In defense of Victor Ortiz and other LA musings
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (June 30, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)
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Victor Ortiz (R) - Josesito lopez (L)
By John J. Raspanti - Enough of the criticism of Victor Ortiz. The man’s jaw was broken in two places. As Ortiz was hustled out of the ring last Saturday night at The Staples Center in Los Angeles, he passed this writer. His jaw was slack. The blood was dripping down the side of his face from the open wound inside of his mouth. His face showed devastation, not relief.

When Ortiz quit three years ago against Marcus Maidana the criticism was warranted. He had floored Maidana three times and was ahead on all the judges’ scorecards. Ortiz committed a cardinal sin when he quit. There was no way to defend his actions. It was obvious that night that mentally Ortiz lacked the grit of the great fighters. He was universally tarred and feathered. I don't recall anyone defending him.

Some have said his head butting of Floyd Mayweather in 2011 was another way of quitting. Ortiz was looking for an exit strategy, they say, so ramming his head into Mayweather’s mouth was a way to get him disqualified.

Nope, that theory doesn’t pass the common sense test. Ortiz was being soundly out boxed by Mayweather. The first three rounds went to “Money.” But, “Vicious Victor” wasn’t getting beaten up like he was against Maidana. Before his attempted make-out session with Mayweather, the fourth round had been his strongest.

No, what Ortiz was guilty of, in both the Mayweather and Maidana bouts,was plain old stupidity. He reminds me of a talented teenager who can’t control his impulses. His over exuberant hugging and kissing of Mayweather before being steamrolled was silly. Mayweather was already annoyed at the blatant head butt - the continuous pecking further irritated him. Mayweather didn’t confuse the moment with a guest appearance on Dancing with the Stars. So, before Ortiz could say “I love you man” Mayweather knocked him on his rear.
 
Last Saturday night was a different story. Ortiz was winning the fight. He was in there with a guy who was more determined than a bee seeking honey. Josesito Lopez felt like Rodney Dangerfield. He was looking for respect. He found it in Victor Ortiz. For twenty seven minutes the two fighters wailed away at each other. When Ortiz boxed he controlled the rounds. When he didn’t the purposeful Lopez ripped him with hooks and uppercuts. Ortiz landed many hellacious blows of his own, but Lopez kept coming. At the end of nine rounds Ortiz was winning, but “Rocky” Lopez rallied.

Ortiz signaled to the referee that he had enough. The booing from the Staples Center crowd grew in unison. Had he done something stupid again? Sadly in boxing, yes. As much as proponents rave about how tough MMA fighters are, they can tap-out regularly during a fight. There’s no screaming from the masses. No booing from the crowd. Boxing is whole different story. You can’t quit even if you think you might die.

Fair? No. The way it is? Yes.
 
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer defended his fighter in an article written by USA Today columnist Bob Velin. “A lot of people felt that, 'Oh, there he goes again, the quitter,' but that is not a fair assessment," Schaefer said Monday. “People who saw that fight know Ortiz is one of the most entertaining fighters in the world. He comes to fight. It was a terrific fight; it was back and forth, and Victor was ahead on the scorecards. But with the broken jaw — and it was bleeding — there's no way he could continue.”

"All these macho guys who say, 'Oh, you need to be willing to die in the ring,' I mean, who the hell are those people?" Schaefer said. "They're idiots. It's a sport, these are human beings, it's entertainment. Those people that say that, they've never taken a punch, what do they know?"

I asked trainer and former fighter John Scully for his opinion regarding the criticism of Ortiz.

"Id like to see someone willingly face a hard punching foe with a broken jaw, said Scully.

"The high majority of fighters criticizing him would have done the same thing. Do they even stop to imagine what getting punched in a BROKEN jaw would be like?"

"I am not one to advocate quitting in the ring, don't get me wrong. I believe you must fight through pain, injuries, fatigue discomfort. I myself fought an entire fight from the first to the last with a torn rotator cuff and I never thought about quitting. I did what I had to do to get through the fight. But expecting someone to take hard blows to a broken jaw is asking more than 99.9 percent of the earth's population would be prepared to give."
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Los Angeles is filled with boxing history if one knows where to look. Just two blocks from the Staples Center stands the old Main Street Gym where Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali all trained. The Rocky films had location shots filmed there. There’s a gap between the old buildings that represents where the gym once stood. With a little imagination the Gym can reappear - with its wooden doors and old fight posters.
 
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A few miles up Figuerero on Grand Ave. sit’s the Olympic Auditorium. For sixty years the best fighters California (and elsewhere) had to offer laced up the gloves there. A Korean Church now inhabits the building. The homeless sleep near where Jack Dempsey shoveled the first pile of dirt in 1925. The alley across the street is filled with garbage and human waste. I couldn’t help but wonder why the church doesn’t help the homeless. The boxing memories run as deep as the nearby Pacific Ocean. I went to the Olympic with my Father and Grandfather forty years ago. I can remember staring at the ring as a cloud of smoke hovered overhead. Our seats were perfect. The inside of the Olympic is gone, now replaced by a stage. A podium sits where names like Quarry, Moore, Liston, Frazier, Norton, Griffith, Patterson, Canzoneri, Chacon, Lopez, Ramos, Palomino, Cuevas and Muniz all battled.

The irony doesn’t escape me. The Olympic will always be a cathedral of blood, guts, determination, and most of all, memories.
 
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My final stop that day was Inglewood Cemetery, the final resting place of many luminaries including former heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries, and the sweetest of them all, Sugar Ray Robinson. The cemetery is huge, divided by plots of land and slopping hills. Robinson rests on the top of a hill named sunrise, alongside his wife Mildred. The poor boy from Detroit, with the God-given talent, made it all the way to the top of the mountain. His skills were unquestioned. Robinson lost only once in his first 124 fights.
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James J. Jeffries represented a different type of skill. Hailed during his time as one of the greatest fighters who ever lived, he’ll always be remembered as the original "Great White Hope". His style was to outlast his opponent. His ability to sustain punches made many think he was superhuman. That is, until he ran into the great Jack Johnson. Jeffries died in 1953.

These two men where the favorites of many. But death shows no favoritism.

Follow and visit John on Twitter: twitter.com/#!/johnboxing1

-- Questions/comments johnboxing1@hotmail.com

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