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This Racket Is No Game

The X-ray of Victor Ortiz' broken jaw is a frightening sight to behold.
The X-ray of Victor Ortiz' broken jaw is a frightening sight to behold.
AP

Sometimes in this game I call "The Fight Racket" you can really get hurt. People often forget that, particularly the ones that don’t get punched in the face for a living.

Luis Collazo moves in to finish Victor Ortiz in the second round this past Thursday night in Brooklyn, New York.
Luis Collazo moves in to finish Victor Ortiz in the second round this past Thursday night in Brooklyn, New York.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Take “Vicious” Victor Ortiz for example. He got hurt. Nineteen months ago, he was involved in a fracas with Josesito Lopez in a fight Victor was supposed to win on his way to bigger and better things. But a bad thing happened on his way down the yellow brick road – he got his jaw broke.

In boxing, a broken jaw is right up there with the worst of injuries. Not as serious as a cerebral hemorrhage mind you, but right up there nonetheless. Obviously, once someone has a broken jaw, it sort of changes the way they live for a while. If you find humor in the thought of someone sucking pureed steak through a straw – then we’ll just call you Schadenfreude from now on.

From a psychological standpoint, returning to the squared circle after having suffered broken jaw is akin to getting back on the roller coaster ride that caused you to blow your corn dog lunch on your first cousin the last time you two were at Six Flags in the summertime. It’s a scary thought indeed, and the flashback of it all brings back the pain, especially for your cousin.

So, for those in the know, and there aren’t many of them around here anymore, we all knew Victor was in for it this past Thursday night when he met hometown hero Luis Collazo in Brooklyn. Nobody loses two fights in a row by knockout, returns from a broken jaw after sitting around for the better part of two years and jumps right back in with a world-class contender in front of a national TV audience – and expects to actually win do they?

Now, give Victor some credit. He does hail from Kansas and those are good people there. Like me, he finds joy in riding bicycles and participating in triathlons and what not, but for the past couple years “Vicious” has participated on the television show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and then somehow or other someone dreamt up a cologne for him to sell for fifty-five bucks a bottle called ‘VO’ – his initials. The description on the box indicates it’s “A cologne that won’t apologize for the attention it’s about to bring you!”

So, long story short, VO hasn’t exactly been living the life of a real prizefighter (if there is such a thing anymore) so it’s perplexing why those that claim to be his managers and promoters would throw him into a cage with a tattooed Brooklyn wolf like they did. Like I say, there aren’t many in the know around here anymore.

But in any case, Victor stopped after only two rounds on Thursday night. As it often does, the end came suddenly, and you have to think that once Collazo really touched him on the chin, that all the memories of pureed steak flooded back into poor VO’s head like the Log Flume ride at Disney World in free fall.

It was a sad exhibit to see in this traveling freak show they call boxing. Young kids with punching power, good looks and a personality like VO has shouldn’t be fed feet first into the meat grinder like this.

Scribe of scribes, Michael Marley, who has been witness to just this sort of thing since he was president of the Muhammad Ali fan club sometime before “The Greatest” threw the “Phantom Punch” at Sonny Liston up here in Lewiston, Maine (and one of the few left in the know) summed it up best: “Ortiz was shockingly inept, even flinching after a knockdown when Collazo wasn't even essaying a hurtful punch. Gun shy, that's how Ortiz looked, making a mockery of his nickname.” Wonderful prose. Were he still with us, I think A.J. Liebling would've been kicking his feet together with glee under his desk at The New Yorker.

The night was a train wreck really. Anyone in the know could have seen it all coming down the tracks like the Super Chief that once ran from Chicago to L.A. VO’s loss was a huge mess of epic proportions and it will take a long time to mop all this up. If you’ve ever broken an entire case of olive oil on a tile floor, as I once did during my teenage tenure as a stock boy at the Save Easy, you would understand the conundrum.

There are few bankable commodities remaining in this beautiful old dame of a sport that was once flush with “money in the bank type” characters. You see, Ortiz was bankable. The girls like the way he looks and he can punch like the dickens – so the boys at the networks liked him, too.

The problem is that Victor, as handsome and as ambrosial as they come, went down on Thursday night and it appeared as though he could've gotten up had he really decided to. He looked for a spot on the canvas to avoid the incoming and after he got there he paused on the deck on all fours with his head sticking through the ring ropes. You could see he was using the ten seconds allotted to really think things over. You could see he was more shocked than he was hurt. You could see the memories of the roller coaster and the log flume and the pureed steak were flashing before his very eyes.

In that ten seconds, perhaps VO came to the conclusion it was best to dance, sell cologne and ride bicycles. This game they call the fight racket and this getting punched in the face thing can really get a guy hurt.