Just watch this video and try not to like Victor Ortiz. I defy you. Go for it.
If that doesn’t do it for you, try this one.
And that’s it. That’s the formula for any American superstar-to-be. Have a personality and/or a story. Fight well and fight in an exciting way. Early in his career, Ortiz has done those things. Saturday night on HBO, the 22-year-old phenom is about to answer the biggest question of his young boxing life: Can he take a punch from an elite junior welterweight power puncher? If he can handle what Marcos Maidana throws at him — and Ortiz has been dropped by lesser bombers — I think the sky is the limit. Golden Boy Promotions will indeed have the next golden boy on their hands. The talk that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has Victor Ortiz on his “hit list” won’t sound so far-fetched.
Ortiz hasn’t just been fighting well, I should say; he’s been fighting off the charts. His last time out, I thought Mike Arnaoutis was going to give him a challenge, or at least some rounds, even though I wouldn’t have kind of picked Arnaoutis to win. Arnaoutis was a borderline top-10 guy who had fought a few top-10 caliber junior welters, and he’d given one of them, mega-puncher Ricardo Torres, all he could handle — some thought he deserved the decision win. Instead, Ortiz iced him in two rounds, and it was ice cold the way he did it. Arnaoutis landed two of eight total power punches and connected on a total of three, and after Ortiz put together a captivating series of uppercuts and hooks to finish him off, Arnaoutis protested because he didn’t really know what happened. That’s good D and good O. Such was Ortiz’ performance that I got on board. I’d seen him smash through some pre-ruined Jeffrey Restos and Carlos Maussas and thought, OK, this kid has some power in both hands, and he can box, and I see why people were getting excited. But they were pre-ruined. Arnaoutis wasn’t. It pointed to the potential to be special.
What could affect that potential is a less-than-sturdy chin, if indeed that’s what Ortiz has. Ortiz has been dropped by a journeyman in the ring, the heavy-punching Dairo Esalas, and Doug Fischer of RingTV.com says he’s heard of Ortiz being dropped in sparring. On the other hand, you can get dropped or rocked all you want in boxing so long as you recover, or else you’d have to throw the entire careers of Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto out the window. Word is that Ortiz recovers, and evidence is that he does, as his eventual KO of Esalas proved.
Maidana’s not only a puncher — 25 wins, 24 knockouts — but he showed in has last fight that he’s a real live one. There are punchers like Edison Miranda who are dangerous, but, ultimately, to elite guys, aren’t, really. If you’re at the top of your class, you beat Miranda. Maidana, from the limited sample available, isn’t so easy. Maidana can box a tad. That gives him dimensions most pure punchers don’t have. He’s not one big shot you have to watch out for. He’s a guy who sets things up, who is patient, who has some diversity in his arsenal, who will knock you out real smart-like.
Based on what I’ve seen over the Internets, just a couple fights, honestly, Maidana has a chance here. Sure, Adreas Kotelnik isn’t a big puncher, but he’s a good fighter, and Maidana took him to the limit, forcing a split decision. When he was too patient, Kotelnik painted him, using superior speed and movement. When Maidana applied serious aggression, he had Kotelnik in a bad way. It’s the kind of fight that makes the losing fighter better. Of course, it was also the only real name on his record of note. So the sample of the sample is limited. Maidana is a youngster himself at 25, but he’s probably the less experienced of the two fighters. His best opponent was better than Ortiz’ best opponent, but the overall caliber of opposition favors Ortiz.
Maidana, though, really can punch. Ortiz knows it, too. As he said, “We’re going to dance with the devil a little.” (Charisma!) What we don’t know about Maidana either is whether he can handle a big, elite puncher. He hasn’t fought one himself. And word out of Maidana’s camp is that they plan to box smarter than ever. After all, charging in against Ortiz could get Maidana knocked out, just as Ortiz getting careless could get him knocked out.
Ortiz is the faster of the two, probably the better defender, as well, and that, to me, gives him the edge. If Maidana gets too cautious, Ortiz will be able to outslick him. If Maidana goes for it too much, Ortiz will capitalize and, I’m wiling to wager, hurt him. I’m going to pick Ortiz by late knockout in a fight that has some exciting exchanges but where Ortiz proves himself in the better class. After that, the next time we’ll probably see Ortiz is in the reality series MTV is filming about him, and, if he erases the hitch that is the question about his chin, maybe he can address the last complaint I have about him — that haircut.