By Robbie Bannatyne: If there is one boxer whose real life fighting career most closely mirrors the fantasy of Slyvester Stallone’s classic Rocky series it is Victor Ortiz.
Despite being on 27 years old, Ortiz’s short life and career is colourful enough to have come straight from the creative mind of a Hollywood script writer.
However, fantasy and reality have overlapped as both Ortiz and Sly Stallone have become close after the former featured in the latest Expendables film at the behest of the Hollywood legend.
Ortiz was forced to turn his attention to new professions after back to back defeats left his career as a prizefighter dangling precariously close to the edge. In the famous third installment of the classic boxing films, Rocky’s trainer Mickey, lamented that he became ‘too civilised,’ before going on to say that ‘you ain’t been hungry since you wore that belt’. That scene in the fictional series seemed particularly relevant to the reality of Ortiz’s career. The angry young man that made his name as ‘Vicious Victor’ seemed to cede his killer instinct when he lost his WBC welterweight title to Floyd Mayweather Jnr in 2011.
In his bouts after the Mayweather setback, Ortiz looked like a fighter who had lost his fight. It seemed that the tools that took him to the top had been blunted to the point where he was an almost ambivalent presence in the ring. His conviction gave way to compassion; his defiant glare was replaced with a doe-eyed stare. Firstly, he quit after suffering a broken jaw against Joesito Lopez, and then came the catastrophic 2nd round knockout to Luis Callazo.
With those defeats many thought Ortiz’s career was resigned to the dustbin of history. Rather than get back on the horse, he went back to the drawing board and decided to diversify the Ortiz brand. Now he is back where belongs and Ortiz is intent on taking care of the ‘unfinished business’ in his boxing career.
His hiatus from the sport has helped the Ortiz brand to transcend boxing. He has permeated the public consciousness in the US thanks to his appearances on Dancing with the Stars and Expendables 3. Unfortunately his army of new followers will be futile when enters the ring once again on the 13th December, against a yet to be determined opponent.
Victor Ortiz has made the brave decision to return to battle and he badly needs a confidence boosting victory in his comeback bout on the undercard of the Amir Khan vs Devon Alexander fight. If he completes the formalities of his comeback fight then he may only actually be one or two credible wins away from a world title shot. At best, some would say this belief is blindly optimistic. At worst, downright fanciful- however, you just never know in boxing.
Yet the burning questions is; does he really have the heart and desire left to re-establish himself as a force in the fight game? Certainly on the surface, his decision to return to the ring doesn’t seem motivated by money- Ortiz is a millionaire many times over. Instead, he stated that he has grown frustrated by the success of boxers who he feels he is ‘a lot better than’.
While he may be correct in his assertion, the caveat in the context of Victor Ortiz is that it isn’t so much his physical capabilities that are questioned as much as his psychological capacity. It is his mentality rather than his talent that is the major concern. Unfortunately no amount of sparring or hours spent in the gym can fix his supposedly fragile psyche.
Instead, Ortiz will have to be thrown in the kitchen to see if he can still cook with the top contenders in the welterweight divisions. As a fan that likes a high octane fighting style, and loves a rag to riches narrative, I hope Ortiz can redeem himself to win a major title.
If Ortiz can rise from the ashes and resurrect his boxing career then it may just provide the plot for another impromptu Rocky movie.
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