If Victor Ortiz were an NFL player, there is virtually no chance that he would be able to compete on Sunday, not after having been arrested Tuesday on a charge of forcible rape.
Ortiz, though, is a former world champion boxer and is scheduled to face John Molina Jr. on Sunday in Ontario, California, in a bout that will be televised by Fox Sports 1.
Unsurprisingly, there was plenty of outrage when news broke that, for the moment at least, Ortiz is going ahead with the fight.
It is likely that he will be pulled for one of a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s unlikely that the promoter wants to try to sell tickets to an event headlined by an accused rapist. Executives at FS1 probably aren’t all that eager to cover his event, either.
The California State Athletic Commission has the ability to remove Ortiz, as well. Chapter 2, Article 14, Subsection 18859 (a) states, “The commission shall have the authority to obtain and review criminal history information to determine whether an applicant or licensee has been convicted of any offense or has been arrested for any offense for which disposition is still pending.”
So this may all be moot, but at the moment, Ortiz plans to compete. It may not be in his legal best interests to fight, but if you believe in the concept of innocent until proven guilty and don’t just mouth those words, then there is no legal justification to argue that Ortiz should be pulled from the fight.
The only way that Ortiz should be removed from the bout is if he and his lawyers and his management team decide it is the best way for him to proceed or if Premier Boxing Champions decides it doesn’t like the idea of promoting a show headlined by an accused rapist. There are indications that PBC is moving in that direction, but nothing has been determined yet.
The bedrock of our legal system, though, is the presumption of innocence, and we simply cannot abandon that just when it is inconvenient.
Ortiz was released Tuesday on $100,000 bail after having been charged with forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and forcible digital penetration after an alleged incident in Oxnard, California.
It goes without saying that the crimes he’s been charged with are heinous, and that he should face the full brunt of the consequences if he is found guilty. Sexual assaults by men of women are far too common and frequently aren’t pursued vigorously enough.
We are a long way from that point at this stage, however.
We know that the alleged victim reported on March 19 that she was sexually assaulted. The Oxnard Police Department’s Family Protection Unit began an investigation. After presenting their findings to prosecutors, charges were filed Tuesday and Ortiz turned himself in at the Ventura County Sheriff Department’s East Valley Station. Ortiz posted bail and was released and has an Oct. 10 court appearance set.
What happens in public cases like this is that passions are inflamed on both sides. There are many who want to denigrate the victim and paint the accused as a victim instead. But there are just as many who hold the opposite view, and will support an accuser in spite of the evidence, or a lack thereof.
What is needed, of course, is for the case to be handled appropriately by the judicial system. Ortiz deserves no favors because he happens to be an outstanding boxer and once held a world title.
But he also doesn’t deserve to have his rights stripped just because he’s been accused of a crime.
The situation is fluid and if one had to bet, it is likely that he won’t appear on Sunday’s card. Either the state, or the promoter, or the television network, or his lawyers, or Ortiz himself, may determine it’s in his best interest to focus on his legal situation and not a boxing match.
The legendary sportswriter Jimmy Cannon once called boxing the red-light district of sports, and there is no question that many of its wounds are self-inflicted.
But if Ortiz does fight on Sunday, it’s not because the sport has turned a deaf ear to a woman’s allegation of rape.
It’s because the U.S. Constitution guarantees Ortiz the presumption of innocence and little in our society is more sacred than that.
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