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02 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

The Lesson of Ortiz-Maidana


Ortiz hits the canvas: HoganPhotos.com
Ortiz hits the canvas: HoganPhotos.com

By Thomas Hauser

On June 27th, HBO televised what was supposed to be Victor Ortiz’s coronation as the WBA “interim junior-welterweight champion of the world.”

The 22-year-old Ortiz has been groomed for stardom and still might make it there someday. But at a point in his career when the competition should have been stepped up to harden him for a championship run, he was put in soft. That enabled Victor to preserve his shiny record and look great on television. But it didn’t prepare him to fight Marcos Maidana (a rugged Argentinean with a solid punch who comes to fight).

At the start of HBO’s June 27th Boxing After Dark telecast, Max Kellerman surveyed the 140-pound division beginning with Manny Pacquiao and optimistically proclaimed, “Victor Ortiz may have the most star potential of them all.”

Then reality set in.

Ortiz dropped Maidana midway through round one, only to have the favor quickly returned. Unlike Marcos, Victor was hurt. But he fought back and did enough to even the stanza. Then, in round two, he knocked Maidana down twice.

The slugfest continued in round three with each man aggressively forcing the action. Kellerman informed the viewing audience that, while he had heard “whispers” about Ortiz’s chin, “clearly, Ortiz has a lot of heart.”

Actually, in boxing, the chin is often connected to the heart, as became evident three rounds later.

In round four, Ortiz seemed to be tiring. Gut-check time was fast approaching.

Round five was a big one for Maidana. He began landing solid right hands; took everything that Ortiz had to offer; and when backed against the ropes, landed a hard left hook that opened a terrible gash along Victor’s right eyebrow.

In some jurisdictions, when that happens to the house fighter, a phantom clash of heads is said to have caused the wound. Referee Raul Caiz Sr properly ruled that the cut was caused by a punch.

By the end of round five, Maidana was pummeling Ortiz at will with right hands.

In round six, Marcos picked up where he’d left off, trapping Victor against the ropes and putting him on the canvas with a left hook to the body. At that point, either the referee or Ortiz’s corner could have stopped the action and no one would have complained. Instead, Victor rose and waved the fight off himself.

Caiz went through the charade of taking Ortiz to the corner to be examined by the ring doctor, but it was clear that Victor had no intention of fighting anymore. The time of the stoppage was 46 seconds of the sixth round.

Afterward, Ortiz informed a national television audience, “I’m not going to go out on my back. I’m not going to lay down for nobody. I’d rather just stop when I’m ahead. That way, I can speak well when I’m older. I’m young, but I don’t think I deserve to get beat up like this. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.”

Give Ortiz credit for candor. But getting hit hard is part of the deal if you want to be a boxer.

So let’s look at the lessons to be learned in the wake of Ortiz-Maidana.

At the start of 2009, HBO told boxing fans that the next generation of stars included Victor Ortiz, Alfredo Angulo, James Kirkland, and Robert Guerrero. All four were put in soft to build their reputations.

Kirkland is now in jail. Angulo was exposed (and beaten) by Kermit Cintron. Guerrero begged out after being cut by an accidental head butt in a fight against 10-to-1 underdog Daud Yordan. Now, Ortiz has been knocked out.

A television network has the power to give fighters exposure. A television network has the power to steer fighters to a particular promoter. A television network cannot (repeat, cannot) create stars.

In boxing, stars create themselves. Very few people knew who Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Arturo Gatti were before HBO put them on Boxing After Dark a decade ago. But the public tuned in because they trusted HBO to deliver quality fights. And the fighters who delivered in those fights became stars.

Instead of trying to anoint stars, HBO should create the next generation of stars by continually matching the best young prospects against the best young prospects (not against overmatched foes). If a fighter doesn’t want to go in tough, let him fight somewhere else for ten thousand dollars.

Ortiz-Maidana was a great fight. It might not have been great for Ortiz or his manager or his promoter. But it was great entertainment for the viewers who watched it because Ortiz was in tough.

So apply the lessons of Ortiz-Maidana to the future.

HBO won’t televise another fight until August 22nd, when Paulie Malignaggi goes to Houston to take on Juan Diaz, the referee, and three judges. Let’s hope that, when the network finalizes its fall schedule, it demands competitive fights across the board.

* * *

Who would win a fight showcasing David Haye or Chris Arreola against Vitali or Wladimir Klitschko?

Either Klitschko would be heavily favored.

Okay. Who would win a fight between David Haye and Chris Arreola?

Knowledgeable fight fans are evenly divided.

So shouldn’t HBO press for Haye vs. Arreola? It would be an entertaining fight and the winner would emerge as a more credible challenger to either Klitschko than is now the case.


Thomas Hauser can be reached by e-mail at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (“The Boxing Scene”) was published this year by Temple University Press.


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