By David Martinez / dmboxing.com
Where do I start to talk and grieve about my friend – my good friend – Johnny Ortiz, who passed away on Saturday, August 9, 2014.
I met Johnny back in 1997 upon my arrival into the World Boxing Hall of Fame as a Director of the Board. I knew about Johnny prior to that because I would catch him at times when I was in the Los Angeles area and listened to his boxing radio talk show “Ringside with Johnny Ortiz”.
Upon meeting Johnny, we immediately bonded as loyal friends mainly due to our great love for boxing. I always considered Johnny a mentor and our bond took us to connecting by phone at least twice a week over the years just to check up on each other and say hello.
Johnny has been featured on my website, we have done radio broadcasts together, taken trips to boxing matches, done things socially, and always sat together while never missing a monthly board meeting with the World Boxing Hall of Fame during our tenures with the organization.
To try to explain Johnny’s life and what I know, would be like trying to explain how a nuclear powered submarine is built, and that would take me literally days and weeks and months to do.
Just know that Johnny was a God fearing man, and what came first in his everyday life was serving the Lord. He was respected by his boxing peers, family, and friends. He will be missed as he now takes his step into heaven. Johnny Ortiz, my friend – my good friend – rest in peace!
*** NOTE: for many features regarding Johnny that are displayed on this website, go to menu under Categories and click onto Johnny Ortiz for viewing … funeral arrangements are pending with details available soon … any donations are great fully being accepted by going onto website http://www.gofundme.com/ctlkz4
(Photos Courtesy: George Garcia and David Martinez)
By David Martinez / dmboxing.com
Earlier this week, on May 25, 2014, former WBC light heavyweight champion Matthew Saad Muhammad passed away. He was 59 years old.
Matthew was born on August 5, 1954 in Philadelphia, PA, with the name of Maxwell Antonio Loach. His mother died when he was an infant and he and his older brother were sent to live with their aunt. At the age of five, his aunt could not afford to look after both of them. Matthew was taken to Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway Center from which he ran away. He was then taken in by Catholic Social Services. The nuns gave him the name Matthew Franklin, naming him after a saint and the location where he was found. Matthew lived in foster care until a loving couple adopted him, raised him, and took care of him like he was their own.
Matthew was a very action style boxer. He was known for his ability to take punishment and mount comebacks. He won the WBC light heavyweight title from Marvin Johnson on April 22, 1979. After eight successful title defenses he lost the title to Dwight Muahmmad Qawi in December 1981. In a rematch in an attempt to win back the title in August 1982, he lost again to Qawi.
By David Martinez / dmboxing.com
Earlier this week, on May 6, 2014, former WBA heavyweight champion Jimmy Ellis passed away. He was 74 years old.
Ellis beat Jerry Quarry in 1968 for the vacant WBA title. He only made one defense of the title against Floyd Patterson in Stockholm, Sweden that many, including me, thought he lost. In 1970, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, he lost to Joe Frazier in a heavyweight unification championship bout .
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Ellis was a former sparring partner to Muhammad Ali and both were trained by Angelo Dundee.
I was truly blessed to have met Jimmy Ellis in my tenure as a Board of Director with the World Boxing Hall of Fame. He was such a kind and gentle man and always appreciated the fans that loved him.
His professional career began in 1961 and he retired in 1975. He had ring record of 40 wins, 12 losses, and 1 draw with 24 knockouts. Jimmy Ellis will be missed, as he touched many of us, and may his soul be rested peacefully in heaven with the Lord.
I remember watching the “Friday Night Fights” on TV with my father and friends back in the early sixties, seeing Rubin “Hurricane” Carter as a top middleweight contender.
On April 20, 2014, Easter Sunday, Rubin passed away at the age of 76 after suffering from prostate cancer.
Rubin was nicknamed “Hurricane” because of his ferocity and punching power. He never achieved the title of world champion, but is always remembered for stopping two-division champion Emile Griffith in the first round in 1963. He fought for the middleweight title in 1964, losing a unanimous 15 round decision to Joey Giardello. Rubin had a professional ring record of 27 wins, 12 losses, and 1 draw with 19 knockouts.
My good friend, Harold Lederman (HBO World Championship Boxing), stated: “So sorry to hear of the death of Rubin Hurricane Carter. The Patterson New Jersey middleweight was one of the hardest punchers I ever saw.”
I consider my first meeting with Ken Norton to be the night of July 2, 1970. My late wife (girlfriend at the time) Constance and I went to the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles to see Ken Norton fight an unknown fighter from Caracas, Venezuela by the name of Jose Luis Garcia. In what I call (to this day) one of the biggest upsets I have seen in any arena, Garcia knocked out the previously unbeaten Norton (16-0 / 15 by KO) in eight rounds.
Ken Norton passed away on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at the age of 70. He is always remembered by boxing fans for his three fights with Muhammad Ali.
In that trilogy, he beat Ali in 1973 (breaking Ali’s jaw as well) in their San Diego bout by a split 12 round-decison. Later that same year, he lost to Ali in Los Angeles by a split 12 round-decision. In their final bout at Yankee Stadium in 1976, many, including myself, thought he beat Ali. He lost the bout and his bid to gain the heavyweight championship by a close, but unanimous 15 round-decision.
In December, 2012 I lost a good friend, Johnny Lira, to liver disease. He campaigned as a lightweight back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. At one time he was the WBA’s #1 rated lightweight in the world. He also won the USBA lightweight title in spectacular fashion when he knocked out the undefeated Andy Ganigan. Nicknamed the “Hawaiian Punch”, Ganigan had a record of 25 – 0, with 23 wins by KO and he was looking to keep busy, while waiting for a shot at then champion, Roberto Duran. Johnny seemed a safe enough tune-up, he was only 14-0-1 with 8 wins by KO. The smart guys figured he’d go a few rounds, give Ganigan a little work and in short order become KO victim number 24. But the smart guys never could get a handle on the tough kid from Grand Avenue on the west side of Chicago.
Lira got his shot at a world championship in front of a home town crowd, when he took on WBA Lightweight Champion Ernesto Espana in 1979. The fight was televised on the old ABC Wide World of Sports with Howard Cosell calling the action. What a fight it was! Cosell called it even after five. Lira knocked down the champ in the seventh and it looked like he was going to put him away. But Espana fought back hard. That’s what champions do! Lira was dropped near the end of the 8th, then suffered a severely lacerated right eye and picked up a broken jaw. The ringside doctor stopped the fight after the ninth round.
There were more ring wars to come. After Espana, Lira’s career included losses to Willie “Fireball” Rodriguez, Howard Davis, Jr. and Alfredo Escalera. There were also wins over rugged Bobby Plegge, Al Ford and Sammy Matos! Lira finally hung up the gloves in 1984 with a record of 29-6-1 with 15 wins by KO.