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Originally published May 4, 2011 at 12:00a.m., updated May 4, 2011 at 11:06a.m.

Keegan

Fighting with pride: WBC welterweight champ Victor Ortiz representing Kansas well

WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz waves to the Hoglund Ballpark crowd after being introduced during KU's game against Wichita State on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz waves to the Hoglund Ballpark crowd after being introduced during KU's game against Wichita State on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

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Next to the choice Meryl Streep’s Sophie had to make, the saddest moment in cinematic history just might be Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy measuring himself as a total failure as a boxer and a human being with the words, “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been some somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”

Victor Ortiz, WBC welterweight champion of the world, is the anti-Terry Malloy. Ortiz has class. He was a contender. Now he’s a champ. He is somebody. He’s a winner who had every excuse in the world to be a loser.

Ortiz, a Mexican-American native of Garden City and a big-time Jayhawk fan since the age of 5, was in attendance Tuesday night at Hoglund Ballpark, where between innings of Kansas University’s 7-4 victory against Wichita State, he showed his championship belt to the crowd.

If only everyone knew the life story of Ortiz, 24, the ovation would have shaken the place.

“I was about 5 when my sister gave me a watch and the watch had a stamped Jayhawk on it and the ticking hand had a basketball that ticked all the way around,” Ortiz said. “Since I was a kid, I loved the emblem. I used to call it a bird. From that point on, I got hooked on the Jayhawk. I saw it everywhere and I always thought it was awesome.”

Quickly, he learned the Jayhawk was affiliated with Kansas University and he told himself he one day would graduate from the state university. It never happened. A one-two punch that would have wounded most children beyond repair made his life take a different course.

“My mom ends up leaving when I was 7 years old,” Ortiz said. “I came home from school and she was just gone. Without a word. No goodbye. Nothing. No fight between the parents or anything. Then about four years later, my dad did the same thing. I ended up with nothing. My life took a bad turn.”

He and his five siblings went into foster care. He has admitted to selling marijuana for a stretch and then realized how foolish that was once he started to make something of himself in national competitions as a young boxer.

Ortiz said he saw his father for the first time since childhood a year-and-a-half ago.

“He’s living a very sad life now,” said Ortiz, who lives and trains in Ventura, Calif. “I forgive him for everything and I just try to help him now. My mom, I met her six months ago. She was just sad, trying to talk to me and explain herself. I just told her not to worry, I grew up, became a man, put her son through high school and paid his college tuition, clothed him, fed him. I basically told her I did what was supposed to be your job. ‘Other than that, mom, I’m not mad at you. I don’t hate you. I thought I did for a very long time, but I don’t. People make mistakes and life goes on.’ She’s doing well, especially now that I reached out to her.”

Former world-champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya now promotes a stable of boxers under the banner Golden Boy Promotions. After being impressed with how Ortiz handled himself in the ring and especially in the press conference afterward, where he showed grace and class similar to that of De La Hoya, Ortiz was recruited to Golden Boy Promotions.

I shared with Ortiz that I attended the De La Hoya’s Jose Vargas fight in Sept. 2002, and remembered De La Hoya turning into a man possessed when he smelled Vargas’ blood.

“Trust me, I know that feeling as well,” said Vicious Victor Ortiz. “You can smell it, too. People aren’t just saying that. You can actually smell blood from about five feet away. I don’t know what comes over a person, but if it’s senses that a shark has when it smells blood, that’s what we have as well. When I smell it in the ring, I want to see more and I want to smell more. It’s weird. It’s definitely different. It’s like something triggers in you.”

Ortiz, who when he does his 12-mile runs at 4:30 in the morning wears a stocking cap with a Jayhawk on it, has a Jayhawk on his mouthpiece and his trunks, and a “KU” on his secondary mouthpiece.

If he one day should fight in Allen Fieldhouse, a dream venue for him, once he smells the blood of his opponent, those lucky enough to have a seat in the crowd will witness a gentleman’s gentleman transform into an vicious animal. Here’s hoping it happens.

• A previous version of this story was updated.

Comments

KEITHMILES05 9 years, 4 months ago

How on earth do parents just walk out on their kids forever? The only reason they are back in his life now is because they WANT something. SAD.

jartiv 9 years, 4 months ago

they made up their minds, and they started packing, they left before the sun came up that day.

kind of like that.

