When mentioning great Puerto Rican boxers, almost immediately most boxing fans will go to Wilfredo Gomez, Felix Trinidad, and Wilfred Benitez. However, before all of them came Carlos Ortiz, who didn't have the dynamite punches of Gomez or Trinidad nor the record setting early age success of Benitez, but instead more than made up for those setbacks with solid boxing ability and a host of wins over high level competition.
After compiling an undefeated streak of 24 wins, Ortiz burst onto the boxing scene in 1958 with his first big wins. In this year he defeated top lightweight Joey Lopes, and after a controversial loss with top ten rated Johnny Busso defeated him more decisively in an immediate rematch. Ortiz would then face off against highly rated Dave Charnley, who would go on to have the Fight of the Year with Lightweight champ Joe Brown. In his final fight of 1958 Ortiz would drop a close decision against future chellenger Kenny Lane.
After a quick match against Len Matthews, Ortiz would face off against Lane again, but this time to decide who the best 140lb fighter was in the world. Now with a vacant title on the line, Ortiz surged early, dropping Lane in the 2nd and forcing the cut stoppage.
In his first and one of his only defenses of his Junior Welterweight belt, Ortiz would face off against Mexico's 31-0 Battling Torres, who was one of the 5 best Lightweights in the world. Despite being shocked by a clean left hook mid way through the fight, Ortiz fought back and got knockout in round 10.
His 2nd and last defense came against the talented HOF Italian Duilio Loi, who came into the fight with a shocking 102-1 record. In a very difficult fight, Ortiz was able to get away with a close but fair 15 round decision. However, Ortiz would lose to Loi in an immediate rematch in Italy, and after a decision win over top ten rated Cisco Andrade would again unsuccessfully win back the Junior Welterweight crown. Loi would go on to retire as Junior Welterweight champ after beating HOF fighter Eddie Perkins.
Instead Ortiz set his sights on Joe Brown, the lightweight champion. After two solid decision wins over top lightweights Douglas Vaillant and Paolo Rosi, Ortiz would get his first Lightweight title shot. Ortiz swarmed the HOF lightweight from the opening bell, cutting Brown early and sweeping a clear decision win.
After decisioning top ten rated Arthur Persley in his spare time, Ortiz's first title defense would come in Japan against another top ten rated lightweight, Teruo Kosaka, who he knocked out in 5 rounds.
Ortiz would next defend his title with a rematch against Douglas Vaillant, who had risen in the ranks with a win over Douglas Charnley and a controversial fight against highly rated Bunny Grant. Ortiz would bounce Vaillant off the ground 5 times in route to a 13th round TKO.
The next challenger for Ortiz's title was the HOF Filipino Super Featherweight champ, Flash Elorde. Ortiz would go to the Phillipines and get a hard earned 14th round stoppage against Elorde, who was against the ropes eating combinations.
In a rubber match, Ortiz defended against old enemy Kenny Lane, who had quickly risen to the 2nd best lightweight in the world with a winning streak including a win over future light welterweight puncher Carlos Hernandez. Ortiz would settle the score with a decisive 15 round decision, dropping Lane in the 14th round.
Up next was the tough Panamanian HOF fighter Ismael Laguna, and after 15 rounds of high level fighting Ortiz would lose a close decision against Laguna in Panama. Ortiz would immediately win back his lightweight title in an immediate rematch against Laguna, this time winning a decision in Puerto Rico.
No stranger to traveling to his opponent's hometown, Ortiz briefly moved back up to 140lbs to take on the HOF defensive expert Nicolino Locche in Argentina. After a short 10 rounds, Ortiz was only rewarded a draw, despite Locche's swollen face and boos from the crowd.
In his next fight Ortiz would face off against Johnny Bizzaro, who had been the #1 contender at 130lbs but was unable to get a rematch with Elorde. Leading on all cards, Ortiz would drop Bizzaro in the 12th and force the stoppage.
Ortiz would then travel on to Mexico, where he would face off against Cuban HOF boxer and former featherweight champ Sugar Ramos, where after a controversial long count in the 2nd Ortiz would get back up to stop Ramos on cuts in the 5th round, again drawing controversy regarding the referee, causing the WBC title to not sanction Ortiz's rematch against Elorde in his next fight. Ortiz would again stop Elorde in the 14th round in the rematch, this time by KO.
Ortiz finished the job in the rematch against Ramos, dropping him in the 4th round and finishing the job, gaining back the WBC belt and erasing any doubt regarding their first fight.
In his last successful title defense at Lightweight, Ortiz would finish off his trilogy against Ismael Laguna, decisioning him over 15 rounds and keeping his title. Laguna would go on to beat Mando Ramos and Guts Ishimatsu when he regained the lightweight title in 1970.
Ortiz would go to Dominican Republic to again fight in his opponents backyard against Carlos Cruz, where he dropped a controversial 15 round split decision after being dropped in the first round. Cruz would die in a plane crash later, and Ortiz would not get another title shot again. After some time off and a short comeback in 1972, Carlos would retire after being beaten by HOF boxer Ken Buchanan.
Ortiz continually went to his opponents backyard to fight, and in a few cases it might have cost him a meaningful victory, as against Nicolino Locche. But his bravery, overall skill and amazing level of competition puts him highly amongst ATG lightweights and makes him possibly the greatest Puerto Rican fighter of all time.