Victor Ortiz latest comeback attempt has hit a roadblock of a different sort. Instead of the usual nagging injuries or purse issues that can occur during fight week, Ortiz finds his fight against John Molina in peril with the news yesterday of his arrest on multiple rape charges. The former welterweight title-holder has yet to make a statement, but he quickly posted the $100,000 bail and as of now, is expected to fight this Sunday (September 30) on Fox Sports 1 for Premier Boxing Champions. As the details gradually gain mainstream attention, the Fox Sports and PBC have an important decision to make on whether the moral integrity of their brands trumps the business as usual approach to the Sweet Science.
The details are as follows – police were contacted by a woman on March 19 that claimed she was sexually assaulted at an Oxnard, California residence. A criminal investigation commenced and resulted in a warrant being filed for Ortiz’s arrest on Tuesday. He surrendered willingly and faces three counts – forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and forcible digital penetration.
At press time, there has been no official statement from PBC. A splash page link for Ortiz-Molina is the first thing you see on their website, and several officials have made short statements to individual media members that all options are being considered on whether the fight goes through.
Outside of a handful of fighters, the boxing world plies its trade away from the mainstream public. This has allowed the Sweet Science to mostly escape the self-reflection and policy changes around sexual assault that’s happened to other professional sports. Had Ortiz been a wide receiver instead of a welterweight fighter, there wouldn’t be uncertainty about status on Sunday. And therein lies the problem with letting Ortiz fight on national TV.
The accusation against Ortiz were investigated for six months. This includes witness statements, gathering forensic evidence and a rape kit. This is where many rape accusations fall apart due to lack of evidence or cooperation. In this case, the police and D.A. gathered enough credible evidence to hit Ortiz with several charges.
The argument is not about Ortiz’s presumed guilt or innocence. That should be viewed with dispassionate indifference until he has his day in the court and the full evidence is revealed. What PBC and Fox Sports need to ask themselves is whether they want to risk showcasing a fighter who possibly might have brutally raped a woman.
The answer should be an emphatic NO. PBC and Fox Sports are just weeks removed from announcing an historic multi-year deal that will allot $60 million to deliver 22 cards annually. Just last year, Fox Sports’s National President Jamie Horowitz was forced to resign after a sexual harassment probe. PBC has avoided scandals in their short existence, but an accused rapist headlining their event is at best an unwelcome distraction that detracts from all fighters involved, and at worst becomes a potential rallying cry for mainstream outlets to tear down the sport for its implicit acceptance of reprehensible behavior from talented fighters.
The boxing world is on the cusp of a commercial breakthrough. Massive TV and streaming deals have been inked by ESPN (Top Rank), Eddie Hearn with DAZN, and the aforementioned PBC/Fox deal. All of them have the chance to become the face of boxing over the next 2 years. But with such power comes the responsibility of moving the sport forward in all facets. And that should include a serious, no-tolerance policy on handling sexual assault and violence against women.
Premier Boxing Champions and Fox Sports have the chance to set that new standard on accountability this Sunday.