2_Phoggy 9 years, 4 months ago

Here's to hoping Victor (not David, from the other headline) fights in AFH someday. How awesome would that be? Never knew he was a Jayhawk fan until now. Good story though. Cool to see a Jayhawk fan rise up from the ashes like that. Rock Chalk Victor Ortiz!

Nutflush21 9 years, 4 months ago

A fight in AFH would be awesome but there plenty of things that could trip this up. One being alcohol sales and the other being the gambling aspect of boxing. I dont know if the university wants to hassle with either of those issues.

Ian Brown 9 years, 4 months ago

I enjoyed the "On The Waterfront" reference, Keegs, but "Marlin" Brando? Marlin? Come on, he's not some big a$$ fish. He's Marlon Brando, one of the greatest acting talents to ever grace this earth.

gchawk 9 years, 4 months ago

He also butchered "Meryl Streep's" name. Bad, bad Keegan, no biscuit for you. We are all very proud of Victor out here, trust me, he's a terrific young man.

NH_JHawk 9 years, 4 months ago

gchawk - I'm also a Garden City native and still have immediate family members in town. I've been gone from KS for many years now and was still in high school at GCHS when Vicious Victor Ortiz was born. This young man and his path through life is not only inspirational, but also gives me an immense amount of pride in my hometown and for the great people who live "way out there."

Rock Chalk Jayhawk, Victor. Thank you for representing our city, state, and university in the manner in which you do...as a champion boxer and person.

BewareOfThePhogOnTheWater 9 years, 4 months ago

Yes, Keegan, always check the spelling of someone's name if you don't know without a doubt how to spell it. Very poor form! Shame on you. Inexcusable!!

Very proud that Victor is a Jayhawk.

NebraskaJayhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

That's a pretty cool article. Hope Victor gets a chance to fulfill one of his dreams. That would be something...a championship bout in AFH.

topekahawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Why is it relevant that Ortiz is "a Mexican-American native of Garden City?" Why not just "a native of Garden City?"

John Boyle 9 years, 4 months ago

Way to turn this into a politically correct issue instead of just the inspiring story that it is.

jartiv 9 years, 4 months ago

67% of students in USD457 are Hispanic. 68% of students in USD457 are economically disadvantaged

http://svapp15586.ksde.org/rcard/district.aspx?org_no=D0457

this is why "Mexican-American" is relevant, and what makes Victor's story more Inspiring than the story of "just a native of Garden City"

Randy Glenn 9 years, 4 months ago

Victor is a rare young man with more qualities than just being a boxer. He is humble and very respectful. He has some great buddies there at KU and loves Lawrence. Jayhawk fans can be proud that he is part of the Jayhawk Nation. Sounds like a trip to Vegas in September will be planned--Victor can you hook Drew up with 2 tickets??? Rock Chalk

jayhawkinATL 9 years, 4 months ago

Here's one of the few shots I could find of Ortiz sporting the Jayhawk:

http://www.insidefightweek.com/inside/tag/andre-berto

Pretty cool!!!

9 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the link, ATL. The brief story below the photo provides some additional insight regarding his foster parents. Very cool.

kcarod72 9 years, 4 months ago

Here's another. Its a slide show from his Championship win over Berto. Slide #3 http://itsh.bo/hQUcbM

Joe Baker 9 years, 4 months ago

A young boy who is abondon by his mother, lives in foster homes, dabbles in the grass business and turns life around to become a true champion. A story to be told and a challenge to be taken by all.

Rock Chalk Mr Ortiz and sport that bird with pride my friend. Thank you for an encouraging and inspiring story.

John Myers 9 years, 4 months ago

I watched his fight against Berto. I didn't know he was from Kansas until I was like "Wait, is that a Jayhawk on his shorts???" Looked up his bio and instantly became a fan. It was an amazing fight to watch, too.

Damian Glaze 9 years, 4 months ago

Same here. I heard of him but didn't know anything about him until I saw the fight. My wife and I were getting ready for dinner and I could not get off my phone researching information about him while watching the fight out of one eye. Thanks to his extremely tenacious performance we ended up missing our reservation by 30 minutes AND had to wait another 20 minutes when we got to the restaurant. Well worth it and I'm glad I now have a new boxer to follow and a renewed interest in boxing in general.

