Ortiz takes a beating out of the ring too
Ask those in the boxing business whether Victor Ortiz quit in his fight against Marcos Maidana on Saturday in Los Angeles and they’ll probably squirm before giving you a yes or a no. That’s because they have respect for Ortiz and everyone else who has the guts to step through the ropes.
Ultimately, though, most arrive at the same conclusion.
“I’ll just say it ÔÇª he quit. I wouldn’t have done that,” heavyweight contender Chris Arreola said after a few moments of hemming and hawing.
The response to the way the fight ended and Ortiz’s subsequent comments, which seemed to confirm that he gave up early in the sixth round of the thrilling brawl, has largely been damning. Ortiz has been called everything from a coward to a quitter.
And a damage-control statement released Tuesday, in which Ortiz states that his comments were an emotional response to the loss, isn’t going to help much.
No one who knows anything about this game would call Ortiz or any other professional boxer a coward. It just isn’t true. And few are comfortable even labeling this skillful and powerful athlete a flat out quitter.
However, many people — inside boxing and out — are willing to say he gave up when things got particularly rough against the hard-punching Argentine. And in boxing, they say, that is simply not acceptable.
“This is kind of unchartered territory for me,” said trainer Joe Goossen, who has no connection to Ortiz. “I’ve never had a fighter quit on me. I don’t know what to make of it; I’ve never had to taste that indignity. It must be what old-timers always say: ‘They just don’t make ’em like they used to.’
“ÔÇª Nobody is questioning his courage. It takes courage just to get up and hit the road at 5:30 in the morning, to spar, to get in there half-naked and fight. The unwritten rule in boxing, though, is YOU DO NOT QUIT ÔÇª EVER. We’ll [the trainers] will save you, we’ll do our job. You don’t do it because it ruins your reputation and ours.”
Former featherweight titleholder Kevin Kelley said he fought many times with one injury or another and was in many wars but never quit. In one memorable fight — against Derrick Gainer in 1996 — Kelley fought with a gruesome baseball-sized mouse that made him a one-eyed fighter but managed to stop his opponent.
Kelley doesn’t like what he sees as a trend these days.
“I’ve seen it a lot lately,” he said, “quitting when a guy gets punched or when he gets a bruised eye. They’re pansies today. They don’t have the you-gotta-kill-me-to-win attitude. That’s what’s missing with a lot of fighters today. They bleed a little, they panic. They swell a little, they panic.
“ÔÇª You gotta think kind of crazy as a fighter; you can’t think like a normal person. You gotta be irrational. Joe Frazier was blind in one eye when he fought Ali (in Manila) but wouldn’t quit. Eddie Futch had to stop it. That’s irrational. Once you think about getting hurt, you’re done as a fighter.
“I’d rather die than quit. When I fought Troy Dorsey (in 1992) I was as close to death as possible. I thought I was gonna die. I also thought, ‘If he can’t kill me, I’ll try to kill him.”
John Molina, a L.A.-area prospect who knows Ortiz, didn’t want to be overly critical but also wanted to be honest.
“It did look like he quit,” Molina said. “It did look like he didn’t want to fight any more. It looks like he has some re-evaluating to do in his career. It’s that cut and dry. You’d have to be blind to see otherwise. ÔÇª This is the entertainment business, not a business of quitters.
“No one knows from an outside perspective what it’s like to be in the ring; they don’t know the pressure you’re under. And I have a lot of respect for Victor; he’s a hell of a fighter. You just don’t go on HBO and say you don’t want to fight any more. That’s like slitting your own wrist.
“I believe in this business that you’re either in or out. If you’re not all the way in, you’re out.”
Ortiz has his supporters.
Several readers of RingTV.com sent emails with the same sentiment: It’s easy to take shots at a fighter when you weren’t in the ring with a killer like Maidana that night at Staples Center, which is reasonable.
And even some high-powered people in the boxing business, who have no connection to Ortiz, didn’t fault him. Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who was on the broadcast team on Saturday, said “it was legitimate.”
“You can’t blame him,” Steward said. “It’s a decision every fighter has to make. The question is: How much more punishment can the kid take? He couldn’t win that fight, no way. And he was busted up bad. He’d been hurt the last few rounds. I think he was totally gone physically and emotionally.
“And I have respect for him for being honest in the end.”
Again, though, Steward was in the minority. And Golden Boy Promotions, Ortiz’s promoter, knew it. That’s why they released a statement on Tuesday “to clear the air,” as it was put.
Immediately after the fight, Ortiz said: “I was hurt, I'm not going to go out on my back; I'm not going to lay down for nobody. I'd rather stop while I'm ahead. That way I can speak well when I'm older.” And: “We'll see what happens from here on out [in regard to his future in the ring]. I'm young, but I don't think I deserve to be getting beat up like this so I have a lot of thinking to do.”
In the statement released Tuesday, Ortiz said: “I made some comments after the fight that were an emotional response to the loss.”
The bottom line is that people saw what they saw and heard what they heard. Ortiz could go on and have a successful career but it might take quite a while to put this behind him.
“Victor is a nice kid, a good fighter,” Goossen said. “But sometimes the handwriting shows up on the wall early. That’s kind of a hard thing to ever recuperate from. Even the great Roberto Duran had a hard time recuperating from the “No Mas” fight for years. For Ortiz, this was the fight in which he should’ve proved himself but didn’t.
“Is it sad? I don’t look at it as sad. What’s sad is that there are a lot of guys out there with tons of heart who aren’t getting those type of paydays, guys that will put on a good show for you and never quit. That’s sad. What (Ortiz) did was disturbing.”
Michael Rosenthal’s column appears Wednesday’s. He can be reached at [email protected]