Ahead of the premiere of the sports drama Southpaw, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, and boxer-turned-actor Victor Ortiz, we had a chance to talk to the former welterweight champion about the film, his new acting career, and his desire to come back to the ring for revenge.
You went through a hard childhood and you started boxing to stay out of trouble and make a name for yourself. As you were trying out for the Junior Olympics and moving up in the boxing world, did you also have the dream to become an actor, to go to Hollywood, or be in films?
“With no acting experience whatsoever, I land my first movie – a role in The Expendables 3, next to Sylvester Stallone.”
Funny you mention it, because I actually had theatre in school. But I was always the background guy producing the sets and whatnot. I never actually thought I was going to be on film. Maybe there was a little thought in the back of my head wondering if I could ever make it back to film, wondering if I could do that Dwayne Johnson thing. Next thing you know, I break my jaw. As bad as that fight was, it was a blessing in disguise, because I had no choice but to start another career. With no acting experience whatsoever, I land my first movie – a role in The Expendables 3, next to Sylvester Stallone.
You were never in a boring fight. You have a very fan-friendly style that’s sometimes a little controversial. You’ve gone toe-to-toe with the best of them: the Fight of the Year against Berto in 2011, Maidana, Mayweather, Peterson, etc. You win some and you lose some, just like in the film Southpaw. What goes through a young fighter’s head after a difficult night, like during the Floyd Mayweather match or the Josesito López fight where your jaw was broken?
The thing is, you have to look at the positive end of everything. In both those fights – even though they went sideways – I was actually not losing any of them. You can never say Ortiz was being handled in this or that fight. So I’ve never had a one-sided ass whooping yet.
Jake Gyllenhaal is in tremendous shape in the film. Did you train with him at all? Did you spar a few rounds?
Nah. Everything is well-choreographed. I actually never got to hit him. He’s a professional actor and his acting and performance were just amazing. But if you ask me to do an Oscar-worthy performance, it’s two different things. When you fight, the cuts are real, the broken noses are actually broken, and the broken jaws are actually broken.
I know you’re very friendly with Stallone after The Expendables 3, so I have to ask you: prime Billy Hope vs. prime Rocky Balboa. Who wins?
Rocky Balboa man! That’s without question.
You went four rounds with one of the best fighters of our generation, Floyd Mayweather. Four very close rounds and you were definitely having your way in the fourth. If your fight with Floyd were 12 rounds, what would’ve happened?
I wasn’t actually planning on getting a decision in that fight. [There was] no way I was going to go 12 rounds in that fight. I was shooting for a seventh or eighth round knockout. That’s why he had to do what he had to do.
One of the biggest boxing fights that fans want to see is about to happen. What are your thoughts on Puerto Rican superstar middleweight champ Miguel Cotto vs. Mexican rising star Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez?
“I definitely want all my rematches – I know I can take all of them!”
Canelo has definitely shown improvements and he’s definitely worked hard for what he’s got, also thanks to his promoters. I never had those promoters or managers. I had to fight wars to get to where I am and that makes fans appreciate who I am. But ultimately, I think the experienced champ Miguel Cotto will take it.
What’s in the future for Victor Ortiz? More films or a comeback to the ring late this year or in 2016? It’s great to see you on the big screen, but I know a lot of people would love to see you back in the ring. I’m pretty sure Berto would love a rematch with you and you might still want to avenge your losses against Josesito, Maidana, or Floyd Mayweather, if he decides to continue fighting.
I’m going to do both! Check this out: I’ve been filming a movie in Venice Beach with Bruce Willis and John Goodman, and I have another three films in the works also. After I’m done with a few of the films, I would like to get back in the ring. But I haven’t been able to fight since last December, because I shattered my wrist in four places. I’ve been in therapy [and I] just got the cast off my hand. I was hoping to get back in the ring in September, but most likely it’s not going to happen that soon. But I definitely want all my rematches – I know I can take all of them!