Carts Before Horses: On Victor Ortiz, Saul Alvarez, and Josesito Lopez


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The carts brought the horses before us last week, when Golden Boy Promotions announced that Victor Ortiz will be vacating the welterweight division to test his mettle against crimson sensation Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 15th. This fight, slated for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, is contingent on Ortiz defeating Josesito Lopez tomorrow night. Lopez is replacing Andre Berto.

The Berto–Ortiz rematch was one of the more anticipated fights of the summer, an entertaining blend of malicious punching, pedestrian defense, and psychological fragility. But Berto tested positive for trace elements of the banned substance Nandrolone, scuttling the dust-up. One gets the feeling that Berto was merely guilty of ignorance, as opposed to anything more pernicious. He spearheaded the use of VADA for the fight, provided only trace elements of the banned substance, and couldn’t draw on a curriculum to inform his practice, as VADA’s testing practices vastly exceed their pedagogical ones. Regardless, the Berto–Ortiz rematch joined Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan as another high profile fight undone by the best intentions.

Thankfully, for those traveling from far away locales like Toronto—and who have to endure both the patches of turbulence over Lake Michigan that reconfigure viscera and the hospitality of a national airline that, despite departing from the country with the most freshwater on the planet, perfunctorily apologizes for the absence of running water on the flight—the card was salvaged. But this makeshift main event, regardless of what the enthusiasts will tell you, tastes bland to even the most indiscriminate palate, and much of its promised drama hinges on the possibility of Ortiz folding like an airplane tray-table. This reasoning, which depends heavily on crossed fingers and a charitable estimation of Lopez’ fistic virtues, is hardly compelling. Berto is superior to Lopez, and if the duct tape and chewing gum managed to hold Ortiz’ psyche together long enough for him to out-wale Berto, Ortiz will evidence enough fortitude to dispatch Lopez in their Saturday night scrimmage.

The brass at Golden Boy Promotions must have similar expectations, since they decided that announcing Ortiz’ next fight last week was a sound move. This promotional “advance-to-go” had the effect of taking an already uninspiring main event and reducing it to a glorified gym session, a rehab assignment for Ortiz, whose inexplicable spasm of sentimentality got him decapitated by Floyd Mayweather,Jr., in his last fight. Of course, Ortiz must win and escape without injury on Saturday night if he is to challenge the darling of Mexico, but potential wrenches are not expected to seize up the gears of the promotion. Alvarez–Ortiz is a compelling bout between offensive minded punchers, but its announcement has reminded all that this upcoming Saturday night they are bearing witness to a formality. To be fair, Ortiz’ psyche has proven to be a house of cards, and Lopez may need only a few rounds of stubborn belligerence to level the entire structure. But betting that Ortiz’ mental health is a factor is not the same as gambling on it determining the outcome. The promotion for Ortiz-Lopez has been saddled with the title “No Judges,” an attempt to capitalize on the most recent “outrage” in the sport, Tim Bradley’s close nod over Manny Pacquiao. But this promise of fair play fails to inject any color into the etiolated event.

There is also the issue of dueling pay-per-views, an absurdity being threatened by the two biggest promoters in the sport, Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank. According to Richard Schaefer (there’s a caveat for you), GBP scheduled the Alvarez–Ortiz fight for September 15th and backed by Showtime, unaware that Top Rank boss Bob Arum was planning to stage his own pay-per-view on the same date, in the same city. Top Rank’s card is to be distributed by HBO, and headlined by the scrap for the middleweight crown between Sergio Martinez and Julio Caesar Chavez, Jr. In Schaefer’s eyes, Arum counter-programmed Golden Boy out of spite.

Arum responded to Schaefer’s charge by arguing that he had reserved September 15th in February due to pressure from the WBC to make the Chavez–Martinez fight. He claims that Top Rank refrained from going public with the fight because until Chavez dispatched of Andy Lee (which he did, with extreme prejudice), Martinez’ opponent was undetermined. Now both companies are arguing on the side of justice in a sport that, to quote John Schulian, “never had any to begin with.” It is unlikely that both fights occur on the same weekend in September; not, of course, because of considerations for the paying public, which, for all its real and feigned indignation, is relatively powerless against this promotional pissing contest. No, the counter-programming will ultimately be avoided because greed dictates a less hostile offensive.

This much can be said about Alvarez–Ortiz: paradoxically, it has downgraded Ortiz–Lopez by upping the stakes, and it has created another pathetic installment in the sports’ most recent promotional feud. But these are not the defining features of Alvarez-Ortiz—indeed, neither feature is its most telling characteristic. For just as fists engage in exchanges, so too can a contrary perspective volley back, one that argues that despite complaints about the announcement of Alvarez– Ortiz, satisfaction will be found in the ring.

Alvarez–Ortiz promises much. Ortiz is built to run between the tackles, and he should acclimatize quickly to the junior middleweight division. His pedigree all but ensures that Alvarez will know quickly, and definitively, that he is facing the most dangerous fighter of his career, one equipped to deal in damage, who is neither evasive nor unwilling for as long as his constitution permits. Alvarez will undoubtedly anticipate delivering the verdict he has rendered 40 times in 41 tries. This strength in ignorance, available only to those who have yet to suffer defeat, will embolden him, encourage him to persist in his aggression. Alvarez and Ortiz should produce a real fight for as long as it lasts, one predicated on offense, with a passionate crowd and enough bells and whistles to catch the casual eye. As a spectacle of fervent violence, Alvarez–Ortiz promises a fight entertaining enough to render the current criticisms pointless—which is exactly how it should be.

