Ortiz floors fellow great Flash Elorde in January 1966. Photo by Herb Scharfman/ Sports Imagery/ Getty Images
One of the finest all-around fighters ever produced by the boxing-crazy island of Puerto Rico was born 86 years ago today.
Carlos Ortiz was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on September 9, 1936. He started his professional career in 1955 with a first-round knockout win in New York City, where he campaigned most of his life. Four years later, he had amassed a record of 30-2 when he took on Kenny Lane in a rematch of a previous majority decision loss. This time he stopped Lane in two rounds and in the process he became junior welterweight champion of the world.
He lost and regained that title in 1960 and 1961 respectively, as part of a trilogy against Italy’s Duilio Loi in which the Puerto Rican champ won the first fight and then the rubber match.
Only three fights after that, Ortiz traveled to Las Vegas to decision Joe Brown and take his Ring lightweight belt, which he would defend against Teruo Kosaka, Doug Valliant, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde and his old foe Kenny Lane before surrendering it and regaining it immediately against Panamanian great Ismael Laguna in two grudge matches.
After a non-title draw against defensive wizard Nicolino Locche in Argentina, Ortiz defended his belt five times against the likes of Elorde, Laguna, Johnny Bizzarro and Sugar Ramos (twice) before surrendering it to Teo Cruz in 1968, in an upset.
Cruz had ten more straight wins before losing to future lightweight champ Ken Buchanan and subsequently retiring in 1972. His loss to Buchanan in six rounds was the first time Ortiz failed to answer the final bell in a bout, and only one of his other six loses was by unanimous decision (the rest were majority or split verdicts).
Ortiz finished his career with a record of 61-7 with 30 knockouts. He died on June 13, 2022 in New York at age 85. He had been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991, and is still considered one of the best Puerto Rican fighters ever along with Felix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto, Wilfredo Gómez, Hector Camacho, José Torres, Edwin Rosario and Wilfred Benitez, among others.