Ortiz forgives mother, embraces ‘Rocky’ story against Mayweather
Victor Ortiz was born the second of three children to Mexican immigrants in Garden City, Kan. He was just 7 years old when his mother left him, 13 when his alcoholic father did the same.
Ortiz, now 24, recently met the woman who abandoned him. And with absolutely zero malice in his heart, he absolved her of blame. Completely.
"I met my mom about seven months ago, and the lady, she's doing well," said Ortiz. "I think that I maybe gave her a year's worth of her life back into her. You know, she seems like a sweetheart. I don't know her personally, you know, or anything, but from what I saw, you know, I forgave her for everything.
"She asked me to forgive her and don't ever hold anything against her. She never really had to tell me that. I decided that I would do that before meeting her, I guess. I'm happy for her. I'm happy that she's married, and happy, and that she has her own family going on, you know?"
Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs) is on the verge of making the first defense of his WBC welterweight belt in the biggest fight of his young career against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. (41-0, 25 knockouts) on Sept. 17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
"I'm very proud of him," said Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar De La Hoya, Ortiz's promoter. "What he has accomplished and the obstacles that he's overcome, sooner than later, he was able to overcome that adversity.
"That shows you what a great person he is and a true champion he is. I can honestly say with a clear head that Victor is my hero."
Ortiz not only made peace with his mother but also learned that many people from the neighborhood in which he grew up are expected to make the trip to Las Vegas to see the fight.
"The tale has been told over and over again. Those are the streets that I was kind of walking around in, kind of hoping for a better tomorrow," said Ortiz, who has been celebrated in his home town.
"Not only did you guys give me the key to the city, but you gave me my own day. Now, you guys are coming out to support a Garden Citian, which is kind of nuts. It's almost unreal. But it's something that I don't forget, and I will appreciate forever and ever, you know?"
Ortiz's father had taken his son to a local gym to learn how to box after the youngster was bullied by two other children.
"I was a little kid, but I didn't understand the point of two people beating each other up. It was kind of harsh for me," said Ortiz. "It was something that was painful, and I didn't really look forward to going to. But, when my mom and dad left, it was one of those things where there were some opportunities."
Ortiz and his younger brother, Temo, left Garden City and his 16-year-old pregnant sister to live on their own for more than a year. Local trainer Ignacio "Bucky" Avila worked Ortiz, who earned a Kansas Golden Gloves championship.
When Avila died, Ortiz and Temo were placed into the hands of foster parents John and Sharon Ford, who helped Ortiz quell growing anger issues. At the age of 15, Victor, with Temo, moved in with their 18-year-old sister, who gained custody of them while living in Denver.
In the 2003 Junior Olympic Nationals, Ortiz met Robert Garcia, who guided him through a successful amateur boxing career and into the pros.
"I had wanted to go to the Olympics. That was a big goal of mine, but thanks to politics, they kept me out," said Ortiz, who gained custody of Temo when he became a legal adult in 2005. "So I put it into my mind that, 'Hey, I'm going to be world champion one day.'"
In 2007, Danny Garcia replaced his younger brother, Robert, as Ortiz's trainer.
"I've built my own family, except my family is pure friends. They're as real as they come, you know? Each one of them," said Ortiz, whose inner circle is composed of his camp members. "I can tell you their names, first and last. I can probably even give you their social security numbers."
A large number of Garden City's population of 27,000 is of Mexican decent, which also motivates Ortiz.
"It's a beautiful thing. It's one of those things where a guy like me isn't supposed to be held in awe like that. Not in a million years if you pay attention to statistics," said Ortiz. "I guess that's why I've decided to make my own statistics, and that's called, you just keep looking. I don't have statistics that I live by. I've just been blessed. Right place at the right time maybe?"
On fight night, those from Garden City who are not ringside watching Ortiz will likely be sitting in front their televisions rooting him on.
"It's almost going to be like a Rocky movie," said Ortiz. "Remember, it was Christmas time, and all of those little kids were watching him on TV? And Rocky's like, 'Yo, Adrian!'"