LAS VEGAS -- The last time Victor Ortiz fought in Las Vegas, at the Mandalay Bay last December, he started brightly, dropping opponent Lamont Peterson twice in the third round. But he struggled down the stretch, and although the majority-draw verdict handed down by the judges seemed harsh, the overall performance wasn't exactly inspiring. Certainly, it didn't seem the outing of a man who, two fights later, would be headlining a pay-per-view card across the street at the MGM Grand against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Ortiz insists it's no more than he expected.
"I wanted the biggest fighters from the get-go," he said to reporters on Tuesday. "At 140 [pounds], no one would give me a shot -- not even the so-much-talked-about rematch with [Marcos] Maidana. And I thought: You know what, this isn't for me. I don't want to grow old in a weight class where no one will even fight me."
So Ortiz moved up to welterweight, challenged belt holder Andre Berto and, in a leading candidate for fight of the year, dropped Berto twice en route to a title-winning performance that led to his date with Mayweather.
The promotion has been larger than anything Ortiz has dealt with before, and parts of it have clearly been enjoyable, not least being the large crowd that cheered him when he arrived at the MGM on Tuesday.
"It surprised me," he said of the reception. "It surprised me very, very much. Just given the circumstances, you know. I've always been this kid who was not supposed to be on the stage. But I'm a blessed kid, I work hard. I train very, very hard. At the end of the day, I'm ready. I'm ready for anything."
About some other aspects of it all, he is less than enthusiastic.
"I do realize that a lot of this, there's a lot of falseness. Nobody lives like this daily. And if they do ... well then, hey man, my hat's off to you. But that's not me. You get criticized for a living. You're looked at under a microscope for a living. You get talked bad about for a living. You get put down and then shoved into your life and then back out of it, time in and time out, and my conclusion is: It's all a bunch of nonsense."
That was a veiled reference to his perceived mistreatment by the media following his June 2009 loss to Maidana, when he dropped Maidana three times but was knocked down twice himself before ultimately quitting in the sixth round.
"The media killed me," he said. "They killed me not for one fight, not for two fights, they killed me for two years. They shut me out. Victor who? And for that, I grew very cold toward a lot of media. Not in the sense of 'F everybody,' but in the sense of, 'Hey, I know what these people are all about.' Media doesn't care about anybody. And I realize that. Two years of getting beat up and harassed by everyone in the media, that does something to someone."
Criticism of his performance against Maidana was all the more misplaced, Ortiz says, given the circumstances under which he entered the bout.
"I never arrived mentally," he said. "My coaches didn't know -- I never once told them -- I broke my wrist two weeks before the fight. They didn't know it. My buddies happened to be doctors, and I won't mention any names due to they could get in trouble. But I went to my buddies and -- illegally -- I shot myself with cortisone. I didn't let these guys know. I was going through a bad time with my whole family. And when I say family, yes, it's only my brother and sister. But that's all I have, that's all I've ever had, and we fell off track for a little bit. And that hurt me very bad, in the sense of never arriving.
"I was in the locker room, and coach Danny [Garcia] asks me, 'How we doing, Vic? Are we ready?' And I said, 'What can we do? We're here. Let's just roll the dice and see what happens.' And so, hey man, I get dropped. After that first drop, memory erased. He hits pretty hard, I guess. So he put me down, and after that there was no recuperation for my memory. That worked in a positive way, though, because I don't remember anything about the fight."
All that now is in the past, and Ortiz insists he is in a much better place as he prepares for the challenge before him.
"I have no regrets, no regrets," he said. "Everything happens for a reason. To each his own. I don't live by anyone's expectations, I don't live by anyone's criticisms. I could care less about what anyone else thinks about me. At the end of the day, I go home, I close my eyes and go to sleep. I'm pretty content."