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Victor Ortiz: Total Head Case and Totally Underrated

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COMMENTARY | If Victor Ortiz fights for another twenty years and wins a half-dozen world titles, he'll never live down the night he "quit" against Marcos Maidana or the other night, almost three years to the day, when he "quit" against Josesito Lopez.

"I was hurt... I'm not gonna go out on my back," Ortiz told HBO's Max Kellerman in 2009 after he turned his back on his six round war with the then-unknown Marcos Maidana. "I'm gonna stop while I'm ahead, that way I can speak well while I'm older...We'll see what happens from here on out. I'm young but I don't think I deserve to be getting beat up like this. I have a lot of thinking to do."

Since that fight, though, we've learned that Marcos Maidana is a legitimate, world class headache for just about anyone within his weight range. The Argentine, who has since bested guys like Adrien Broner, Josesito Lopez, Erik Morales, and Jesus Soto Karass also came within a whisker of destroying a prime, high-flying Amir Khan.

Against Ortiz, Maidana had already been sent to the canvas three times and seemed close to caving in, himself, when Ortiz opted out of the battle

Fast forward to 2012 when Ortiz, who was one step away from a big money bout with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, retired after the ninth round of a competitive battle, citing a broken jaw.

In the weeks and months following the Lopez loss, the severity of Ortiz's injury would be revealed to the world and the idea of "he couldn't take the heat (again), so he got out of the kitchen" would be tempered by the understanding that this man's jaw was, pretty literally, smashed to bits.

Although the Maidana and Lopez bouts will likely define him as both a fighter and as a man for the remainder of his career, it's hardly fair to judge Ortiz based on these two brief moments in time. Fans will remember, if they choose to do so, a Victor Ortiz who overcame two knockdowns and some huge shots to beat Andre Berto in a Fight of the Year candidate in 2011. He's also the fighter who showed Floyd Mayweather no deference whatsoever, mauling and headbutting the ring king to draw blood in their abbreviated, foul-filled 2011 match-up.

As an athlete, Ortiz is pure thoroughbred. Big, strong, and quick with legitimately heavy hands, he can beat most fighters with his mere presence. It's not hard to see why Golden Boy Promotions, and so many others, had pegged the young fighter for stardom.

Just a couple of days away from his twenty-seventh birthday, Ortiz should still be regarded as a fighter just reaching his physical prime, but the truth is that he has logged some serious psychological and emotional miles in his short career.

It's easy to label Ortiz a "quitter" based on his recent history, but the truth is much more complex.

A more correct assessment of the talented, but uneven fighter is that he makes poor decisions under pressure and just hasn't been able to fight off the urge to crash an already sinking ship into the nearest iceberg when he gets in trouble. In the heat of battle, Ortiz responds like a world class warrior, until he suddenly doesn't.

One just never knows what's coming when Victor Ortiz hits the ring, and that makes him both perpetually vulnerable and extremely dangerous. While it's true that Ortiz has shown a propensity for being his own worst enemy, he's also done well enough for himself to be considered a legitimate world class risk.

This Thursday, Ortiz takes on the talented and well-schooled Luis Collazo in a key welterweight match-up and buzz abounds as to whether Ortiz, following a 19-month absence from the ring and with all the baggage he brings with him into every bout, can once again fight his way to the top of the sport.

There's just no clear answer to that.

Like everything in and around the career of Victor Ortiz, you just won't know until you know.

Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

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