Victor Ortiz has some food for thought
Boxer Victor Ortiz had one thing on his mind, and he didn't have the patience to deal with anything else.
He just weighed in at 139 3/4 pounds Friday at Star Plaza in front of Staples Center the day before his match against Argentina's knockout specialist Marcos Maidana. Maidana, who weighed in at 140 pounds, and Ortiz are fighting at Staples Center on Saturday night in an HBO-televised main event for the interim World Boxing Association junior-welterweight title in a 12-round bout.
But there was no time for sticking around to sign autographs or grant interviews, even if fans and reporters chased Ortiz as he crossed Chick Hearn Court toward LA Live. Sure, a few fans stopped him in his track. A television reporter even attached a lavalier microphone on his shirt. But nothing was going to delay Ortiz from the one thing he's been craving all week: food.
Ortiz, 22, ran up the sidewalk and turned left into The Farm of Beverly Hills. At a back table, he wasn't in a talking mood, either, despite sitting with various people, such as his girlfriend, Kylie Travers, his best friend, Brandon Carmichael, and his trainers, Danny Garcia and Mario Aguiniga. Once he scarfed down chicken alfredo, bread, a bowl of mushroom soup and a Snickers bar, a different mood emerged.
"I haven’t really eaten a complete meal in two days," Ortiz told The Times at The Farm of Beverly Hills about his effort to maintain the 140-pound weight class. "I’m not the nicest person to get along with before eating. There’s a lot of people like that."
That includes Ortiz, who says he didn't eat anything Thursday other than carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and roast beef. "It doesn't even add up to a meal," he says. The other days this week entailed only chicken and fish salads. Travers, 20, and an upcoming junior at the University of Kansas, says she's contributed to the cause by skipping breakfast the morning of Ortiz's weigh-ins. "It's a tiny sacrifice," she says.
But now that he no longer had an empty stomach, Ortiz talked openly about his first headlining event ("There’s no pressure to me"), why the right-hander fights as a southpaw ("You get hit a lot when you fight right-handed") and how his parents' abandonment shaped his outlook on life ("It’s given me the drive").
Ortiz (24-1-1 and 19 knockouts) has the momentum going for him. He went through his first 22 fights by Top Rank, then signed with Golden Boy last year and has won nine in a row by knockout. Despite Ortiz falling short of the 2004 Olympic team, ESPN and various boxing publications labeled him the top prospect last year. MTV is producing a documentary on Ortiz. And he's also seen as a natural successor to Oscar De La Hoya, who recently retired and is now Ortiz's promoter.
Ortiz, who lives in Oxnard, but grew up in Garden City, Kansas, has a huge opportunity. Maidana, the Argentine national amateur champion in 2002 and 2003, is 25-1 and carries a reputation for having a strong punch, while Ortiz is lauded for his finesse and versatility. Of Maidana's 24 knockouts, 10 of them came in the first round. He only went past three rounds five times. The Argentine national Maidana said that "Ortiz is a good fighter, but he's never tasted power like mine."
"Once I hit him, he won't want to fight with me," he continued. "That's when I'll move in, take him out and take the belt back home to Argentina."
In a classic case of two boxers jockeying back and forth before their fight, Ortiz laughed at Maidana's claim.
"He can try all he wants, but I have a heart of steel and balls of a lion," Ortiz said. "I’ve never been intimidated by much. All of the intimidations came early on in my life. My parents left me so I’ve had it pretty hard. If he thinks a couple of simple punches are going to hurt me, we’ll just wait and see."
"May the best man win," Ortiz kept repeating after enjoying a meal he looked forward to all day. There's no telling how significant a victory Saturday would mean to his career that's vastly on the uprise.
But Ortiz didn't think about that the day before his fight. Instead he talked about how he was looking forward to eating more food later in the day. And how about after the fight?
Said Ortiz:"I’m going to hit up some Taco Bell, man."
Photo: Victor Ortiz, right, works with trainer Danny Garcia ahead of undercard bout with Carlos Maussa at Madison Square Garden in 2007. Credit: Stephen Osman/ Los Angeles Times