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

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