Ortiz rebounds to earn date with undefeated Mayweather

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Two years ago, Victor Ortiz  seemingly had the world at his feet, charming fans with a  1,000-watt smile outside the ring and electrifying them with  his explosive fighting style between the ropes.

He was even dubbed boxing’s new Oscar De La Hoya, who  himself declared that, “Victor has the charisma, looks, smile  and most importantly, he has the goods — the talent — to be  the chosen one.”

But all that came crashing down when he quit in the sixth  round of a June 2009 fight where he was knocked down twice and  badly hurt by Argentine opponent Marcos Maidana.

To boxing fans, turning away from combat is considered the  ultimate sin, and many responded by turning away from him in  droves.

But he also received expressions of support, including from  American Floyd Mayweather Jr., who along with Filipino Manny  Pacquiao is regarded as one of the best fighters in the world.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“He said: ‘Look Vic, you’re the one who’s looked at as the  next Oscar De La Hoya, the next Golden Boy. You lose, and what  happens? The world forgets about you, right?’“ Ortiz told  Reuters. “He said, ‘Keep in mind, you’re going to be doing  great things one day.”

In April, after four unconvincing wins and a draw following  his Maidana defeat, Ortiz squared off with WBC welterweight  champion Andre Berto.

Each man visited the canvas twice during an enthralling  battle but this time Ortiz kept going, dominating the second  half of the fight to win a decision and take Berto’s belt.

His reward was the ultimate boxing lottery ticket: a bout  with the undefeated Mayweather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on  Sept. 17.
Mayweather and Ortiz will officially announce the contest  at media conferences in New York and Los Angeles this week.
According to Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs), the two years of  negative reaction from fans never derailed him.

“At the end of the day, I can live with myself very  happily,” he said. “I don’t need anybody’s two cents here and  there to dictate how I’m going to live my life, or even to try  and justify how I will do or why.”

It is a resilience born from hardships encountered long  before he became a boxer. His mother left the family home when  he was seven years old and his father followed suit five years  later.

At 15, he worked part-time to help older sister Carmen pay  the bills and take care of them and their younger brother,  Temo. When the Kansas native moved to southern California to  pursue a boxing career, he took Temo with him and the two  shared an apartment until returning home where he now runs a  trucking business. The fraternal ties, however, remain strong.

“I help him out with his company, in terms of buying his  truck parts or whatever else he needs sometimes … because I’m  his big brother and I think it’s the right thing to do,” said  Ortiz. “He’s the only thing I have in this life, you know?”

Ortiz now also has vindication, and an opportunity to  complete a dramatic career turnaround by becoming the first man  to defeat Mayweather. It is, he says, an opportunity he never  expected, but one on which he plans to capitalize on.

“I’m a slumdog, right? I’m a stray. I’m not supposed to be  anywhere near a stage like this,” said Ortiz. “But I refuse to  believe that. I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to be one of  the all-time greats and that’s where it’s at.”

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