Photos by Sumio Yamada
JOSESITO LOPEZ TKO end of 9 VICTOR ORTIZ
When an underdog comes into the ring prepared to fight the fight of his life and is willing to battle through any amount of punishment to achieve victory, upsets happen, and we saw one on Saturday when Josesito Lopez defeated Victor Ortiz in their rousing fight for the vacant WBC Silver welterweight title.
Ortiz was leading on points but Lopez was right in the fight when, with three rounds remaining, Ortiz pulled out with a broken jaw. I don’t think many people who haven’t boxed should be calling Ortiz a quitter, but some fighters are willing to suffer more than others.
Muhammad Ali, of course, famously fought with a broken jaw for perhaps the last 10 rounds of his 12-round fight against Ken Norton.
The British middleweight Wally Swift won on points despite suffering a broken jaw against Charley Austin, a sharpshooter from Phoenix, AZ. A right-hander broke Swift’s jaw in the third round of the 10-round fight at London’s Royal Albert Hall. I was on site that night in 1965. Swift won with the left jab, keeping the harder-hitting American boxer from getting positioned to throw the right hand and piling up enough points to score a clear victory.
“It’s not very nice,” Swift told me when, in an interview for Boxing Monthly in 1991, I asked him about getting his jaw broken. “Every time you move, it hurts. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to try to box on with a broken jaw.”
Swift did it, though. So did another British middleweight, Kevin Finnegan, in his 10-round points win over Frank Reiche. I was ringside for that fight years ago at Wembley Arena, and by the middle rounds all of us in the ringside press section could see that Finnegan’s jaw had been severely injured — I vividly remember the dark blood showing inside Finnegan’s mouth. Finnegan was determined and game and tough, though, and he stuck to his disciplined, boxing keeping the left jab working and landing enough right hands to keep Reiche from getting too adventurous, although we winced at ringside every time Reiche threw a right hand.
Arthur Abraham fought the last eight rounds with a broken jaw in his win over Arthur Abraham, and Abraham’s horribly misshapen jaw was not a pretty sight. Yet Abraham went to a hit and move style and pulled out the win against a heavy hitter.
When James J. Braddock’s manager Joe Gould wanted to pull Braddock out of what had become a cruelly one-sided fight against Joe Louis, the terribly outgunned old champion told Gould that if he stopped the fight he would never speak to his manager again.
The great Henry Armstrong had that “never surrender” spirit, too. Armstrong was terribly punished (a lip was badly sliced) in his rematch with rough, tough, vicious Fritzie Zivic. Zivic’s uppercuts “tore Armstrong’s face into shreds” in the graphic words of ringside reporter Harry Ferguson. The fight was stopped in the 12th round — today a fight as bloodily one-sided as this would never have been allowed to go that long. In the dressing room afterwards Armstrong “peered through eyes that were pounded to slits” but told reporters: “I’m sorry they stopped the fight. I always like to go the limit.”
London heavyweight Danny Williams fought with just the left hand after dislocating his right shoulder against Mark Potter. “If that shoulder has gone, he’s unfit to box,” ringside analyst Jim Watt exclaimed — but Williams stayed in the fight and knocked out Potter with a left uppercut.
Tyrell Biggs was another heavyweight who demonstrated a fighting heart. Biggs suffered a broken right collarbone after heavy hitting Jeff Sims caught him with what the Associated Press described as “a crushing right hand” in the second of a 10-round bout, but Biggs jabbed and hooked his way to victory with the left hand. “I panicked just for a minute,” Biggs said afterwards when asked how he felt when the collarbone snapped, “[but] then I went back to moving, using the jab a lot.” That was a rough fight for Biggs — he was fighting one-handed, and his left eye was swollen almost shut by the later rounds. Quitting, he said, never entered his head.
Old-time featherweight Benny Bass fought “as gritty and exciting and courageous a battle as ever a boxer waged” according to the New York Times when losing a 15-round decision to Tony Canzoneri — it was discovered afterwards that Bass had broken his right collarbone early in the fight, perhaps as early as round three.
There have, then, throughout boxing history, been fighters who would never surrender, especially in a fight they were winning, and even if they knew they could not win, such fighters would keep going, pushed on by pride, heart and a stubborn refusal to give in — even when this would seem the prudent thing to do — because they wanted at least to have the moral victory of going the distance. I think that Josesito Lopez is that type of fighter; Victor Ortiz isn’t. This doesn’t mean to say that Ortiz lacks heart, it’s just that he isn’t prepared to fight through pain and suffering and anxiety when this reaches an extreme level. He showed this against Marcos Maidana and he has done so again.
The fight was a winner for Showtime — a big upset and one of those “Rocky” stories, with Lopez coming in as a substitute for Andre Berto, moving up in weight and fighting from the outset with a winner’s mentality: “To heck with the odds, I’m here to win!”
There was the shaky moment when Lopez went to his knees after getting hit on the back of the head — an incident handled with great sangfroid by referee Jack Reiss — but he was battling back fiercely by the end of the round.
I thought that the naturally bigger Ortiz would be the puncher in the fight, but Lopez seemed to be landing most of the eye-catching blows, the right hands and left uppercuts rocking Ortiz. However, Ortiz did some excellent scoring from out of his southpaw stance, his right jabs and the left hands through the middle bringing blood from his opponent’s nose and causing Ortiz’s left eye to start to start to swell shut from above by the later rounds.
Ortiz seemed on his way to winning, but Lopez was very much in the fight (behind by just one point on one judge’s card) when Ortiz suffered the injury to his jaw, perhaps from a left hook late in the ninth round.
Lopez fought better than I have ever seen him fight. He punched well in combinations and I liked his double left hooks to the body, ripping in the shots under the southpaw’s right elbow. Ortiz boxed well, and he landed some solid left hands, hurting Lopez at times, but at no stage did Ortiz look as if he was in complete control — one always felt that Lopez had a wonderful chance of victory if he kept going and kept punching, and he did just that.