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Thursday, January 30, 2014
Ringside at Barclays: Victor Ortiz, Part 2

By Michael Woods

Click here for Part 1 of the interview.

Victor Ortiz steps into the ring at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday night, and by his account, he will be sharp, his timing will be on, and there will be no evidence to suggest that he last gloved up in a prizefight 19 months ago.

We shall see.

Boxing isn't quite like riding a bike; you can take time off, but to get all the cylinders, physical, mental, emotional, working in concert after being on the shelf because of an injury and outside commitments isn't a given.

I chatted with the California resident with a 29-4-2 record on Monday, and asked him if rust would be a factor when he tussled with fellow southpaw Luis Collazo at Barclays, in a fight which will likely earn the winner a title crack at a 147-pound crown.

Ortiz answered with a dark intensity, which suggested he had his game face affixed, and, perhaps, he is a tad tired of repetitive queries from fightwriters.

"There will be no ring rust," said the fighter, who turns 27 on Friday.

What about the possibility of being gun-shy, considering how his jaw was broken by Josesito Lopez in his last fight, a loss in which he retired after round nine?

"No gun-shyness, either," he stated, firmly. "You can ask my sparring partners, I put so many of them down."

Ortiz told me that he did some sparring a year after the Lopez fight, and this was not long after the wires to set his jaw were taken off. "What's wrong with me?" he said he asked himself, after getting hit with shots he didn't see coming. But after about six rounds of sparring, he said, his timing was back, his in-ring vision was restored.

In asking around, many fight-game folks told me they were surprised that Collazo, a skilled boxer, was chosen as Ortiz' first foe back. If Ortiz is rusty, Collazo could outbox him, take advantage of the rust by using superior ring generalship. Ortiz doesn't seem put off by the style matchup, though. When I asked if he thinks this is a 50-50 going in, he again answered with emphatic directness. "I don't see it as a 50-50 fight, I'm favoring myself."

Ortiz gets knocked on social media for this and that, and I asked if it bothers him, grinds him down. "If I took in all the opinions, I'd go crazy," he said. "I don't care."

We're all familiar with the term "hater," someone on a lower level who takes potshots at someone on a higher level, out of envy. Ortiz spoke of that sort. "When people judge me or my career, they haven't stood in my shoes," he noted. Case in point: instead of noting that Ortiz is branching out, and making the most of outside-the-ring opportunities, some people see his appearance in "The Expendables 3" as a possible warning sign that he isn't fully committed to the fight game. To be honest, that thought has crossed my mind. Boxing isn't the sort of endeavor which rewards dabbling.

Ortiz wouldn't go there, admits to craving another crack at Floyd Mayweather, and said his eyes were fully focused on Collazo, not a sequel to avenge a KO4 loss to "Money" in 2011.

My take: notwithstanding Ortiz's insistence that rust won't be a factor, none of us can be certain of that until we see some rounds play out tonight. Ortiz has a strength and power advantage, but Collazo has a technique edge. If Ortiz' timing is off, and he can't land heavy shots, he could get the short end of it from the judges.

Fox Sports 1 will show the fight.