LAS VEGAS – Either Victor Ortiz or Lamont Peterson is likely to endure a career-damaging setback when they meet on the Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana undercard Saturday at Mandalay Bay on HBO.
Ortiz (28-2-1, 22 knockouts) has bounced back nicely from his devastating sixth-round knockout loss to Maidana in June of last year, after which he was accused of quitting by some. He has four consecutive victories since then.
Peterson (28-1, 14 KOs) rebounded from his unanimous-decision loss to Timothy Bradley in December – the first setback of his career – by stopping Damian Fuller in seven rounds in April.
However, a second setback in such a short period of time will send the loser tumbling from the ranks of legitimate players in the deep 140-pound division.
“It’s a must win for me,” said Peterson, who could’ve been speaking for Ortiz too.
Ortiz has done a nice job of rebuilding, stopping veteran Antonio Diaz and journeyman Hector Alatorre before outpointing Nate Campbell.
He followed that with a spectacular third-round knockout of aging Vivian Harris on the Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora undercard in September. Harris was never destined to give him a great fight but Ortiz looked like the fearsome fighter of old.
Now Ortiz is ranked in the Top 5 in all four sanctioning bodies, No. 1 in both the WBA and WBO.
“We wanted to bring him back gradually,” said Rolando Arellano, Ortiz’s manager. “We wanted to make sure he was physically healed and psychologically healed. The last fight [against Harris] was the first indication that Victor is back.
“Now we want to rachet it up a notch. We want to make sure we’re right. And then we’ll go for the championship.”
Ortiz says that he moved on from the Maidana fight shortly after it was over, accepting it as a learning experience. Others, he said, are the ones who won’t let it go.
So he simply tries to tune all that out and work hard to put himself in position to realize his dream of winning a major title.
And he seems to be extremely focused. He was asked several times to discuss his future beyond Saturday night but politely refused to do so. Peterson, he said, is too good for such foolishness.
“That’s what every fighter wants,” said Ortiz, referring to the title shot on the horizon. “A lot of fighters wait their whole careers for a shot. I think I’m knocking on the door.
“This is a pretty tough challenge, though. Lamont is a great fighter. I’ve just prepared my best for him.”
Peterson, ranked in the Top 10 in three sanctioning bodies, said he too learned from his loss.
The Memphis resident, whose younger brother Anthony also is a successful boxer, said he got caught up in the moment of his first title fight and strayed from his strengths.
He lost by one-sided scores: 118-110, 119-108 and 120-107.
“I learned that I have to listen to my corner more,” he said. “I have to stick with the game plan. I got hit once and then just decided I wanted to fight him. I know my advantage is my boxing skills. I have to stick with that.
“Leading up to the fight, during training camp, I was thinking too much about it being a championship fight. Now I realize that fights like this are just another fight.”
Well, that’s not entirely true.
The winner of the Khan-Maidana fight probably will face the winner of the upcoming Bradley-Devon Alexander fight in what would be the biggest-possible matchup in the division.
The winner of the Ortiz-Peterson fight probably would be the most-attractive opponent for the last man standing in the aforementioned showdowns, which translates to big money and a tremendous opportunity to become a star.
And the fact it would take place in the 140-pound division – the best in the sport – would make it all the more meaningful.
“It’s a high-risk, high-reward type division,” Peterson said. “In a lot of divisions, you can win a title without fighting anyone who can really fight. In this division, if you have one of those belts, you’ve really earned it.”
The first step is to win on Saturday. The loser of Ortiz-Peterson probably will be on the outside looking in.
Anthony Peterson loss: Peterson said that watching his brother's brutal setback against Brandon Rios in September was excruciating.
Anthony took a beating before he was disqualified for repeatedly punching Rios below the belt.
“It was hard,” he said. “It was like I lost. … Actually, It was worse. I took that loss harder than I took my own loss. I felt helpless.
“In my fight, I knew what went wrong. I lost but I had answers. In his fight, I don't know what happened.”
Peterson hopes that fans won't judge him based on what happened in his brother's fight.
“He's his own man, and I'm my own man,” he said. “He does things in a certain way, and I don't things in a certain way.
“What happened to him has nothing to do with me. If I lose, it will be because Victor was the better man.”