"Most North American fans, because of the nature of boxing, feel that if you can't impose your will on a fighter you still need to keep going. Fans want to see a fighter willing to risk everything in order to win," Max Kellerman says.
In the real world, nobody would crucify you for that kind of thinking. But boxing has its own culture and unwritten laws. "Most North American fans, because of the nature of boxing, feel that if you can't impose your will on a fighter you still need to keep going. Fans want to see a fighter willing to risk everything in order to win," Kellerman says.
Perhaps a big factor in Ortiz's decision was that he had knocked Maidana down three times with his best shots, and the guy just kept getting up like a terminator and firing bombs. "No doubt about it; that affects a fighter psychologically," Kellerman says. "Any fighter will tell you the same thing. Ortiz's behavior after the fight told fans what they didn't want to hear. He disappointed many people."
Kellerman says Muhammad Ali came close to doing that twice in his storied career, but trainer Angelo Dundee literally pushed him off his stool. In his first fight with Sonny Liston, "Ali wanted to quit after the fourth round when he had a burning sensation in his eyes and couldn't see. He told Dundee to cut off his gloves. Then in his third fight with Frazier, Ali was so exhausted he wanted to quit before the 15 round started even though he was winning."
But unlike Ali, Ortiz is not a proven warrior. He has the skills to become one and can win back fans, but Kellerman wonders if the young fighter's head is in the right place. "With Ortiz, the question is how will he handle it? After a fighter quits, he wakes up the next morning and sees the world is still there, the sun still rises in the sky, and he comes to the realization that if you quit it is not the end of the world. That makes it easier to quit the next time."
It is unlikely that Ortiz's heart will be tested in his December 12 fight with Antonio Diaz, a 33-year-old lacking the hands of stone that Maidana does. Diaz is a former two-time welterweight title challenger who retired in 2005, came back three years later and has won all four of his fights against journeymen, but none by knockout.
This bout is clearly designed as a confidence builder and a bridge back for Ortiz, but even an impressive victory will do little to erase lingering doubts. Jack Dempsey once said, "A champion is someone who gets up when he can't." Until Ortiz shows he can do that, fans will question whether he has the heart to be one.