Every fight fan loves a good trash-talker. The animosity between fighters helps fuel rivalries and puts rear-ends in seats.
So does a great fighter, with or without the verbal sparring. Unbeaten lightweight Jamaine Ortiz (7-0, 4 KOs) of Worcester, Mass., never cared much about being the loudest talker in the room, or the center of attention, for that matter.
Soft-spoken by nature, the 21-year-old Ortiz earned his stripes the old-fashioned way, perfecting his craft in the gym as an amateur and building his fan base through his performance in the ring, not with what has to say behind the microphone or in front of the camera.
"A lot of people can’t sell themselves with the way they fight, so they’ve got to sell themselves with the way they talk," said Ortiz, who kicks off 2018 in a six-round bout against Texan Victor Rosas (9-7, 3 KOs) on Friday night at Twin River Casino.
"I won’t lie, some of it does open my ears or open my eyes with the way somebody talks. It happens all the time when big fighters lose championship fights. They got there by talking their way up there. I’m the type of guy where I don’t feel like I have to talk. I never had social media before I turned professional. All the fans I always had always came from people watching me fight.
"They weren’t there at the gym. They didn’t see how I trained. They just saw how I performed under the lights in championship moments in championship fights, the finals of all these tournaments. That’s what got me the fans I have now -- fighting. I just stick to that because that’s the real me."
Most would agree Ortiz is just fine the way he is. An accomplished amateur who advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Olympic Trails in Nevada in 2016, Ortiz has cleared every hurdle in front of him and conquered every challenge since turning pro two years ago.
After racing out to a 4-0 start, including a knockout win over previously-unbeaten challenger Glenn Mitchell in April, a minor elbow injury temporarily derailed his progress and sidelined him for the next four months. He returned in August to face Angel Figueroa at less than a 100 percent and still cruised to a unanimous decision win, shutting out Figueroa over four dominant rounds and showing no signs of ring rust.
"Others call it ring rust. I don’t know what I’d call it. I guess that’s what it’s called. I guess I’ve just never used that term before," Ortiz said. "I never felt like I had ring rust because I’m always in the gym."
His December bout against 13-3 Derrick Murray was supposed to be his toughest test to date, but he tore through that opponent, too, winning all six rounds on every scorecard. Ortiz hasn’t lost a round since Canton Miller pushed him to a majority decision last February.
Who else is on his radar? Ortiz doesn’t bother skimming through names, especially in New England. Few have been willing to accept the challenge, but he remains ready for whoever answers the bell next.
"I never look at anybody in this area," he says. "I’m always focused on myself. Putting my attention on someone else is taking attention away from myself. If it’s a fight against somebody around here that’s going to matter, yeah, I’m interested.
"Whoever they put in front of me, I take the fight and try to fight to be better and better every single time. Every fight, I’m trying to progress as a fighter -- look better, feel better, punch harder, punch faster. I’m trying to grow as a fighter. That’s my main concern, not to live up to anyone else’s standards, but to go as an individual fighter making progress."
His goal in 2018 is to continue to progress and prove to himself -- no one else -- he’s capable of performing on the sport’s biggest stage against some of the biggest names. Friday is the first step.
"I would say a benchmark for me is to capitalize and demonstrate in the ring under the lights. I talk about this a lot," Ortiz said. "A lot of people can look good and everything can be all great, but can you perform under the lights? Can you perform when the pressure’s on you? Being clutch at the last second, that’s when it all matters.
"That’s always my main concern. When I’m under the lights, when all your friends and fans are watching you, when it really counts, being able to show the people I’m a superstar, not just in the papers, or over social media or just in the gym, but under the lights. That’s one thing I want, to be able to be that performer under the lights."
Ortiz may fly under the radar for now, but that’ll change if he continues to steamroll opponents with the same frequency in 2018. Quiet outside of the ring, Ortiz’s hands have done a lot of talking the past two years, and the noise keeps getting louder and louder with each victory.
"I want to move up the ladder, fight in different arenas," Ortiz said. "That’s my main concern."