Ortiz: 'I'm pretty eager to get back'

Ever since breaking his jaw in a 2012 upset loss to Josesito Lopez, former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz has kept a busy portfolio.

From an appearance on "Dancing With the Stars" to a movie role in "The Expendables 3," Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) has allowed his personal brand a chance to grow throughout his 18-month break from the ring. He also took from the experience a much-needed break from the grind of the sport following consecutive defeats.

But with his jaw fully healed, Ortiz, who turns 27 on Friday, is excited to make his long-awaited return. The all-action southpaw will face former titlist Luis Collazo (34-5-1, 17 KOs) on Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. (9 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

Ortiz spoke with ESPN.com on Tuesday about overcoming criticism and his excitement to get back into the ring:

How excited are you to finally be making this long-awaited return to the ring?
I'm pretty eager to get back in the ring. It has been a little too long but throughout the whole time I was out, I was always in the gym looking over footage. In that time, I got a break from just everything -- the boxing world, the boxing ring. And I got to rebuild a whole new team and that was great for me. Thankfully everything has been going very well. Training camp was hard, as always. Now we're back.

What did you find that you missed the most during your time away?
I think I just missed being in the ring. I didn't miss the criticism. I didn't miss a lot of the people saying bad things about me but it comes with the sport. I missed just being in there and hearing the sound of that bell.

You were given a very hard time in terms of how much criticism you took after asking out of the Lopez fight with a broken jaw. Do you feel the need to prove yourself again to certain people?
I don't have to prove anything to anyone. At the end of the day it's my life and I live it how I want to. My jaw was broken for five rounds. I couldn't continue. Yet, you go back and look at the scorecards and who is really winning the fight and dictating the fight with a broken jaw? I was. That's why I have nothing to prove to anyone. Fans will always be fans. You have the good and you have the bad. For whatever reason if they don't like you, that's that. I have my opinion and my ultimate opinion counts.

One thing you have proven to be is a fan-friendly fighter. In fact, I have often called you, regardless of a win or defeat, the most must-see fighter in the sport. Is that a label you embrace?
Absolutely. I enjoy life. Boxing is a sport, just like basketball is. Just like tennis and golf. I think people lose it sometimes and they don't realize that it's only a sport. They take it very personal and I don't take it personal. It is what it is, you know? You take your wins and losses and you get up.

You did a lot of crossover endeavors during your time away from the ring, including acting and television. How fulfilling was that to you?
Since I was 17 years old I have never once had a break from boxing. Ever. Not even a weekend. I just never could get around to something like that. Finally I was forced to take a break for almost two years due to a broken jaw. While that was healing I took on some roles. One was on "Dancing With the Stars." After that, I shot a movie in Bulgaria called "The Expendables 3" as a new Expendable. In the meantime, I was getting heat from boxing journalists and boxing people. I thought it was just funny because throughout the whole lifetime of a boxer, I don't think you are going to see many boxers in "The Expendables" or on "Dancing With the Stars."

Did you find that you were better at acting and dancing than you thought you would be beforehand?
I did find that I was better than I thought. But at the end of the day I missed boxing so much. I missed it so much so that I couldn't bear to sit there and watch a fighter in my weight class who I knew I could beat. I would get irritated. So that hunger of being champion never left me.

What is your take on what has become of the welterweight division in your absence?
The welterweight division has grown since I was taking my break. I definitely like what I see. I see that I can definitely dethrone everybody, so I'm ready.

What kind of fight are you expecting against Collazo?
At this point in time I'm taking it fight by fight so Collazo is definitely not a person to take lightly. I know he is a primed veteran. At the same time you have to remember, I too am a veteran. I may be younger, but I had my pro debut when I was 17 and am almost 10 years into the pro game. I'm definitely well primed, as well. I think Collazo and myself will have a great fight, but ultimately I will come out victorious.

You fought with a level of intensity when you captured a welterweight title from Andre Berto in 2011 that I don't know I've seen from you again. Would you consider that fight your greatest night in the ring?
No, I don't think so. That was a mistake in that fight, but I just kept on the game plan from my old team and I usually do what is necessary and whatever they ask of me. I don't go off and try and do my own thing. They told me to fight that way and that's how I fought.

Although you were knocked down twice in that fight, you showed a tremendous amount of heart to come back and win. Is that a performance you look back on with pride?
You know, it's OK. That's not my best performance, I don't think. But people love the fight, so that definitely helped.

Which fight in your career has been your favorite thus far?
I think my favorite performance is the kind I had against like a [Marcos] Maidana type. I mean, it didn't end exactly how I wanted it to. [Ortiz scored three knockdowns before losing by sixth-round TKO in a 2009 upset]. But I think Vivian Harris [KO3 in 2010] and Jeff Resto [TKO2 in 2009] -- fights like that. Berto is up there but it wasn't one of my favorites.

If you get past Collazo, how many fights away do you think you are from a title shot?
I'm ready now. There's a lot of people that always try to take the route of 'I'm going to fight this guy because it's an easier fight.' I'm not one of those. I like to take on the top dog. That's why I chose Collazo.