I tweeted that the fight was happening (when I saw the trunks) to Kansas Athletics but they didn't repost anything until the Monday after. Sucks for them, since that is what that whole twitter thing is about, so many others could have been tuned into the fight.

Hey Vic, give us a shout if you're in the Phoenix metro. Drinks are on me. CONGRATULATIONS AND ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!

barnettje 9 years, 4 months ago

His championship fight is an amazing battle. For those that haven't watched it just do a google search for Andre Berto vs Victor Ortiz. There is a YouTube link that has additional links to a dailymotion video website. Check it out!!!

chicagoeddie 9 years, 4 months ago

THAT WAS AN AWESOME FIGHT VICIOUS!!!!!!! I WAS ROOTING THE WHOLE TIME AND WAS IMPRESSED YOU STAYED AND KEPT PUNCHING HARD THE WHOLE 12 ROUNDS! =) ROCK CHALK!!

Chris Kurtz 9 years, 4 months ago

Keegan it was Fernado Vargas that De la Hoya fought in 2002. Ortiz fought great against Berto, was a great fight. Here are some highlights.

kcarod72 9 years, 4 months ago

Thank you. I'm sure "Jose" Vargas (whoever that guy is) didn't appreciate getting thrown into a match that he was never a part of. Helluva fight though!

K_Verses_The_World 9 years, 4 months ago

I was shadow-boxing earlier in the day I figured I was ready for Cassius Clay I said “Fee, fie, fo, fum, Cassius Clay, here I come 26, 27, 28, 29, I’m gonna make your face look just like mine Five, four, three, two, one, Cassius Clay you’d better run 99, 100, 101, 102, your ma won’t even recognize you 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, gonna knock him clean right out of his spleen”

HawkKlaw 9 years, 4 months ago

I got a friends who spends his life, Stabbing my picture with a bowie-knife, Dreams of strangling me with a scarf, When my name comes up he pretends to barf... I've got a million friends!

justinryman 9 years, 4 months ago

Why won't the University give him a "Honorary Diploma"?

That would be good press for both sides!

9 years, 4 months ago

An honorary doctorate in Sweet Science :)

Kevin Kelly 9 years, 4 months ago

I cannot agree more. Watch that fight! That was the most incredible fight I've seen in a long time. Champ you are going to go far. Rock Chalk.

jartiv 9 years, 4 months ago

I hope we can somehow get him into the Phog for a fight... that would be amazing... but I think he is too far a long for that, and Oscar/Golden Boy wouldn't go for it. Victor is BIG TIME, and you should believe it. Pacquiao is retiring in a year, and probably won't fight Ortiz because hes young and won't draw the paycheck. Not a bad thing for Ortiz, because that leaves the Welterweight division wide open for him.

I also think Ortiz vs Mayweather could be a possibility if the latter decides to stop getting in trouble with the law. Mayweather won't fight Pacquiao, so Ortiz might be the next best match at Welterweight.

But like I said, Ortiz is big time now... He is going to be in big fights that the traditional venues in Vegas aren't going to let go. Hopefully the popularity of Ortiz in Kansas will at least lead to someone fighting in AFH.

KrazyKracker 9 years, 4 months ago

Does anyone know where he trains at. I live in Ventura and would like to check him out.

Chris Kurtz 9 years, 4 months ago

Krazy....he used to train at La Colonia Youth Boxing in Oxnard. I think he still trains in Oxnard. However, when he's training for a fight he will probably go to BigBear where Oscar and Mosley train.

KansasBoy316 9 years, 4 months ago

Wow, I didn't know so many people were sleepin' on Ortiz. I have been watching his fights for a few years now and I haven't missed a fight yet. This kid is what I would call a hybrid fighter, because most fighters have one or two of these things but Victor has it all, great hand speed, nice foot work, VICIOUS knockout power in BOTH hands, and that killer instinct when he knows his guy is hurt. Not saying that there is no room for improvement but Ortiz is a beast already!!!!! He became my favorite fighter the first time I saw him in the ring......for a few reasons 1) the Jayhawks he wore and it said Kansas on the back of his trunks, 2) he gave us a shout out after the fight, 3) he was undefeated, 4) and he was a beast in that ring...........I hope to see him fighting in kansas soon, and the fight against Berto was fight of the year hands down..

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