VENTURA, Calif. – The last time Victor Ortiz opened his camp up to the media, it was a somber affair as the night before, his highly anticipated rematch with Andre Berto had been postponed due to an injury Berto suffered in training. Since then the news hasn’t gotten much better for Ortiz with last month’s cancelation of the rematch altogether when Berto tested positive for steroids.
However, the atmosphere was the polar opposite during a Thursday afternoon media day, as an all-smiles Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 knockouts) prepared for, not only, a Showtime-televised main event on June 23 in Los Angeles, but also, as announced earlier in the week, a September 15, pay-per-view event against with Mexican superstar Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas.
The question on everyone’s mind, was how, with an out of nowhere, multimillion-dollar title fight landing in his lap, can the 25-year-old southpaw, possibly stay focused on next week’s fight with Riverside, California’s Josesito Lopez (29-4, 17 knockouts), who is eager to play spoiler to Ortiz’s recent good fortune.
According to Ortiz, THE RING’s No. 3-ranked ranked welterweight, his focus for now, is solely on next Saturday.
“I’ve been preparing for this date for the past nine months,” Ortiz told RingTV.com. “I know what’s on the line. People think I won’t be focused on this fight. I know I’m being counted out again. That’s no surprise to me. I welcome it.”
The environment at Knuckleheadz Gym in Ventura, California was much like Ortiz himself, laid back and friendly. The boxing media was joined by Ortiz’s supporters and friends, including Ventura mayor, Mike Tracy, who challenged Riverside mayor, Ronald Loveridge, to a fruit basket wager, with each mayor betting on their hometown’s fighter.
Despite the afternoon’s loose feel and with the fate of local produce in the balance, Ortiz genuinely seemed concentrated during training.
In superb physical condition but still finding time to play up to the cameras by throwing a surprisingly impressive MMA style kick on the heavy bag, he punished the mitts with trainer Danny Garcia while manager Rolando Arellano mustered up his best Bundini Brown impression, proclaiming Ortiz to be “the next WBC welterweight champion of the world.” Technically, his fight with Lopez is for the WBC’s “silver” belt but apparently that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it when used in the heat of motivational screaming.
If the distraction of getting a shot at one of boxing’s biggest draws in “Canelo” isn’t enough, not to mention the opportunity to put his controversial loss to Floyd Mayweather behind him, a year to the day in the same ring, Ortiz also faces the potential issue of ring rust, having not fought since last September.
The former WBC titleholder dismisses the notion though, insisting his year-round training makes any ring inactivity a moot point.
“There’s no lay off,” Ortiz said. “People look at it like a lay off but I’m not your typical boxer. I’m in the gym every day. It’s what I do. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not something I do three months at a time and that’s that. I’ve been sparring every other day all year. Going seven, eight, nine, ten rounds with guys bigger than me. I stay in shape. I am good to go anytime.”
Ortiz’ s strength and conditioning coach, Joseph “Hoss” Janik couldn’t agree more.
“One of the best things about Victor is that he stays in shape year round,” Janik said. “We don’t have to spend the first half of camp getting him back into shape. His conditioning has been perfect. He’s peaking just at the right time. It’s all easy days from here on out. Let the body heal. He’s gonna be explosive on the 23rd. We’re not even thinking or discussing anything beyond that.”
So now, in a year that was almost a completely loss in an already rollercoaster career, Ortiz’s spirits are once again riding high and he’s looking forward to prove his critics wrong, one fight at a time.
His prediction for the Lopez fight?
“It will be another win, another victory,” he said. “I will be holding my hands up high. There’ll be no exceptions. No if, and or buts. I am ready for this fight and…”
The briefly serious side of Ortiz disappears, as he lets out a big grin and finishes the thought.
“…I’ll be ready for the next one, too.”
Video by Daniel Morales and Dominic Verdin
Photos / Scott Kilbride
Chris Jay covers sports and entertainment for the VC Reporter, Ventura County’s weekly newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org