Victor Ortiz is an angry young man — angrier than he's been in a long time.
Much of the 24-year-old's ire stems from his belief that he still is being defined by a sixth-round knockout loss to Marcos Maidana of more than two years ago.
The man nicknamed "Vicious" still is simmering despite an unbeaten streak of 5-0-1 that includes three stoppages and a unanimous decision that dethroned previously unbeaten Andre Berto (27-1, 21 knockouts), a bout during which each fighter was twice floored in April.
Ortiz was bristling with rancor when he spoke to RingTV.com during an exclusive interview on Friday.
"Since what I went through with Maidana in 2009, I'm always having to explain those things that happened in that fight," said Ortiz, who left the Maidana clash with a bloody face and a broken right wrist that required surgery to repair.
"They had billed me as the next Oscar De La Hoya, and then I made one mistake in six rounds, and I got sliced open by the media. The way that they did me, and the way that they destroyed me, that was just crazy."
Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 knockouts) is focusing his malevolent and malicious intentions on unbeaten Floyd Mayweather. Jr. (41-0, 25 KOs) in an HBO Pay Per View televised defense of his WBC welterweight belt.
Mayweather-Ortiz is slated for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sept. 17.
"I've been in training camp for the past two months already because I realize that fighting Floyd Mayweather is a big fight," said Ortiz, who debuted as a welterweight against Berto after having fought at junior welterweight.
"But [Mayweather] don't scare me at all. Not for a second. So as far as that goes, nothing's changed…and Mayweather's going down."
A former junior welterweight, Ortiz's unbeaten run includes a 10-round decision over ex-titleholder Nate Campbell, a third-round knockout of former beltholder Vivian Harris and a draw with contender Lamont Peterson, whom he dropped twice in the third round of their match up in December of last year.
Yet there still are those who question the intestinal fortitude of Ortiz stemming from the loss to Maidana (30-2, 27 KOs) in June of 2009.
Ortiz was just 22 years old against a 26-year-old Maidana who was 27-1 with 26 stoppages entering their Fight of The Year-caliber brawl for the WBA's interim belt.
"I was fighting as hard as I could and probably winning every round on HBO," said Ortiz, who dropped Maidaina three times and rose from the canvas twice himself. "But one mistake was all that it took for the media to just kill me."
Displaying a nasty gash over his right eye and a large, bubble of a dark, purple mouse beneath his left, Ortiz rose from the second knockdown and seemed to shake his head, "No," as referee, Raul Caiz asked him if he wanted to continue.
"We just saw a moment in a fighter's career that could define his career," said HBO ringside commentator, Max Kellerman. "Ortiz was dropped, cut, exhausted, faced with an opponent who refused to lose, and in a moment of weakness, gave up."
Said Ortiz: "That just kind of put in my eyes the perspective [in which] I have to view the media."
But Ortiz's rags-to-riches story is replete with as many out-of-the-ring challenges as he has faced within it.
Born the second of three children to Mexican immigrants in Garden City, Ks., Ortiz was seven years old when his mother left him, and, 13, when his alcoholic father did the same.
First, however, Ortiz's father would take him to a local gym to learn how to box, this, after his son had been bullied by two of his peers during his early childhood.
Ortiz and his younger brother, Temo, left Garden City and his 16-year-old pregnant sister to live on their own for more than a year. While still in middle school, however, Ortiz sold ecstasy and marijuana.
Local trainer Ignacio "Bucky" Avila, nevertheless, continued to work with the promising young Ortiz, who earned a Kansas Golden Gloves championship.
When Avila died nearly five years ago, Ortiz and Temo were placed with a foster family, John and Sharon Ford, who helped Ortiz to quell growing anger issues.
Shortly thereafter, at the age of 15, Ortiz and Temo moved in with their 18-year-old sister, who gained custody of them while living in Denver.
In the 2003 Junior Olympic Nationals, Ortiz met Robert Garcia, who guided him through a successful amateur boxing career and into the pros. In 2005, Ortiz became a legal adult and gained custody of Temo.
"Raising your brother and having to provide and to become this grown man at an early age is definitely tough. I mean, come on, that's not something typical that everyone does," said Ortiz.
"That forces you to grow up faster and stronger and to appreciate everything. That helped me quite a bit for me to become this person that I've become. I am a very strong person."
But Ortiz's mettle still was being questioned by Harris, who asserting that Ortiz "doesn't believe in himself," and, "doesn't have the courage" before their fight in September of last year.
"I watched that fight, and when Nate Campbell hit him when he was on the ropes, he just winked up his eyes like, 'Oh my God,'" said Harris.
"I hit harder than Maidana. I'm a far different fighter than Nate Campbell. I know that once I land, he's got to question himself. I hope he doesn't get flashbacks."
But those "flashbacks" never materialized in Ortiz, who demonstrated not only his polish as a boxer, but, also, his devastating finishing power against Harris.
"Now, I don't care about what the media says. I don't care about what HBO says. I don't care in general about what people have to say about me," said Ortiz.
"I don't care whether they say that I'm the next this or I'm the next that. I was born Victor Ortiz, and I'm going to die as Victor Ortiz. Trust me, I'm quite content with who I am right now."
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org