Eager for comeback fight against Brooklyn's Collazo
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It was a little less than three years ago that "Vicious" Victor Ortiz appeared primed to become "the next big thing" in the world of professional boxing.
The then-24-year-old pugilist had just scored a unanimous decision victory over Andre Berto to grab the WBC Welterweight title, thrusting himself into the elite ranks of the division and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity against the best pound-for-pound fighter of this, or perhaps, any era.
But one false move in the squared circle, an ill-advised head butt to the face of undefeated and undisputed pound-for-pound champ Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the night of Sept. 17, 2011, proved to be the Kansas-born fighter's undoing.
After being out-boxed and outfoxed by Mayweather in the first three rounds of their bout, Ortiz finally gained an advantage in Round 4, burrowing his way through his opponent with a series of effective power punches before inexplicably lowering his head and ramming it into Mayweather's face.
The illegal blow opened a cut in Mayweather's mouth and referee Joe Cortez momentarily stopped the bout to assess Ortiz with a penalty before the fighters went back at each other.
Ortiz, perhaps ashamed that he had resorted to such tactics, extended his apologies and even tried to embrace Mayweather in the ring.
His wily and indomitable opponent took full advantage of Ortiz's momentary lapse of reason, delivering a wicked left hook and a "Lights Out" right hand that felled Ortiz, who was unable to beat Cortez's 10 count from the canvas.
And just like that, Victor Ortiz was on his way out of the ring and into virtual boxing obscurity.
On Thursday night at the Barclays Center, Ortiz will take an important step toward re-establishing himself as a championship-worthy boxer when he takes on Brooklyn native Luis Collazo in the headline bout of Brooklyn's pre-Super Bowl fight card.
"This is my first time fighting in Brooklyn and I'm excited," a determined Ortiz said during Monday's final pre-fight workout at Brooklyn's historic Gleason's Gym. "I don't have any words to say, nothing bad, nothing good. I'm here for the victory."
Of course, Ortiz expressed similar sentiments prior to his first post-Mayweather debacle bout against Josesito Lopez in Los Angeles on June 23, 2012.
But that fight ended with Ortiz suffering a broken jaw, causing a stoppage prior to the 10th round and his second straight defeat.
The 26-year-old hasn't stepped in the ring since. Until now, that is.
Instead, Ortiz (29-4-2) has found work outside the ring, competing on ABC's Dancing with the Stars and trying his hand at acting in the upcoming "Expendables 3," alongside the likes of veteran action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
While acting and dancing have certainly filled the gap between ring appearances, Ortiz is well aware that he’s more likely to earn a championship belt in the future, rather than a Mirror Ball Trophy or Academy Award.
"We're so ready, we've had the best sparring partners and we're ready to get in the ring,” Ortiz noted. “Training camp was really good.”
As good as his preparation for the bout has been, Ortiz knows there are those who doubt whether he can rebound from back-to-back devastating losses, especially since he was left unable to continue in both.
"I'm not at all concerned about my jaw, I feel great and I can't wait to get in the ring,” Ortiz insisted. "I'm completely 100 percent confident. I have no ring rust whatsoever.”
As for Collazo (34-5), who will turn 33 in April and isn’t likely to headline many more fight cards if he can’t hand Ortiz a third consecutive defeat Thursday night, losing is not an option.
And the P.S. 290 and I.S. 302 graduate isn’t shy about admitting it.
"This fight is for my future,” he told the mass of fight journalists gathered at Gleason’s. “I'm trying not to look past it, but this victory here means everything to me. It means I have a future. If not, I have to start all over again from scratch.
"I've been counting down for weeks waiting patiently for this,” he added. “I was motivated before getting this fight, but this has escalated my motivation.”
Collazo has scored victories in both of his previous Barclays appearances, including an impressive fifth-round TKO of Miguel Callist here last April.
The Georgia Avenue native then outlasted Alan Sanchez in San Antonio last September, grabbing the then-vacant WBA International Welterweight crown, which he will put on the line against Ortiz.
"I'm really excited and humbled by the opportunity,” Collazo said. “I just want to give the boxing fans a great fight and a great outing. I've been waiting a long time for a fight of this caliber.
“[Ortiz] can do what he wants, but I know on fight night I will be ready. If he wants to dance, I'll be the bull.”
Ring Notes: Thursday night’s card, which will be televised live on Fox Sports 1, will also include a co-feature bout between undefeated super welterweight prospect Eddie “E-Boy” Gomez of New York and Florida prospect Daquan “King” Arnett. "[Barclays Center is] a short drive from my house,” Gomez revealed. “I love fighting there. I have a lot of people coming to see me.” … House fighter Marcus Browne (8-0, 7 KOs), a former Olympian and light-heavyweight contender from Staten Island, is looking forward to his preliminary bout against Kentrell Claiborne (4-8). "This is my sixth time fighting at Barclays Center and I'm ready to go out and take another step forward in my pro career,” Browne said on Monday. … Bensonhurst native Paulie Malignaggi, who grabbed the undisputed Brooklyn Bragging Rights belt against Zab Judah here on Dec. 7, will be on hand for Thursday’s bout from his customary ringside seat as an analyst. "This is such a stacked card for it being in the middle of Super Bowl week here in New York,” Malignaggi gushed. “The whole city is buzzing. I am excited looking at this whole line up, it's really a great card we have here.” … Tickets for Thursday’s bouts begin at $25 and can still be purchased at the arena or by visiting www.barclayscenter.com, www.ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster locations and by calling 800-745-3000.