Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Is Victor Ortiz a quitter?
By Michael Woods
This new information age allows a lie, or just a super-straightforward opinion which seems plausible but doesn’t hold up beyond half a news cycle, to travel to every corner of the world. It can be re-tweeted a few thousand times. It can ultimately settle in as truth. The problem is, what appears as truth in the fog of a fight can shift to a falsehood, or merely become a matter for debate.
Victor Ortiz, who "quit" on his stool after Round 9 of his fight against heavy underdog Josesito Lopez on Saturday night in LA. The fight was seen on Showtime, and the Twittersphere blew up after Ortiz, complaining of a broken jaw, said, "No mas." The reaction was swift.
"He’s a dog" and "Got no heart" were two of the most common 140-characters-or-less takes.
Harsh. But to be expected. There is a warrior’s code that is accepted by practitioners when they get their license. Quitting is an option, but only if you are willing to pay the price and wear a scarlet letter for giving in when the going got tough. Fighters are a cut above, we like to think, and can withstand mental and physical abuse better than we mortals. If they don’t, then we sometimes become irked, and petulantly try to yank them back into our sphere of regular Joes.
But Victor Ortiz has a track record. There is evidence that has piled up in his disfavor. So critics were ready with knives out when he chose the easier way Saturday.
He’d uttered a "no mas" in 2009, telling a ref he didn’t want to continue after he began to get the worst of it against Marcos Maidana.
Ortiz, who grew up in a hellacious situation, kicked to the curb by his parents, had Maidana down once in the first and twice in the second. But Maidana didn’t cave in. He persevered. Ortiz, also on the deck in the first, was knocked down early in the sixth. "You OK, son? Let’s go," the ref said. Left eye almost shut, cut over his right eye, Ortiz was not OK. Mentally, he was at his breaking point. He shook his head to indicate "no mas," and turned away from the ref, who halted the scrap. It took him two years to erase the stain. He did so in a thriller win over Andre Berto. But the stain re-appeared on Saturday.
As the tenth round was about to begin, Ortiz said he didn’t want to continue. His jaw was broken, he told trainer Danny Garcia. It didn’t compute to the crowd. Ortiz had maybe won the previous round, though Lopez had scored with power shots -- probably one of them a jawbreaker -- in the last 20 seconds.
He quit on his stool, announcer Gus Johnson screamed. Wiseman analyst Al Bernstein told viewers to consider that Ortiz perhaps had an injury not apparent to us all.
Indeed, he did. His jaw was fractured in two places, and needed a titanium plate and screws to stitch it together. Ortiz had surgery to repair the busted bone on Sunday. But on Saturday, he'd had heaps of abuse piled on him by fight fans, and yes, even fighters, who dismissed him as a quitter. The victor Lopez took a shot at Ortiz, saying, "Victor has no heart."
Harsh. But if anyone is "allowed" to go there, it is Lopez.
Me? I tend to think Ortiz has heart, merely for persevering when his dad left his family, and then his mom followed suit, leaving him in the care of an older sister. But does he have the sort of heart that will be noted when his legacy is discussed in coming years? No, he does not.
Ali fighting on with a broken jaw against Norton is frequently cited when The Greatest is brought up. Ortiz not doing so will be part of his history book. That's my opinion, but I think overall it is best left to the men in the arena to weigh in on this subject. More so than us sideliners.
Check back to see what Paulie Malignaggi thought about Ortiz' decision to stay on his stool.