PUERTO RICO of course has its reputation as a fine fighting island. Carlos Ortiz was at the vanguard of boxers who forged that reputation in the ring. The son of Puerto Rican parents, Ortiz grew up in New York. He may have learned to fight on the streets he walked as a child but pursuing a career as a boxer was one of the more desirable options available to the son of new immigrants.
He fought frequently in his first two years as a professional, his first blip coming against Lou Filippo. Dropped twice himself, he put Filippo down after the ninth round had ended. Initially Ortiz was disqualified but the result was later switched to a No Contest. They fought a rematch only a month later, with Ortiz stopping him on cuts. That proved to be Filippo’s last bout. Carlos didn’t suffer his first loss until 1958, to Johnny Busso, a result which he again reversed in a prompt rematch.
Later that year, he travelled to London (where he had boxed as an amateur) to fight the “Dartford Destroyer” Dave Charnley, outpointing him at the Harringay Arena. But Ortiz longed to fight Joe Brown, the world’s reigning lightweight champion. Brown was otherwise engaged.
The light-welterweight crown was lightly-regarded at the time but for Ortiz it was a means to an end. That strap was on the line when he fought Kenny Lane, who had managed to upset Ortiz on a majority decision after the Charnley bout. Carlos maintained his habit of vengeance, forcing Lane out after two rounds.
Ortiz continued to leverage the light-welterweight title, knocking out “Battling” Torres before defeating Duilio Loi via split decision. Money lured him to Milan for a rematch with the Italian, which the judges awarded to Loi on a majority. The new champion appeared to have Ortiz figured out by 1961 when they completed a trilogy with Loi dropping him on the way to a unanimous 15-round victory.
The following year Carlos finally got his wish and boxed Brown for his lightweight title in Las Vegas, handling him with aplomb over the championship distance. He fought in Puerto Rico for the first time in his second defence, putting Cuba’s Doug Valiant away in the 13th.
He reigned for a couple of years before travelling to Panama to fight Ismael Laguna. Perhaps caught off guard, he was dispossessed of the title on a majority decision. He trained diligently for the return, which he got in Puerto Rico, and managed to rectify the reverse. Laguna tried to crack Ortiz again in 1967, but Carlos defeated him unanimously once more, this time in New York. Between the second and third Laguna contests Sugar Ramos had fallen by the wayside twice, halted on both occasions. With a riot erupting after the first, in Mexico, the rematch was wisely held in San Juan.
His appetite for the sport was waning and he left his crown in the Dominican Republic with Carlos Teo Cruz, losing a 1968 split decision in Santo Domingo. Victorious in his later returns to the ring, he never fought for a title again. The great man went out on his stool in Madison Square Garden, against Scotland’s Ken Buchanan in 1972. It was the only time he was stopped and Buchanan went on to become a Hall of Fame fighter.
The Best feeling
ORTIZ fondly recalls the night he won the title in some detail. “There’s no way to explain the feeling of winning a fight, never mind winning a title,” he said. “It was the most surprising thing in my life. I had been waiting for such a long time to get a title shot that when I got it I just couldn’t believe it. I was so surprised that I didn’t think it was real.”
Born September 9, 1936, in Ponce, Puerto Rico Wins 61 Knockouts 30 Losses 7 Draw 1 No Contests 1 Best win Ismael Laguna (II) w pts 15 Worst loss Carlos Teo Cruz l pts 15 Pros Big for lightweight, solid all-rounder Cons Dominated a second division that was not respected