Victor Ortiz was born in Garden City, Kansas, in 1987. Raised in poverty, Ortiz took to boxing as a way to please his alcoholic father and defend himself against school bullies. Taken under the wing of several retired pro fighters, Ortiz turned professional himself at the age of 17. He captured the welterweight title in 2011, but lost it later that year in a bout with Floyd Mayweather.
Victor Ortiz was born January 31, 1987, in Garden City, Kansas. With his two siblings, Ortiz weathered a tough childhood. He was just 7 when his mother unexpectedly picked up and abandoned her children, leaving them in the hands of their alcoholic father. Five years later, Victor Sr. was out of their lives as well.
They were wrenching years, to be sure, ones that saw Ortiz grow up in a trailer without electricity and work cornfields to make enough money to eat, before foster care finally entered his life. At the age of 16, Ortiz was adopted by his older sister, Carmen, and moved to Denver to live with her. But, as Ortiz later reflected, the hardships helped shape him for later success. "[They] made me hungrier," he said.
School offered little relief. Shy and overweight, Ortiz entered the boxing gym so that he could stop getting beaten up. His introduction to the sport had come from his father, who loved boxing just as much as he hated losing. When Ortiz was 8, his dad beat him after the boy lost an amateur bout.
Ortiz's talents were eventually recognized by the gym's manager, Ignacio "Bucky" Avila, who took the young fighter under his wing and taught him the fundamentals of the sport.
"He was the dad I never had," Ortiz has said. "He always told me to dream big and that the sky's the limit. I always believed that."
A mix of talent and strong mentorship helped steer Ortiz to success. In his early teens, while training at a Salvation Army boxing center in Denver, Ortiz caught the attention of former heavyweight boxing contender Ron Lyle. Under Lyle's direction, the 16-year-old fighter won a Junior Olympic title with a perfect 5-0 record in the 132-pound division.
Less than a year later Ortiz was in Oxnard, California, working closely with another former boxer, Robert Garcia, who'd asked Ortiz to come train at his renowned gym. Garcia eventually became the young boxer's legal guardian.
Ortiz began his pro career with a string of easy victories and by 2008 was named by ESPN as the boxing prospect of the year. Three years later, in April 2011, Ortiz fulfilled the expectations and claimed the welterweight title with a unanimous decision over Andre Berto.
Ortiz's possession of the belt, however, was short-lived. Five months after capturing the title, Ortiz lost it to Floyd Mayweather, who ended a 16-month hiatus to take on the new champion.
The following year, Ortiz lost again, just the fourth defeat in his career, to Josesito Lopez. In the bout, the heavily favored Ortiz fractured his jaw twice, the second break coming in the ninth round, forcing the boxer to retire to his stool and hand his opponent the victory.
Outside the Ring
Known for his good looks and engaging smile, Ortiz has proved to be a natural in front of the camera. In the spring of 2013, he competed in the 16th season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. The fighter lasted several weeks before he and his partner, Lindsay Arnold, were knocked off the show.
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