Former welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz is exchanging his boxing gloves for dancing shoes, at least for a little while.
The new lineup for the hit show “Dancing with the Stars” was announced this week and Ortiz will be one of the contestants to compete for the Mirror Ball Trophy on the 16th season of the series, which debuts March 18 (ABC, 8 p.m. ET/PT).
Ortiz was enthusiastic about being part of one of the most popular shows in the country when we spoke about it on Wednesday.
“I’m gonna have a blast doing this,” Ortiz said.
He will be paired with pro dancer Lindsay Arnold, who will be on the show for the first time. They began practicing this week.
“She pushes me to my limits,” Ortiz said.
Like many of the celebrities who join the show, Ortiz is a novice dancer -- using his fists far more than his feet in his line of work.
“I’ve never danced in my life,” Ortiz said. “Just random social dancing, like a night club or something, but not actual proper posture or co-ordination. This is very different.”
Ortiz, who has been a casual fan of the show, counts Hollywood star and onetime “Dancing” runner-up Mario Lopez as a pal. He said they’re going to have lunch this week and he’ll ask him about what to expect from the show.
“Mario has been on the show and is a great friend of mine,” Ortiz said. “Mario and I go back a good eight years. So why not pick his brain about it.”
He will be the fifth boxer to compete on the show. The others were Evander Holyfield (fifth in the first season), Laila Ali (third in the fourth season), Floyd Mayweather Jr. (ninth in the fifth season) and Sugar Ray Leonard (ninth in the 12th season).
“I think it’s a cool thing and bringing this kind of attention to the world of boxing is a good thing for the sport,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz, of course, lost his world title to Mayweather by controversial fourth-round knockout in 2011.
Maybe Ortiz can do better than Mayweather did on the show?
“I didn’t even know Floyd did it (until recently). That’s cool,” Ortiz said. “I’m just having a good time. Thankfully, I got paired with a great person, Lindsay.”
Ortiz returned from the loss to Mayweather last June and suffered a severely broken jaw against Josesito Lopez, forcing him to retire on his stool after the ninth round for his second loss in a row.
He said his jaw feels OK now, but it locks up from time to time. Although it has healed well, he said his doctors recommended that he hold off on fighting for the time being until it gets stronger.
“I went to a specialist before making any decisions,” Ortiz said. “The specialist said seven or eight months after having my jaw broken that it would not be smart to go back in the ring just yet. He said my bones are still a little too vulnerable. So I said, ‘Let’s go for it, ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ I’m taking this very seriously, like training camp. We’ll have a blast.”
Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) figures since he isn’t going to fight in the first half of this year, doing “Dancing” is a great way to stay busy, have some fun and raise his profile outside of the boxing world.
“I’ve put my mind on being recognized in boxing, but I also want to be a household name all around,” Ortiz said, adding that he also has “some movie deals going on.”
“I am very happy for Victor,” said Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer, Ortiz’s promoter. “This is tremendous exposure for him and it’s always great to see that a fighter crosses over into mainstream. It obviously means that Victor has done something right. He has created a brand and was approached by the producer. How do you create a brand in boxing? It is what Victor does best -- always deliver exciting fights.
Victor is a tremendous competitor and as of us at Golden Boy wish him well. Go and knock 'em out Victor.”
Once his “Dancing” season is over -- it would go into late May if he advances to the end -- Ortiz said he will turn his attention back to boxing and has every intention of fighting before the year is over. He has split from trainer Danny Garcia but has not yet hired a new trainer, although he has spent some time working with Freddie Roach.
“I’m taking this (healing process) as a positive,” Ortiz said. “When I come back, my jaw will be healed and there will be no questions. If I get punched I’ll have no doubt in my mind that the jaw is OK. I don’t know exactly when I’ll be back, but this year. I have to. I’ve been missing the ring.”
Also on the new ‘Dancing” season will be comedian D.L Hughley, Super Bowl winner Jacoby Jones of the Baltimore Ravens, comedian/actor Andy Dick, General Hospital soap opera star Ingo Rademacher, Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Aly Raisman, country singer Kellie Pickler, county music legend Wynonna Judd, Disney actress Zendaya Coleman, legendary figure skater Dorothy Hamill and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Lisa Vanderpump.