This is the first in monthly series of Q & As with boxing’s elite fighters and top personalities.
Victor Ortiz was stung by the criticism and sarcastic remarks that followed his loss to Marco Maidana in June 2009. The boxing writers and many fans opined that the cocky, almost-arrogant kid didn’t show much heart when he decided he had taken enough punishment and quit. Almost everyone wondered about his desire. About the only one who didn’t was “Vicious Victor” himself.
We all know about Ortiz’ hardscrabble childhood, during which he was abandoned by both his mother and father and ended up in the Kansas foster care system. Ortiz had only younger brother Temo and older sister Carmen. He has relied heavily on them, as they have him. They supplied the only supportive refuge Ortiz had after the Maidana fight.
Two years later, Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 knockouts) is atop the boxing world and in a position to become a true star if he can beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Sept. 17 in the first defense of the WBC welterweight belt he won by beating Andre Berto in April.
Ortiz has shown an uncanny sense of knowing what the so-called pundits will say before they say it. He knows not many give him a chance to become the first to beat Mayweather.
A week after the Ortiz-Mayweather fight was announced, Ring Magazine’s Managing Editor Joseph Santoliquito spoke with Vicious Victor on a variety of subjects and how his life has changed since the Berto victory.
1. How has your life changed since beating Andre Berto?
Victor Ortiz:Not much has changed in my life since I beat Berto. The money hasn’t changed, either. At the end of the day, I live my life to the fullest. I don’t have a lot of money, but I do have a lot of dignity and that keeps me going. It’s pathetic how I’m paid, despite what happened in beating Berto. I still live in the same two-bedroom apartment in Ventura, Calif., that I lived in prior to the Berto fight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for being in the position that I’m in. I don’t spend a lot of money. I did some traveling and spent a good portion of my check on that. I’m single and I have no children. I raised my younger brother, who you can say is my only kid. So for the most part I am enjoying myself. I was recently in Kansas helping my brother, hauling grain on a semi. Yep, that was me, hauling grain back home on a semi. I actually drove that big, old beast, too.
2. What was different about you in the Berto fight?
VO: There were so many people, so much of everything, that said what I can and what I can’t do. I’m my own person, my own man, and I guide my own life. I was going into that ring and I was going to do me. I was over it all and they kept saying that I was going to fear Berto’s power. I didn’t respect Berto’s power and I know what I wanted that night and I wanted to be world champion. I was sick of the s—; very sick of it. I don’t think it will be ever justified losing to Maidana until I’m done as a fighter. Maidana can’t look me in the eyes today, because he knows he’d get his ass beat if we fought again.
3. What was your reaction when Berto Tweeted, “I know people close to him and his camp and I know exactly we he was taking. It wasn’t Flintstone vitamins!!”?
VO: I wasn’t angry over it (laughs). I just laughed at it like I am now. It was too bad that a former world-class champ who got his heart taken couldn’t accept that he lost. Yeah, he bitched up; he couldn’t deal with it. It didn’t anger me at all. I kind of feel sorry for Berto. To take a beating like that from me and then I take his belt, it makes me laugh; it’s a bad excuse. The only thing everyone in my training camp witnessed me take was my heart, and as they say, my balls (laughs). No, no, I take that back, I had to go borrow my balls. Actually, from someone. I had to borrow my balls from Terry Norris. He gave me great words of advice. Terry told me that if I was going to beat the champ, I had to destroy Berto. I wasn’t going to win by decision. I had to destroy him. Terry Norris reminds me a whole lot of me, minus the big loud mouth I have (laughs).
Berto was offered and he was going to look past me as some piece of crap. I knew he was done the day before I told Golden Boy I wanted the Berto fight. Then he got mad at me, blamed for steroids. Besides, I don’t take Flintsone vitamins, thank you very much. I take Centrum (laughs).
4. Has it hit you yet how your life is about to change again with this Floyd Mayweather fight coming up in September?
VO: The contracts have been signed. Everything is set to go. We’re looking for a venue, and it’s going to be on pay-per-view HBO. I don’t know what Floyd’s issues are outside of the ring, all I know is that we’re fighting. But it hit me a long time ago that my life has changed. Bucky Avila and Ron Lyle, those two were there since way back, and they always told me that I would be in the lights one day. In doing so, I should always keep my feet on the ground. I always listen to what they have to say. I wake up each morning and work hard. Coach wants me at four in the morning and I’m there at 3:30. If Mayweather is running two miles, I’m running three miles. I’ve been through so many ups and downs these last three years, I’m ready for anything.