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Tags: Josesito Lopez Saul Alvarez VICTOR ORTIZ Welterweights

  • Michael Nelson

    Hey JT,
     
    Great work.  Lopez seems to be a pretty tough guy, so maybe he can hang around long enough to make that slogan look appropriately silly.  If nothing else, Soto-Matthysse should be good.
     
    I was looking forward to Alvarez-Kirkland, but Ortiz is a nice substitute, should he escape tonight sans debilitating brain cramp. 
     
    Enjoy Staples
     
     

  • thenonpareil

    Hi JT, 
     
    Good stuff.  Judging on the traffic around here, no gives a damn about Ortiz-Lopez.  Josesito is a good, strong journeyman, but Ortiz will probably outweigh him by 15 pounds come opening bell.  But he’ll keep trying and he knows this is a free roll, basically. 
    Personally, I don’t care about Alvarez-Ortiz too much….Ortiz moving up in weight after just two fights at 147 is another of those little wink-wink moves that boxing specializes in and the media is blind to.  Alvarez has fought nothing but shot, underweight, geriatric, nobodies for years.  Yet,  you don’t hear the criticism about him that you hear about Chavez Jr.  I believe the reason for this is boxing homoeroticism.  

  • Andrew Fruman

    Hi JT,
     
    Nice piece.  I have to agree that there’s no chance we see the competing September 15 PPVs, as neither GB or TR wants to split that kind of revenue.  I imagine something will happen between now and then to scuttle it, though a Lopez victory is probably not it… though when it comes to Ortiz, anything is possible.
     
    Hope you have a good time at the show.  I’m excited for Matthysse-Soto, as that looks like a pretty well matched scrap.  A 50/50 (at least according to the odds) fight on Showtime or HBO is not a common occurrence, so we should cherish these moments when they come along!
     
     

  • jet79

     @Andrew Fruman 
    Hi AF,
    Nope, we certainly won’t be seeing competing shows on 09/15 – not after tonight! Anything is possible with Ortiz, and he proved it again tonight. When he fought a controlled fight he owned Lopez, but he got suckered into a slugfest and out-punched by a blown up junior-welterweight. Proving once again that Ortiz struggles mightily with adversary, and that I have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about. I don’t sweat Ortiz for quitting with a broken jaw, but I sweat him for letting it get to that point.
    Matthysse-Soto stopped being a 50/50 fight with the first heavy shot Matthysse landed, but man, that was fun while it lasted. Soto was viciously desperate. It wasn’t enough, but there’s no shame in being out-gunned by Matthysse, who probably deserves to be undefeated, and fought an exceptional fight.
    I had a great time. 

  • jet79

     @thenonpareil CA, the sooner everyone gets on the Chavez Jr bandwagon the better. Ortiz, in all my infinite wisdom, was gonna be a handful for Alvarez. But I’m a novice, and an ignorant one at that. Of course, once Ortiz is finished his psych-evaluation he might be ready for Alvarez, since the golden child hasn’t fought anyone. 
    The woolly mammoths were awesome though!!

  • jet79

     @Michael Nelson 
    Hi Michael,
    Wish you could’ve made it tonight. Alas, it seems I will have to return to have a drink with you. So be it.
    Lopez hung around long enough to break Ortiz’ jaw, which proved the slogan right, if only unexpectedly. 
    If Ortiz is a nice substitute, how do you feel about Alvarez – Lopez? According to Steve Kim, Lopez is now in the running. That’s a brutal mismatch given the size discrepancy…then again, I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about. It appears the next Canelo opponent has got a case of the “Madden Cover” about him. 
    Staples was great, the card delivered a KO in 80% of the fights, and Riverside was definitely in the house. 

  • Michael Nelson

     @jet79
    Glad you enjoyed it man, that was an awesome card.  Ortiz, unexpectedly, won most of the rounds that he won with his jab.  But an improved jab can’t completely hide shoddy footwork and porous defense against someone as resolute as Lopez.  When Ortiz attacked, he came in with his chin fluttering about like Christopher Bosh celebrating a championship.  In that sense, I guess it’s not surprising it eventually got broken.  Really impressed with Lopez, he was getting touched up by a bigger man but his confidence never wavered an inch.  Him and his corner were offended that the ring doc even thought about coming their way.
     
    I’ve had my fill of Canelo beating up on tough jr. welters.  Lopez deserves as many paydays as he can get, but I’m hoping they come against guys somewhere around his size. 
     
    I suppose Canelo and team are too kind to burden Lara with any curses, so there’s that. 

  • jet79

     @Michael Nelson Yeah, I imagine Team Canelo will be magnanimous enough to avoid Lara, sparing him the curse.
    The jab was effective for Victor all night. But man, he squares up like Andre Berto, and even his footing when he throws his straight left is all over the place. That led to him getting tagged with flashy shots, and taking them at their full force. Lopez wasn’t hitting as hard, but he did a better job of at least getting his gloves in the way, and rolling with shots. Am I crazy, or, in hindsight, was Ortiz-Lopez maybe better than the rematch with Berto would’ve been?

  • Michael Nelson

     @jet79 It’s definitely possible this was better than a Berto rematch would’ve been.  Berto-Ortiz may have brought a different level of tension to each round because of prefight expectations. But Lopez brought his own brand of drama as the presumably overmatched, smaller man dragging around huge balls. 
     
    While Lopez is more defensively responsible than Berto, he lets his hands go more often.  Hard to see a Berto rematch being much better in terms of sustained action.