In the summer of 2009, Victor Ortiz stood on the cusp of greatness.
He had squashed his previous five opponents, with no fight going past the fifth round. Golden Boy Promotions was getting him maximum exposure through their deal with HBO.
He seemed to possess all the tools of a great fighter, especially a killer instinct. When his opponents were hurt, he knew how to close the show. He was at the top of the list as one of the next generations’ possible superstars.
Then he met Marcos Maidana, the heavy-fisted Argentinean pressure fighter, and those dreams of world domination went up in smoke.
Everything went according to plan in an early exchange in the first round, when Victor’s attack caused Maidana to touch a glove and suffer a knockdown.
Maidana got to his feet and moments later, out of nowhere, landed a huge shot to Victor’s jaw, sending him down. Victor was wobbled and dazed. He fought back, survived the round and dropped Maidana twice in the second, hurting him badly.
He was seemingly on the verge of a stoppage, only to see Maidana saved by the bell.
Maidana came back unfazed. By the fifth round, the Argi was letting his fists fly, and landing huge shots to Victor’s cranium. He opened a gash over an eye and the other eye was rapidly swelling.
In the sixth, Maidana’s power and persistence was too much; Victor crumbled, taking a knee.
He got up and the referee signaled to continue, but Victor appeared to wave him off or beckon for the doctor.
The ringside physician examined him and with Victor’s encouragement, the fight was stopped.
In his post-fight interview with Max Kellerman, he basically admitted to not wanting to take anymore punishment and said that it wasn’t worth it—he was young and he had to think about his family and his future.
This, of course, led to a legion of critics (especially those who already had less than positive opinions about HBO and Golden Boy) to pounce all over the kid.
He doesn’t have heart. He’s a quitter. I thought this was really unfair at the time, and still do.
You could not possibly have been dissatisfied with Ortiz/Maidana as a boxing fan. It had brutal exchanges, multiple knockdowns, huge momentum swings and in the end, a controversial post-fight interview to top it off.
It was boxing entertainment at its best. Neither participant need apologize for their role.
By the sixth round, Ortiz was getting beaten up. He was hurt. He wasn’t defending well and Maidana was getting inside and doing whatever he wanted.
Yeah, it would have been unbelievably awesome to see Victor rally back, face gushing blood and pound Maidana into oblivion in a superhuman spectacle.
Simply put, at that time, he didn’t have it in him and he knew that.
He lost the fight because he couldn’t put away Maidana when he had him hurt in the second (there was about a 20 second window before the bell), and he didn’t tighten up his defense after putting Maidana down three times in the first two rounds.
Give Maidana credit—he was relentless as always and eventually broke Victor down in the fifth and sixth rounds.
But a more seasoned fighter, a la Amir Khan, would’ve followed a more likely winning formula: Hurt Maidana early, put rounds in the bank, then run for your life.
Victor went in for a brawl, got his face bashed up and then we all rip his throat out because he didn’t want to continue.
Here’s Max Kellerman from the broadcast: “We just saw a moment in a fighter’s career that could define his career. Ortiz was dropped, cut, exhausted, faced with an opponent who refused to lose, and in a moment of weakness, gave up.”
I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and compare this to a chess player acknowledging defeat well before the final moves have been played out. In his mind, he didn’t think he could win the fight and rather than take more punishment, he opted to walk away.
The huge backlash came from his comments afterward. I give the kid credit for being honest and not giving some stock answer. It was an amazing scene, to hear Victor Ortiz basically acknowledge that he was physically capable, but mentally unwilling to go forward, because (as is human instinct!) he didn’t want to get hit anymore.
I only found this more compelling evidence as to the character of Ortiz.
It makes me root for him harder to prove everyone wrong and come back strong in the biggest fight of his life on April 16 against Andre Berto.