Even personally. I underwent my first breakup in four years. I was seeing someone who was everything to me, and she broke it off with me. I think I got too big, too fast. There was this arrogance that I had to reign in. It was a very hard time for me. For some reason, I was thinking negative the whole week leading up to fighting Vivian Harris. I thought to myself and I looked at myself and said, ‘I was going to be world champion whether I liked it or not.’ I went out and knocked out Harris. I know I won the [Lamont] Peterson fight. My girl was proud of me and this and that. But after I fought Berto, I hadn’t heard from her. We’re both kids and no one is perfect. I realize that I have to take care of myself. With all of that, and the way my whole family has been, it makes you mature and grow fast.
I lost myself along the lines after the s— hit the fan and I had to rebuild myself. I had to rethink where I’m going and where I’m going to be. I’m not alone. I have a brother and a sister. But for some reason, if I cross paths with that ex-girlfriend, I wouldn’t hesitate to allow for her to re-enter my life again. I know I have to go back to focusing on boxing again. I’m back in the gym and ran 10 miles Wednesday. I have to keep my feet planted on the ground.
5. Floyd has a way of irritating his opponents with some outlandish things he says before fights. How will you prevent him from getting to you?
VO: What’s funny is that I don’t scare easily and I don’t let stuff like that bother me. I know what Floyd is up to … and I know he’s there to sell tickets. I’m there to take him off the throne. He can say anything he wants about me, he can say I’m gay, whatever, and I have a lot of gay friends anyway, so it doesn’t matter (laughs). He can call me anything in the book, I’m ready for it. I’ll pretty much laugh it off; I know it’s coming. Floyd will drum up something to say and I’ll laugh at him. I don’t anger easily, either. I’ve been called every name in the book. I’m this, I’m that, I have no balls. Floyd can’t bother me (laughs).
6. In general, what will you need to do to beat him?
VO: I’ll take him the same way I thought Oscar De La Hoya beat him, the way Jose Luis Castillo beat him, that’s take the war to his ass (laughs). Every fighter I’ve faced is different. I’m not sure what Mayweather has planned for me, or what I have planned for Mayweather. Berto was one fight, we had a plan for him. Peterson was another fight, a different plan for him. I know how Floyd fights. We’ll come with some game plan and go from there. I’ll start training soon, maybe mid-June. I’m fat right now (laughs) for welterweight, walking around at 156 pounds. I know I’ll get down. I won’t have problems making the weight.
7. Have we seen the best of Victor Ortiz, or is the best still to come?
VO: Honestly, I didn’t feel 100 percent against Berto. I still feel I made a lot of mistakes and errors in that fight. I felt like I rated myself a lot higher than that. If I were to give myself a grade, I would rate myself at a 70 to 80 in that fight. I think the best is yet to come. It has to be if I plan on beating Mayweather.
8. How has your personal life and all that you’ve been through shaped who you are in the ring?
VO: I do take everything with me when I go into the ring. I go into the ring and do what I’m going to do. I listen to my coaches and hit it hard. I have been through so much, what more can happen to me? Mayweather will bark at me, everyone barks at me, whoop-di-freakin’-do, calm down with the Chihuahua s— (laughs). I’m a pitbull who will fight you. I know where I am now-a-days. It’s about just doing it and no one still knows me like I know myself. Yet they still manage to judge me. I don’t care about anything but myself and my brother and sister. My friends here in Kansas are my family. I’m at a stage in my life where everyone wants something from me. There was a time everyone ignored me. Yes, it all comes with me in the ring.
9. What do you think propelled you most after the Marcos Maidana fallout?
VO: What propelled me was the simple fact that I couldn’t get a rematch with Maidana. I had three problems: No one at 140 was willing to face me; I was tired of it all; and I was broke, I had no money, I had nothing. I was being hidden away and there was no way of fighting. But I saw these cash cows, the best pound-for-pound guys at 147. Moving up to welterweight and being willing to face anyone there got me through it. That pulled me through, and my family’s belief in me, and still believing in myself.
10. You’ve been an underdog your whole life. Do you like the fact that not many people are giving you a chance to beat Mayweather?
VO: I don’t really care about that (laughs). No one thought I could beat Berto, and everyone saw what I did there. I know what my heart is set on and I know what my mind wants to do. I’m going to have to shock the world. I’m going to have to do something no one thinks I can do. I’m just the janitor cleaning up the mess. Someone is throwing s— at me, you can’t beat Mayweather, you can’t beat Mayweather, and I just have to clean it up.