Photo credit: Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Once hyped up as the heir to Oscar De La Hoya, Victor Ortiz, who will turn 27 on Friday, is now a fighter looking to cash in on a reputation for pandemonium.
Boxing is not a sport with mass appeal, but Ortiz, who returns to the ring after a long layoff when he faces Luis Collazo on Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, is one of the few fighters who can fill out the “Interests” section on LatinAmericanCupid.com. Ortiz lasted six weeks on Dancing With the Stars last year, had an MTV documentary about him under production at one point, and has been featured on TMZ more often than an athlete without a sex tape ought to.
In addition to recently launching a line of skin care products (which, bizarrely, includes designer dog tags to go with lip balm and anti-aging cream) in conjunction with Facelube, Ortiz also made his acting debut in the all-star ensemble extravaganza Expendables 3, coming soon to a theater near you. Born and raised in a trailer park in Garden City, Kansas, Ortiz had, by all accounts, a nightmare childhood, a sort of Flowers in the Attic on the Great Plains. His bonhomie, in light of this fact, is astonishing. Quirky outside of the ring and quixotic inside of it, Ortiz has managed to combine his affability with a surreal talent for havoc, now his main selling point. Pratfalls, reversals of fortune, and ultraviolence are his hallmarks. Like El Chapulin Colorado, Ortiz is a danger to himself and to those who share the squared circle with him. In 2011, he was notoriously poleaxed by Floyd Mayweather, Jr., when he reached out to bro-hug Mayweather after committing a foul. Ortiz was a GIF meme for weeks after committing that lulu. In his last fight, Ortiz had his jaw broken in two places on the way to suffering an upset TKO loss to unheralded Josesito Lopez. Before that, Ortiz had exchanged thunderous knockdowns with Andre Berto in a savage war on HBO.
Except for shooting scripts and filming commercials for VO Cologne, Ortiz, 29-4-2, has been out of action since June 23, 2012, when Lopez forced him to quit on the stool. Just how focused Ortiz can be after so much downtime and so many extracurricular activities is a question only Collazo can answer—with his fists. Collazo, a Brooklyn-based Boricua with a record of 34-5-1, was a solid professional for years before he misplaced ambition somewhere along the way. Still, Ortiz is exactly the kind of fighter a forgotten man like Collazo wants to answer the opening bell against. Erratic, rusty, and as accident-prone as Hemingway—who once had a chandelier crash down on him from out of the blue—Ortiz is as likely to spontaneously combust at the Barclays Center as he is to win or lose. Who would have it any other way?
Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.