I'll say right off I have never been a big Victor Ortiz fan. I always liked watching him fight, because the "Vicious" nickname was earned. The guy came to knock people out, had a ferociousness about him.
But like a captive lion that could roar on demand in a performance, Ortiz whimpered when met with opposition that fought back last year in the form of Marcos Maidana. After plowing through easy marks, he was set up with what was thought to be a cruel brawler, just another stepping stone en route to the new Golden Boy "Golden Boy" making his name among boxing's elite.
From a marketing standpoint, I get it with Ortiz. He's a handsome kid, has a good punch, a backstory that makes you root for him, and he loves to smile and crack a joke. His personality came off almost Bill and Ted-like at points. He was a nice guy, a carefree spirit, almost flippant at times. He seemed, after his easy demolitions of overmatched foes, to not have a care in the world. Boxing was his job, and he was good at it. He was mowing people down and being told by his bosses and TV people he'd be one of the next big things.
Maidana kicked his ass, and though Ortiz probably has more boxing talent, he didn't have the guts to carry on in that fight. I'm not trying to call him a coward or anything intense like that. When I say he didn't have the guts, I mean in relation to other, tougher boxers. All boxers are some level of tough that I'm not.
But we saw Ortiz crumble mentally more than physically. Yes, Maidana had torn him up, busted open cuts and given him a healthy amount of swelling around the eyes. More than the physical damage was the fact that Ortiz could see when he hit Maidana with his best shots, even if Maidana went down, he kept coming back. He wasn't Jeffrey Resto, he wasn't Mike Arnaoutis, he wasn't Carlos Maussa. Maidana was there to shake things up and win.
Tonight, we got to see Victor Ortiz in his third fight since the Maidana loss. In fight one, he was tentative against Antonio Diaz, but those two are also friendly outside the ring, and I've always kept that in the back of my head. Against Hector Alatorre, Ortiz carried a completely overmatched fighter who had no business in the same ring as Victor, before getting the stoppage in the final round, which ate up some good TV time for Fight Night Club.
This time out, he faced Nate Campbell. I picked Campbell (and Paul Malignaggi) while knowing I'd likely be wrong. I'll even say that while I think Ortiz is talented, something about him bugs me. Something always bugged me about Oscar de la Hoya, too. I'm a fan, and some guys rub me the wrong way. Campbell, on the other hand, is one of my favorite fighters. He'll say what's on his mind, whether he should say it or not, and there's just not an ounce of bullshit in Nate Campbell. Sure, he's a talker and a charmer, as Max Kellerman noted on tonight's broadcast, but I find I've almost always naturally agreed with what Nate was saying. He didn't have to talk something up to get me to change my mind, I just usually felt he was right. He's a straight shooter and a good dude.
Ortiz dominated him. Nate Campbell is 38 years old, lost a year of his career to other peoples' mistakes, and is fighting in a weight class where he doesn't really belong. Campbell probably won't retire, because the man has bills to pay and it wasn't that long ago that he had to file for bankruptcy while holding three lightweight titles. He'll fight on. He might not be more than a gatekeeper at 140, but he'll fight. I think Campbell, like Stevie Johnston or Steve Forbes, is one of those guys who's just going to keep boxing until it's beyond clear he should stop. He's that kind of guy. I don't think he's too concerned with how many Ls wind up on his final record. Boxing's a business and Nate Campbell is a guy who's never been shy about saying he wants to make money.
He did look shot last night. He didn't look good at all against Tim Bradley last August, but that was three rounds, and Campbell's eye was legitimately screwed up in that fight. I think now and thought then that Bradley likely won the fight going away even without the eye injury, and tonight seems to indicate that that's probably true. Ortiz had an easy night at the office.
What bothered me was I think it was too easy.
Look, Ortiz can't help that Nate Campbell is 38 and faded, that Campbell isn't the fighter he used to be. Campbell was universally still ranked in the top 10 at 140, where Ortiz was not entering this fight. Campbell is still Ortiz's best win. But Ortiz was clearly going to win this fight once it was about three rounds old. So why go on cruise control?
Maybe it's a tactical decision. Maybe instead of being the bash 'em up slugger he used to be, Ortiz's team looked at their fighter after the Maidana fight and said, "We need to box more." That would be wise. Ortiz didn't give a great account of himself in a slugfest. Yeah, he was ahead on the cards, but nobody on earth thinks he was going to win that fight if he hadn't pulled out. Maidana was moments away from finishing Ortiz off in brutal fashion.
But Campbell clearly had nothing in there, and Ortiz showed no desire to go for the finish at any point. Campbell was slow, had no zip on his punches, and Ortiz was landing good, clean, hard shots throughout the fight. Nate landed maybe a handful of good punches, and they didn't really seem to have any effect on Ortiz, save for one body shot in the middle of the fight.
The fight told me that when Victor Ortiz eventually has to face a guy who will offer not just resistance, but pressure, Ortiz will again fold. I don't say that meaning to "hate on" Ortiz, or to be a jerk. I just get that feeling. I don't think he ever beats Marcos Maidana, not because he couldn't outbox Maidana, but because I don't think he can stand up to him over 10-to-12 rounds. I don't think he can handle a guy like Timothy Bradley, because Bradley attacks. And as dodgy as Amir Khan's chin is, I don't think Ortiz can beat him either, because Ortiz showed too much willingness to be tentative, and Khan's speed is such that he can get Victor thinking way too much to even get his own shots off. Devon Alexander is too much for Ortiz, too, in my view.
So what's the ceiling? Ortiz could pick up a title belt at some point. Hell, almost anyone worth half a damn wins a belt nowadays, and it isn't talent that Ortiz lacks.
But if he couldn't do more against a smaller, older, weaker, cooked Nate Campbell, what's he going to do against determined young guys who still have more than their heart going for them? Nate Campbell did not lack for guts in this fight, he just didn't have it physically, and he posed no threat to Ortiz at any point.
Those still hoping for Victor Ortiz to be one of the flag bearers of boxing's next generation of stars are holding on to a shred of hope at this point, and I feel that more after this shutout win than I did after he quit against Maidana. There's just that x-factor, whatever it is, that Victor Ortiz doesn't have. Boxing has, in my opinion, a terrific young crop of fighters out there, who largely seem like they're willing to take challenges. I just can't see talking about Ortiz alongside guys like Bradley, Ward, Alexander, etc., as one of the truly standout young guns in the sport. He just doesn't show those same qualities.
But I'm still interested to see where he goes. Maybe he surprises me. Maybe it really is just a new style they're working with, one they feel he's better suited for. And if so, they just might be 100% right. We'll find out the next time he's in the ring with a guy who has more than Nate Campbell had left.