LAS VEGAS — Crammed amid a large cluster of media members in a VIP room of the MGM Grand on Tuesday, southpaw WBC welterweight beltholder Victor Ortiz, at times, seemed like anything but a 24-year-old who is about to face unbeaten six-time, five-division titlewinner Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the biggest fight of his life on Saturday night on HBO Pay Per View from the MGM Grand.
That's because in the mind of Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 knockouts), facing the 34-year-old Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs) pales in comparison to the things that he already has had to overcome.
Born the second of three children to Mexican immigrants in Garden City, Kan, Ortiz was just 7 years old when his mother left him, 13 when his alcoholic father did the same, 15 when he and his younger brother, Temo, moved in with their 18-year-old sister, and still under 20 years old when he became Temo's legal guardian.
Along with adopted parents and a now deceased boxing trainer, Ignacio "Bucky" Avila, the fight game helped the teenaged Ortiz to channel his angst and energy toward becoming a success in the 2003 Junior Olympic Nationals, and, eventually, in the pros.
These days, Ortiz still harbors a deep distrust for the general media stemming from what he feels has been unforgiving criticism defined by his sixth-round knockout loss to Marcos Maidana of more than two years ago when Maidana was dropped three times, and Ortiz, twice.
That didn't change following December of last year, when he battled to a 10-round majority draw with Lamont Peterson (29-1-1, 15 KOs) despite twice flooring Peterson in the third round of his final junior welterweight bout.
So Ortiz takes a chip on his shoulder into his bout with Mayweather, as well as a mark of 5-0-1 with three stoppages and a unanimous decision that dethroned previously unbeaten Andre Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) as WBC titleholder during his 147-pound debut in April.
Below are some of Ortiz's responses to a few of the topics that arose during Tuesday's interview session:
Victor Ortiz on his underdog status:
"I've always said, 'Hey, I'm a blessed kid, I work hard, and I train very hard.' I put it on the line every time that I fight. "But for some reason, people always criticize me. But at the end of the day, it's like, I'm ready. I'm ready for anything. So I'm good."
On the surroundings and the fans who greeted him at the MGM Grand on Tuesday:
"It's more along the lines of, 'Hey, you're not going to go anywhere.' I'm always the guy who turns it around and I'm like, 'Okay, to each his own. Just watch me and pay attention.'
"I've been focused on the fight, but at the same time, I don't pay attention to a whole lot. You ask me who are the top 10 fighters at welterweight or junior welterweight today, I have no idea."
On the disappointment following his draw with Peterson:
"So I was like, 'You know what, I don't care about my record. A record is a record, period. But I want the best pound-for-pound. In that case, it was Andre Berto at 147, because at the 140s, no one would give me a shot.
"Not even the so much talked about rematch between Maidana and myself. So once I was begging like crazy for that fight, and no shot was given to me, I was like, 'This isn't for me.'
"I'm not hear to get old in a weight class where no one's going to give me a shot at. I'm going to roll the dice and move up in the weight class.
"I wanted the best guy pound-for-pound that you guys seem to think i it is, and that's Andre Berto. Make the fight happen. I don't care if it's suicide, I don't care. Make it happen."
"It's great, but I do realize that a lot of this is falseness. Nobody lives like this on a daily. If they do, then my hat's off to them, but that's not me. You get criticized for a living. You're under a microscope for a living.
"You get talked bad about for a living. You get put down and shoved into your live and back out of it, time in and time out.
"At the end of it all, my conclusion is that it's a bunch of nonsense. I don't live by anyone's expectations. I don't live by anyone's criticisms. I can care less about what anybody thinks about me.
"At the end of the day, I go home, I close my eyes, I go to sleep, I'm pretty content. I wake up and start my day off just like you guys."
On his view that his demise after the Maidana loss was overplayed:
"My buddies happen to be doctors, and I won't mention any names, but I won't mention them due to the fact that they can get into trouble. But they're my buddies, and, illegally, I shot myself with cortisone.
"I went into the fight with a broken wrist. I didn't let these guys know. I was going through a bad time. My whole family, and when I say family, that's only my brother and sister, but that's all that I have and that's all that I've ever had.
"But we kind of had fallen off track a little bit. That hurt me very bad in the sense of never arriving. I was in the locker room.
"For the first time ever, coach Danny sits there and he asks me, 'Are you ready?' I said, 'Well, we're here, let's just roll the dice and see what happens.'
On what it was like to fight Maidana:
"For me, though, that worked in a positive way, because I don't remember anything about the fight. So getting up and going to war, these guys, they explained the fight to me.
"My buddy David Rodela took me to the mirror and said, 'Hey, man, look at your face. You know you got up and went to war.' I said, 'What?' I thought we had gotten stopped.' Apparently, we've got a pretty good auto pilot.
I have not regrets. Everything happens for a reason. My life just keeps going. That's another story for my book. I like to live life on the fast lanes a little riskier than most sometimes."
On his criticism compared to that of Berto:
"And, for that, I grew very cold toward a lot of the media, not in the sense of 'F everybody.' But more in the sense of 'Hey, I know that these people are really about. The media doesn't care about anybody.'
"I realize that. Two years of getting beat up and harassed by everyone? That does something to someone, and for me, I know how to channel things very well. So, I've done well, man. I'm feeling pretty okay."
On how the underdog status has him in a 'Perfect place' against Mayweather:
"Forty-one have tried, forty-one have failed, but forty-one of those were not me. He's been champ for how many years? Well, I'm taking the torch, whether he likes it or not. I have nothing to lose, man. There's nothing on the table.
"Absolutely nothing. What does he have? He's got everything that I want. Put those two combinations together and you get a nice bang. I don't see myself as champion. Just like you guys see me as the underdog, I'm still hungry."
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com