Victor Ortiz has already had his gimmie, namely his knockout loss to Marcos Maidana last June. He can’t afford to lose again anytime soon.
That’s one reason his fight against veteran Nate Campbell on the Amir Khan-Paulie Malignaggi undercard Saturday in New York is compelling. If he wins, he’s back on track to become a top 140-pounder. If he loses, he might never become an elite fighter.
“This sport isn’t forgiving,” said Rolando Arellano, Ortiz’s co-manager. “A 22 year old in other sports loses a couple of games, learns from them and moves on. He continues his quest to conquer his sport. In this sport, a fighter who loses, because of all the talk afterward, might not be able to come back.
“I think Victor would have to knockout everyone for the next three years before he’d get back to where he is now.”
Ortiz (26-2-1, 21 knockouts) might not have an easy time. Campbell is 38 and seemed to struggle against Timothy Bradley in his last fight, a three-round no-contest because of a cut over his left eye caused by an accidental head butt, but he remains a crafty boxer with far more experience than his 23-year-old opponent.
Campbell hasn’t lost since a split-decision setback against Issac Hlatshwayo in 2006 and has victories over Juan Diaz and Ali Funeka in the past two years.
And no one is certain that Ortiz has fully recovered from the Maidana fight, a six-round give-and-take war that ended when a beaten Ortiz indicated he had had enough. Afterward, critics labeled him a quitter.
He bounced back six months later with a seventh-round knockout of veteran Antonio Diaz, the result of a bad cut over Diaz’s left eye. Ortiz controlled the fight from the outset but looked somewhat skittish. A subsequent victory over journeyman Hector Alatorre in February was in effect a work out.
And Ortiz bristled whenever the Maidana fight was mentioned, particularly when he was asked whether he had come to terms with the disastrous night. His typical response — “I was over it right after it happened” –- didn’t seem to be genuine.
Now, however, he seems to have accepted it.
“It took me a little bit to get over the hump,” he said. “I finally took it for what it was worth. I know that it was, you know, just an obstacle for me. So I’m good. … It’s definitely a learning experience. There are many more things to learn in this life.”
Ortiz’s handlers haven’t taken a giant step backward in terms of his competition. Campbell (33-5-1, 25 KOs) is a real threat.
However, Arellano said he and his colleagues have toned down the next-great-thing marketing campaign that crumbled in the Maidana fight. They want him to prove he belongs among the best 140 pounders before they tout his star power.
And there’s only one way to prove he belongs among the best.
“Here’s a naturally talented, wonderful potential star,” Arellano said. “But can he get dirty in deep waters, in the 11th, 12th round with someone banging on him? Does he have the heart of a lion? Like I said to him, ‘Actions speaks louder than words.’ You can’t change anyone’s mind with words. You have to re-earn their respect.
“… Victor not only has to win, he has to look good against this type of opponent if he’s going to be a marquee fighter. He wants to get back on top. To do that, he has to go through Nate Campbell.”
Ortiz was asked whether he believes he is back to the form he displayed before the Maidana fight. He politely said he didn’t know but meant that he doesn’t care to think about it.
The Oxnard, Calif., fighter respects Campbell, who he called “a great fighter, a great champion,” but said repeatedly that he’s 100 percent ready for the challenge. That’s about it. He seems to have taken Arellano’s advice to heart: He’ll make his statement in the ring.
And no matter what happens he said he won’t take what people say to heart.
“People can say what they feel,” he said. “Everyone has their opinion. As far as that goes, I worry about myself and no one else.”