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Ortiz-Lopez creates unexpected heat

Former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz gets cranky around fight time.

All he wants to do is get into the ring and take care of his business against Josesito Lopez and move on to what he already has planned next -- a shot at junior middleweight titleholder Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.

Given how long Ortiz has been preparing and how many ups and downs he has been through in recent months, he is just ready to fight.

"I've been training for more than six months for this fight, but that's what world champions do," Ortiz said. "I have to be prepared to fight anyone if I want to prove that I'm the best."

After Floyd Mayweather Jr. knocked out Ortiz in the fourth round in September to take his welterweight belt -- in dirty fashion, some say, because Ortiz had his hands down and wasn't looking when Mayweather delivered the knockout blow -- Ortiz expected to return Feb. 11.

He was supposed to meet Andre Berto in a rematch of their classic slugfest in April 2011. In that memorable battle, both fighters hit the deck and Ortiz won a decision to claim a world title. But Berto suffered a torn biceps, and the February fight was postponed until Saturday night. However, last month, Berto tested positive for a steroid after giving a random urine sample and was bounced from the fight entirely.

That left Ortiz frustrated and in need of a new opponent.

"It was definitely disappointing, especially after having back-to-back training camps," Ortiz said. "At the end of the day, I can't do anything about it and I moved forward. When Berto tested positive, I took it as a compliment to myself that he had to cheat. He knew he couldn't stop me."

In the aftermath of the fight last year, Berto accused Ortiz of using performance-enhancing drugs, even though Berto didn't have a shred of proof to back up the claim.

"He blamed me for using after the first fight, didn't even congratulate me for beating him," Ortiz said. "He blamed the loss on me using steroids, which I found fishy. But I found out why: He was on 'roids. I don't believe in that. I believe in hard work."

So with Berto out, Lopez -- who had been training for a June 22 fight that wound up falling apart -- got the call to face Ortiz. He accepted and will move up from junior welterweight to face Ortiz in a scheduled 12-round bout on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

In a potentially explosive co-feature, former lightweight and junior lightweight titleholder Humberto Soto (59-7-2, 34 KOs) of Mexico will square off with slugger Lucas Matthysse (30-2, 28 KOs) of Argentina in a scheduled 12-round junior welterweight bout.

As if the long delay from February to June and then losing the much higher-profile fight against Berto wasn't enough, now Ortiz has something else to think about, even if he tries not to:
He must win -- or at least draw -- to preserve a Sept. 15 pay-per-view headline fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas against junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.

That bout was made just a couple of weeks ago, after two previously lined-up opponents for Alvarez dropped out: first Paul Williams (due to a career-ending motorcycle accident) and then James Kirkland (a combination of a still-injured shoulder and pie-in-the-sky financial demands).

"I'm not taking anyone for granted at all," Ortiz said. "Josesito is a great fighter. We share one thing in common, and that's a lot of heart. It's going to be a great night. He's ready to fight, and that makes two of us. Josesito knows this is a huge opportunity for him on a big stage. That's why I can't take him lightly."

Ortiz, 25, of Ventura, Calif., said that even though he doesn't need motivation for the fight with Lopez, he has an extra push. Because he knows if he loses Saturday, the fight with Alvarez would disappear -- and it's a major bout on a big date, Mexican Independence Day, for a seven-figure payday and a chance to win a world title in a second weight class.

"It is definitely motivation for me," Ortiz said. "As of right now, I feel Josesito Lopez is standing in my way of greatness, and I'm not going to let him do that. But I don't want to talk about Canelo. My focus has been on Lopez for the last month."

Although Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs) admitted that he was excited when the Alvarez fight was brought to his attention, he said the moment came and went quickly. He said he asked his manager, Rolando Arellano, and the folks at Golden Boy Promotions not to discuss it with him again until after Saturday.

"I just said, 'Keep that out of my training camp,'" Ortiz said. "I'll take care of it after I take care of Josesito. But I know [Alvarez is] there. I don't care what anyone has to say. I'm going to do one thing: destroy Josesito Lopez. Period."

Lopez (29-4, 17 KOs), 27, of Riverside, Calif., had been getting ready to face former junior welterweight titlist Kendall Holt on this week's edition of "Friday Night Fights." Holt, however, pulled out of the fight around the same time Berto dropped out against Ortiz. So when Lopez was offered the fight with Ortiz, Lopez and trainer Henry Ramirez simply adjusted their sparring from right-handed fighters (for Holt) to southpaws (for Ortiz, a lefty).

"There were a lot of names that were proposed as opponents. Josesito was the guy who stepped up on short notice," said Showtime Sports chief Stephen Espinoza. "He was the guy who said, 'I'll do it. I'll rise to the challenge,' and that is the kind of spirit and that is the kind of backbone that he has. He is not backing away from a challenge."

Lopez, however, is ticked off that Ortiz already has his next bout set up before they have even fought.

"I took offense to it," Lopez said. "I thought it was very disrespectful. I don't blame Victor Ortiz for it, but I blame the promoter for allowing it to happen. I don't feel that was necessary. No matter how easy you think a fight may be, I don't think there's a reason to do it. They could have waited another 12 days to announce it, so it definitely adds more motivation for me, as if fighting him on Saturday night wasn't enough. This really adds more fuel to the fire."

Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said during his announcement of Alvarez-Ortiz that Lopez would be considered for the fight if he beats Ortiz. But Lopez said his co-promoters, Dan Goossen and Ken Thompson, haven't been approached about the fight.

"Nobody has ever spoken to me or my team about it, but it's OK," Lopez said. "My only focus is Saturday night. My only focus is Victor Ortiz."

It might look disrespectful to Lopez for Golden Boy to announce the Alvarez fight, but it could take a fight without much heat to it and give it some spice for that very reason, Schaefer said.

"It's a motivation for Victor, knowing that he's going to come back Sept. 15 against Canelo in a fight he's wanted for a long time," Schaefer said. "Victor feels that Canelo is a paper champion, and there is some animosity. They have talked some s---. So he's definitely motivated to get that fight and to fight on that weekend at the MGM.

"For Josesito, if he was motivated before, now there is an additional element. I'm sure he ran extra hard or sparred that extra round and is pumped up because he is trying to win and also derail the fight between Canelo and Victor and potentially inject himself into the mix. Is there more pressure on Victor? Yes, I would think so. Josesito is coming with everything to gain and nothing to lose, so it makes the fight much more interesting."