With the biggest fight of his professional life looming just a few days away, you might think that all Ventura boxer Víctor Ortiz would be thinking about would be Saturday's (Sept. 17) showdown with Floyd Mayweather.
While Ortiz is focused on being totally prepared to defend his WBC welterweight title, he's proven in recent weeks that he's not afraid to venture outside the walls of his training camp to find some new challenges and to try and help others less fortunate.
Early in training camp, Ortiz took a day away from his normal routine to join his manager, Rolando Arellano, in competing in the Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon that consisted of a 500-yard ocean swim, a 30-kilometer bike ride and a 5-kilometer run.
While head trainer Danny García wasn't initially thrilled with the idea of Ortiz jumping in the ocean with sharks and strapping himself on a bike, he eventually gave him his blessing.
"I'm a wild type of person and I go out to the extremes," Ortiz said. "When they (his coaches) said 'You're in camp,' my response was it consists of running and biking so it's a great workout."
Arellano, who has been taking part in triathlons for several years, believed the event would provide Ortiz with a nice diversion from the pressures of preparing for a megafight while giving him some cross-training in the process.
Even with little training and virtually no experience, Ortiz more than held his own, finishing ninth in his age division and posting a time of 1 hour, 36 minutes and 56 seconds, which ranked him among the elite racers in the field.
"He's 24 and world-class athlete," Arellano said. "When those type guys put their minds to accomplishing something, they usually do pretty great. This kid gets a on a bike and instantly he's posting elite times. He's running and he does a sub six-minute mile.
"During the race he was running with all the top athletes. At first they went past him, but then that competitive nature kicked in. He put his headphones on and, zoom, he took off and passed them."
The experience left Ortiz wanting even more, so he and Arellano signed up to compete in a full Ironman competition on Nov. 27 in Cozumel, México, where they will do a 2.6-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.
"You have to finish in under 17 hours, but I see Víctor doing it in about 12 hours," Arellano said.
While García allowed his fighter to satisfy his competitive nature in a new way, he did put his foot down last week about one extracurricular activity -- saying no when Ortiz asked permission to go to Magic Mountain.
"What if he hurts his back on a ride or does something else to himself and can't fight? You never know," García said. "You can't take chances. If it happened they will say I let him go and now he can't fight. The fight is close and everything has been good, so why take a chance?"
García is pleased with his fighter's focus and attitude as he prepares for his first title defense as a professional. He said he continually tells Ortiz that he is the champion and that Mayweather is no longer a title-holder.
"Reminding him of that gives him more confidence," García said.
As a world champion, Ortiz is using his newly earned celebrity to try and help kids who he shares a lot of common ground with.
As the national spokesperson for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, Ortiz is lending his star power to help kids who come from broken homes that have one or both of the parents absent. Ortiz and his siblings experienced that situation while they were growing up in Garden City, Kan.
Last Tuesday, before sitting down with reporters to talk about his fight with Mayweather, Ortiz met with 15 kids from the Ventura County Chapter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters to have lunch and give them a little inspiration.
Most of the kids present were from Oxnard High or Pacifica High. Ortiz graduated from Pacifica, where he earned the school's scholar-athlete award with a 3.7 GPA.
Ortiz told the teens that he was looked at as a "geek and nerd" at Pacifica because he always had his head in a book.
He told the kids that coming from a broken home, no one expected him to make anything of himself, but he has always strived to prove the naysayers wrong.
He reminded them that the only opinion that matters is the one you have of yourself.
"I just tried to relate to them," Ortiz said. "I can only tell them so much. I can't tell them what to do and how to live their lives, but I can try and make an impression on them.
"I feel like they pay attention to what I am telling them because they know how I grew up. I hope I can get to some of them and pass along a message or give them a little hope or belief."
Lynne West, CEO of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Ventura County, said it was easy to see that the kids relate to Ortiz's story.
"What is so great is that he has such a positive story," West said. "We try to instill in our kids all the time, you can be anything you want to be. He is the perfect example of that. This is a memory they will have forever.
"Win or lose (against Mayweather), Víctor is a winner because of wanting to give back. Our kids don't have great role models in their lives. It comes across to the kids that he cares."
Ortiz is using the same positive attitude that allowed him to fight his way off the streets in his attempt to become the first professional fighter to defeat Mayweather.
As he headed into the fight with Andre Berto last April, none of the experts gave him much of a chance of taking Berto's welterweight title.
Ortiz used the negativity to fuel his desire and by the end of the 12 rounds, he was walking out of the ring with the championship belt.
But even after seeing Ortiz pull off the upset of Berto, most of the boxing world is again doubting Ortiz, believing Mayweather will be too much for the young boxer. The lack of respect doesn't bother Ortiz; it just inspires him to prove people wrong again.
"Dismiss me before the fight takes place, that's perfect," Ortiz said. "I have always been the underdog. This guy, for whatever reason, he scared 41 one of his opponents. I don't know why. But with me, he's barking up the wrong tree.
"He was world champion, but now he's a lost, older fighter. This time he went into the wrong den with the wrong lion."