By John J. Raspanti
Devon Alexander and Victor Ortiz will meet in the ring this Saturday at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, TX.
It wasn’t too long ago that the pair were sitting on top of the world.
In 2009, Alexander was the reining WBC junior welterweight champion having won the crown by defeating Junior Witter. A few months later, he captured the IBF belt.
Ortiz, once compared to Oscar De La Hoya, had rebounded from a stunning loss to Marcus Maidana to win the WBC welterweight title in a thrilling firefight with Andre Berto.
Several years later, both were former champions. Alexander (27-4, 14 KOs) lost his belts to Timothy Bradley in what was billed as a super fight, but instead ended up being a super bore. He did win the IBF welterweight title in 2012, but lost it in his first defense against Shawn Porter.
Ortiz (32-6-2, 25 KOs) held his title approximately five months before being unceremoniously knocked out by Floyd Mayweather. The fight was something out of "The Twilight Zone." Mayweather outboxed Ortiz for the better part of three rounds. Ortiz had some success in round four, before ramming his head into Mayweather’s mouth, drawing the ire of Mayweather, and referee Joe Cortez. Ortiz apologized, hugging Mayweather repeatedly. Mayweather, annoyed, and seeing that Ortiz had dropped his hands, fired a combination that sent Ortiz to the canvas. Ortiz tried to get up, but failed.
His comeback fight against underdog Josesito Lopez nine months later was almost as controversial as the Mayweather affair. Ortiz, ahead on the judge’s scorecards through nine rounds, quit on his stool. His reason was sound—a broken jaw, but nobody likes a quitter. I was there that night and will never forget the sight of Ortiz as he was hustled past me. His jaw was slack. The blood was dripping down the side of his face from the open wound inside of his mouth. His face showed devastation, not relief.
Alexander, after losing to Porter, defeated Jesus Soto Karass, but lost to Amir Khan and Aaron Martinez. The loss to Martinez shocked many, as Alexander was expected to handle Martinez with ease, but instead looked slow and fought without passion. There were whispers that, at 28, Alexander was a shot fighter.
The truth was something entirely different, and much more serious. Alexander was addicted to the painkiller Tramadol. It started after surgery to repair a blood clot on his nose—caused by an accidental headbutt in training. Alexander, as clean as a nun in a convent, didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. His addiction was shocking, especially to him. Alexander spent eight months in rehab. Cleared and released last year, he returned to the ring last November—winning a wide decision over Walter Castillo.
Ortiz was knocked out by Luis Collazo, and in a rematch, Andre Berto. His friends advised him to retire. He made an appearance on Dancing With the Stars with middling results and acted in a few movies. He returned to the squared circle last year, stopping Saul Corral. Ortiz, who recently turned 31, is telling everyone who will listen that, unlike in the past, he’s completely committed to boxing. We’ll see.
So who wins this Saturday in Texas? I’ll take Alexander by points. He’s the fresher fighter, and now that he’s gotten the monkey off his back, he should resemble his old talented self.