do not believe I was there mentally for that fight,” said Ortiz, stating he had surgery on his right wrist about a week after the fight. “It was a great learning experience of my life.”

Ortiz heard what seemed like countless criticisms of his performances and unwillingness to continue after being knocked down a second time in the fight.

Although the media reports in newspapers and various boxing websites did bring him down temporarily, Ortiz had the support of close acquaintances who believed in him and his talented abilities in the ring.

“I took the criticisms a bit hard. That’s just part of the fight game. I just said to myself that is all in the past. I’m not worried about that anymore. Oscar (De La Hoya) and Shane (Mosley) just told me that if I’m in it 100%, that they will be with me 100%.

Ortiz even received praise from an unlikely source in boxing.

“Floyd Mayweather told me to not worry about what people say. People will always have their two cents to put in. He told me that he knows that I will be a world champion. That meant a lot coming from Floyd.”

Although Ortiz will face a tough challenge against Diaz, speculation has been made if Ortiz wants a rematch against Maidana. Entering the sixth round, Ortiz was up on all of the judges’ scorecards.

Just last month, Maidana knocked out William Gonzalez in the third round in his first title defense and does not have a confirmed date or opponent for his next fight.

Although Ortiz is focused on Diaz, a rematch against Maidana is something he has thought about could happen in 2010.

“I’m always asked that and although I’m focused on Diaz, I just want people to tell me where and when. I will fight for free to face him. I know that I fought with a cortisone shot, but is he willing to face me that I’m 100%?

Although Ortiz, an admitted car enthusiast who likes to work on his own truck, has been fighting for a number of years, he is still only 22 years old. With 27 fights already as a pro, Ortiz has seen and learned a lot from his experiences in the ring.

“I do feel older than my age. I’ve learned to learn more from my mistakes. Sometimes I look back at fights when I didn’t capitalize on fighter’s mistakes in the ring. Now, I’ve learned more to take advantage of these opportunities. I know that I’m a dangerous fighter, but I’m a smarter fighter now.”

As Ortiz embarks on a new chapter in his career, he feels that he is a better and much wiser fighter. Given the opportunity, he will make the most of it and earn another big money bout down the line.

There is no question that fight fans will see the aggressive boxer-puncher in Ortiz on Saturday night and many more fights down the line.

Although Ortiz has faced greater challenges outside of the ring with his personal life, he can draw from those experiences as well to continue being a strong person and fighter.

Getting to and winning and a title shot will be his vindication that he hopes is just around the corner.

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