LOS ANGELES – If one went on their body appearance at the weigh-in and just before their main event at Staples Center, Josesito Lopez didn’t belong in the ring with Victor Ortiz.
He looked too small (and soft around the middle) to compete with the muscular former WBC welterweight titleholder, but his fighting heart proved to be too big for Ortiz, who quit on his stool complaining of an injured jaw following the ninth round of what had been a hotly contested fight.
Ortiz, who was immediately taken to California Hospital after the crowd-pleasing slugfest, believes he suffered a broken jaw. Ortiz said it was first hurt in the fifth, the same round he put Lopez down with a punch to the back of the head.
Lopez (30-4, 18 knockouts), an iron-chinned junior welterweight from Riverside, Calif., said giving up never entered his mind after receiving the foul punch.
“I never thought about quitting,” Lopez said during his post-fight interview with Showtime, which televised the fight live. “I just needed a few seconds to ease the pain. He hits hard, man, but I was never going to quit.”
Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) has quit before, against Marcos Maidana three years ago in the same arena. Lopez, who fights with the same relentless passion as the Argentine slugger but with more polish, and his trainer Henry Ramirez believed that if Ortiz was forced to fight just as hard as he did against Maidana the 25-year-old TV darling would fold once again.
They were right. It took nine rounds of back-and-forth exchanges to prove it but Lopez showed the world he was the more willing fighter.
“I knew I had to fight the fight of my life to win,” Lopez said. “I knew I caught him with good punches in every round and I hurt him with more than a few of them. I knew the longer the fight went the better chance I had to win it. I chopped him down.”
Ortiz, who had already agreed to challenge WBC 154-pound titleholder Saul Alvarez in a pay-per-view main event on Sept. 15 before he fought Lopez, did not have much to say after the loss.
“Yeah, Josesito busted my jaw,” he said. “I had my mouth open and he broke my jaw. I couldn’t close my mouth. It happened early in (the fight).
“My corner wanted me to continue and I just couldn’t.”
One has to wonder how Ortiz’s career, which has already suffered major setbacks following stoppage losses to Maidana and Floyd Mayweather, will continue after his latest implosion.
On one hand, the Ventura, Calif.-based southpaw makes for compelling stories and entertaining fights, which sometimes come to dramatic conclusions. The Lopez fight thrilled the announced crowd of 7,865 fans.
But on the other hand, the promise Ortiz once had of becoming one of the stars of the sport is likely gone forever.
Ortiz is a charming young man with an abundance of natural talent and athletic ability. He’s quick, strong, powerful and coordinated, but it’s clear that he’s missing something.
Lopez, who felt disrespected by Ortiz’s choice to take the Alvarez fight before they fought and by the headbutt the odds favorite delivered during their weigh-in staredown, says the thing that is missing is his heart.
Lopez, who fought the second half of the Ortiz bout peering through bruised and swollen eye sockets, may not be the most gifted boxer out there but no one will ever question his heart.
“I’m a man and I’m not intimidated by anything,” Lopez told Golden Boy Promotions publicist Ramiro Gonzalez in Spanish. “Victor tried to intimidate me but it didn’t work.
“Victor has no heart.”
He has no date with Alvarez, either. Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Ortiz and Alvarez, said Lopez is on a short list of replacement opponents for the 22-year-old Mexican star on Sept. 15.
Lopez, who is co-promoted by Thompson Boxing and Goossen Tutor, would once again be a considerable underdog against Alvarez. He seems too small and too easy to be hit to compete, and yet, if that fight is made, fans will want to see if boxing’s latest “Rocky” story can do it again.
Win or lose, they know Lopez comes to fight. And they know he’ll never quit.
In the co-featured bout of the Showtime Championship Boxing broadcast, Lucas Matthysse proved that he learned from his controversial decision losses to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander by pouncing on his wobbled opponent, Humberto Soto, in the fifth round of their high-intensity slugfest.
The valuable lesson the heavy-handed junior welterweight contender learned was to never let your opponent off the hook.
Matthysse hurt and dropped both Judah and Alexander during his bouts with the American southpaws, but he did not go for the knockout after flooring the former titleholders.
He didn’t make that mistake against Soto, a brave and ring savvy technician who has won world titles at junior lightweight and lightweight. After exchanging beautiful body-head combinations with Soto while walking down the Mexican veteran through four rounds, Matthysse connected with a big overhand right that buckled the former titleholder’s legs.
The 29-year-old Argentine followed up a short hook and then a smashing right-hand finisher after Soto staggered backwards into the ropes. Soto crumpled to the canvas and barely beat referee Raul Caiz Sr.’s 10 count but he was clearly out on his feet as he made his way to his corner, which wisely called the fight off.
“I felt his punches but they didn’t hurt me at all,” Matthysse (31-2, 29 KOs) said after scoring the impressive fifth-round TKO. “Tonight was my night.”
Indeed it was. Matthysse exhibited a well-rounded game while walking down Soto. He worked his jab, delivered well-timed left hooks and right crosses, attacked Soto’s body and blocked many of the veteran’s punches.
Most importantly, he knew when to close the show, thus taking the judges out of the equation.
“I’m so happy because I defeated a former three-time world champ,” said Matthysse, acknowledging the interim featherweight belt Soto once held. “Come on, give me an opportunity for a world title. I think I deserve it.”
Boxing fans, many of whom view Matthysse as an unbeaten fighter, agree.
Soto (58-8-2, 34 KOs) was disappointed after the fight but determined to continue his career.
“Things happen for a reason,” he said. “I was doing well until he caught me with a perfect shot. I’m going to talk with my family and my team about what’s next, but I’m not done.”
Photos / Naoki Fukuda
Email Doug Fischer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer