Harris can talk but does he have game?
Vivian Harris echoed the thoughts of many fans when he repeatedly questioned Victor Ortiz’s courage on a conference call Wednesday.
Ortiz, who faces Harris on the Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora undercard on Sept. 18 in Los Angeles, was criticized for quitting against Marcos Maidana last year and hasn’t lived it down in spite of three consecutive victories since.
“He don’t believe in himself ,” Harris said. “He don’t have courage. ÔÇª I know that he knows that. And on Sept. 18, we’re gonna see it.
“I’m a fighter,” Harris added later. “I know about digging deep in there. Sometimes in the ring you feel you’re gonna die; you gotta dig deep. ÔÇª I don’t think he has that kind of mental(ity) right now.”
Ortiz, not one to exchange trash talk, at first took Harris’ slights in good humor. He apparently was aware that Harris was trying to gain a psychological advantage by getting under his skin.
“I just find that a little funny,” he said. “To each his own. Everyone has his own opinion. I’m comfortable with me. I know what I’m capable of doing.”
And then, when Harris persisted, Ortiz seemed to grow weary of the of his opponent’s comments and spoke curtly.
“I’ll see you at Staples Center on Sept. 18,” he said directly to Harris.
Rolando Arellano, Ortiz’s co-manager, stepped in to defend his fighter.
“We’re the type of team that doesn’t focus on another fighter’s weaknesses,” he said. “ÔÇª I know Vivian Harris has something to prove. I give him nothing but the utmost respect. We’re not here to talk about his weaknesses. By the mere fact they’re weaknesses, they'll be exposed.
“We’re here to figure out how to conquer Vivian Harris, to focus on his positive attributes. We’re not here to say he’s older or that he lost his last fight.”
Harris then seized that opportunity to continue digging at Ortiz.
“That’s what his team believes,” he said. “He has to believe that to get the victory. Once you don’t believe it, it’s not happening. Trust me; he don’t believe it.”
The irony here is that Ortiz (27-2-1, 21 knockouts) is the fighter on the rise and Harris (29-4-1, 19 KOs) is trying to hang on at 32.
Ortiz, 23, bounced back from the Maidana loss, a sixth-round knockout, to easily beat veterans Antonio Diaz, Hector Alatorre and Nate Campbell. He’s ranked No. 1 by two of the four major sanctioning bodies in one of the deepest divisions in boxing, junior welterweight.
He could land a big fight against another top 140-pounder within a year – if he beats Harris.
“That definitely is a good thing to look at,” he said, referring to his lucrative prospects. “Right now I’m looking at Vivian Harris. He’s a great fighter, a (former) world champion for reason. I can’t look past him. He’s definitely a danger.”
And then he got a little cocky when asked whether he’s prepared for a veteran who throws a lot of punches.
“Everyone has a game plan until they get hit,” he said.
And then Harris jumped in again, saying with a laugh: “I’m glad you know that.”
Clearly, Harris still talks a good game. But can he still fight?
The Guyana-born resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., hasn’t had a meaningful victory since he narrowly outpointed Juan Lazcano in 2007, after which he was stopped in seven rounds by Junior Witter in a title fight.
He has been in the ring only three times since then – a sixth-round KO of journeyman Octavio Narvaez in which he went down twice, a no-contest against Noe Balanos after he was cut by a head butt and a bizarre fourth-round KO loss to Lucas Matthysse in February in Mexico City. Referee Gelasio Huerta stopped the fight even though Harris, who had taken a few hard punches, seemed to be fine.
Thus, we don’t really know what the former titleholder has left – if anything. This is his chance to show that he remains relevant.
“I’m a different fighter from Maidana,” he said. “I hit harder than Maidana. I’m a different fighter from Nate Campbell. I’m a far different fighter from Nate Campbell. ÔÇª I’m a sharp shooter. You know what I mean? My sharp shooting is definitely going to land.
“And I know once I land, he has to question himself. He better hope he doesn’t get flashbacks.”
Harris is definitely no quitter, at least when it comes to words.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]