Blair Cobbs has spent most of the past year floating accusations—and a six-figure wager behind it—that Vergil Ortiz Jr. is a dirty fighter.
The outspoken welterweight is now faced with a dilemma of having to walk back those comments to avoid further legal action.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that a cease-and-desist letter has been issued to Cobbs from Weintraub Tobin Law Firm, representing Ortiz over claims that the unbeaten welterweight is using steroids. The action comes in the wake of Cobbs’ recently echoing past claims regarding the top-rated contender, dating back to last March when Ortiz fell ill and was forced to drop out of the main event atop a show featuring Cobbs in a separate bout.
“This firm represents… Vergil Ortiz, Jr. We write in response to your recent defamatory statements and publications on social media concerning Mr. Ortiz,” Josh H. Escovedo, the attorney representing Ortiz, wrote to Cobbs through Golden Boy Promotions via legal letter, a copy of which was obtained by BoxingScene.com. “Without any factual basis and with full knowledge of the rigorous performance enhancing drug (“PED”) testing that professional boxers like you and Mr. Ortiz are subjected to, you’ve made numerous statements claiming that Mr. Ortiz is “using steroids” and is “dirty.”
“You’ve even gone so far as to say that you would bet $100,000 that Mr. Ortiz is dirty. Associating Mr. Ortiz’s unfortunate medical condition with steroid use is egregious misconduct, and while trash talk is a part of boxing, defamation is not. Accordingly, we write to demand that you immediately cease and desist from making any additional comments of this nature about Mr. Ortiz.”
According to the letter, Cobbs has until close of business Monday, January 30, to retract the claims. Failure to do so will trigger a civil lawsuit where Ortiz and his team will seek damages in excess of $100,000 plus legal costs incurred by all parties.
The claims arose when Ortiz (19-0, 19KOs) was hospitalized and treated for rhabdomyolysis ahead of a planned showdown with England’s Michael McKinson last March 19 in Los Angeles. The unbeaten contender from Grand Prairie, Texas was forced to withdraw from his DAZN main event, with the slot replaced by Cobbs’ grudge match with Alexis Rocha which was scheduled as the evening’s co-feature.
Cobbs had plenty to say about the situation at the time, including posts on Instagram where he was willing to “bet 100k he dirty” and bluntly accused Ortiz of PED use.
“Ortiz is using steroids,” Cobbs claimed at the time. “They say he has rhabdomyolysis. That’s what I had that f------ my feet up. That’s very common with steroid abuse. No wonder he’s so explosive.”
Cobbs went on to suffer his first defeat, as Rocha dominated the Philly native—who now lives in Las Vegas and trains in the greater Los Angeles area—en route to a ninth-round knockout. Cobbs (16-1-1, 10KOs) bounced back with a convincing ten-round win over former WBO junior welterweight titlist Maurice Hooker last August 6 in Fort Worth, Texas. The same show saw the rescheduled Ortiz-McKinson bout in the main event, with Ortiz scoring a ninth-round knockout to become the number-one contender in the WBA welterweight rankings.
Neither Ortiz nor Cobbs has fought since then. Ortiz is due to challenge WBA ‘Regular’ welterweight titlist Eimantas Stanionis (14-0, 9KOs), which is targeted for April 29 in the greater Dallas area.
Cobbs does not presently have a fight scheduled, and is also in the process of negotiating a new contract with Golden Boy Promotions. Apparently, the fringe contender had too much time on his hands as he resurfaced with a fresh round of claims that Ortiz is not a clean fighter.
“I’ll smack the shi! out of Vergil… but he gotta get through his f------’ tests,” Cobbs claimed during a recent appearance on the Broadway Joel podcast. “He better not be on the ‘roids. He looking real suspicious.”
The continuation down this slanderous path was enough for Ortiz’s team—including manager Rick Mirigian—to throw up a legal roadblock.
“You have an opportunity to save yourself the time and expense of litigation,” insisted Escovedo. “However, to do so, you will need to make this right. Mr. Ortiz hereby demands that you publish a retraction indicating that you have no factual basis for stating that he has or is utilizing PEDs. It was brought to our attention that you may have been provided with this false information by third parties. We demand that you either identify those individuals in your retraction, or privately disclose the identity of those individuals to us. We demand that you deliver the retraction to each of the platforms that you have shared your statements with, and those that have shared or discussed your accusations toward Mr. Ortiz. We also demand that you request that each of the platforms and outlets who have shared your defamatory statements take the videos and/or posts down.
“We insist that you also post your retraction to your Instagram story and feed, your Twitter account, and any other social media platforms that you utilize. Although we are open to paraphrased statements, we would accept: “Recently, I stated that Vergil Ortiz is on steroids and is dirty. I made those statements with no factual basis whatsoever and I have no knowledge that Vergil has ever used PEDs. My statements were nothing more than a misguided attempt to call out Vergil and try to build hype around a fight.” This would mitigate the harm caused by your misconduct.
Ortiz’s attorney continued: “If you do that, Mr. Ortiz may forgo an action for defamation and false light. If you fail to do so, we will be forced to take further action. We conservatively estimate Mr. Ortiz’s damages to exceed $100,000, and you will ultimately be responsible for the costs of litigation. A prompt resolution would benefit everyone.
“We demand a response no later than the close of business on Monday, January 30, 2023. If we do not hear from you, we will proceed accordingly.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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