LOS ANGELES – Victor Ortiz’s immediate future might have been mapped out well in advance of Saturday night, but in boxing it never makes sense to plan too far ahead.
Ortiz was already scheduled to fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in September on pay-per-view for the WBC super welterweight title. The fight was already made. The venue was already picked out.
Then the unexpected happened. Ortiz was left sitting on his stool at the end of the ninth round at Staples Center after complaining that his jaw had been broken by Josesito Lopez. Ortiz and his corner agreed he should not continue.
Now what? Maybe it’s Lopez who will get a shot at Alvarez, the young Mexican phenom who was sitting at ringside.
Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions, who is the promoter for Ortiz, said Lopez deserves a shot at the title.
“I think he does,” he said. “What a courageous fighter. He has a lot of heart. He deserves to fight Canelo Alvarez.”
It certainly won’t be Ortiz, who has had a miserable nine months. He was sucker punched by Floyd Mayweather last September, suffering a knockout loss in the fourth round. And now this – a defeat in a fight he was clearly winning.
All three judges had Ortiz, of Ventura, ahead on their scorecards: 86-85, 88-83 and 87-84. However, Ortiz made it clear he could not keep fighting, saying he initially felt pain in his jaw in the fifth round before it was apparently broken in the ninth.
“Yes, Josesito busted my jaw,” he said in the ring. “I had my mouth open and he broke my jaw. I couldn’t close my mouth.”
There was no medical confirmation that Ortiz indeed had his jaw broken, but he looked stunned in the ninth after getting hit on the left side of his face by a hard left hand from Lopez, the Riverside fighter who said he felt disrespected that the Ortiz-Alvarez bout was already set to go.
Although Ortiz landed more total punches by a 147-122 margin, Lopez was willing to exchange hard shots with his opponent. When the bell rang for the 10th round, he came out of his corner ready to go again, only to see referee Jack Reiss wave the fight over.
“I knew I had to fight the fight of my life to win,” Lopez said. “I knew I caught him in every round and more than a few punches hurt him. I knew the longer it went, the better chance I’d have. I had to chop him down like a tree.”
That was an overstatement, but he never backed down from Ortiz and, in fact, had Ortiz backing up in the seventh round after landing a hard left uppercut just before the bell.
“I have a big heart and I’m a real man,” Lopez said. “Victor has no heart.”
In fact, Lopez was not even supposed to be Ortiz’s opponent. He was given the fight only after Andre Berto tested positive for steroids, scuttling a rematch of their April 2011 bout that was won by Ortiz in a unanimous decision.
Ortiz was warned for hitting Lopez in the back of the head in the fifth round, and Lopez needed about a minute to regroup. He looked dazed, but stayed on his feet and finished the round.
“There was no way I was going to quit,” he said. “I just needed a few seconds to ease off the pain. He hits hard, but I was never going to quit.”
Instead, it was Ortiz who quit. And now Showtime, which had already announced Ortiz as Alvarez’s next opponent, must figure out its next step.