Victor Ortiz vs. Andre Berto: Fight of the Year?

Victor OrtizBy John G. Thompson: In the wake of Maidana vs. Morales, boxing fans have a new option for the fight of the year discussion – Victor Ortiz vs. Andre Berto. Trading power shots and knockdowns, the two brought the fans at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut to their feet throughout the evening. I had been telling my friends that if they did not already have HBO, they needed to get it for this fight. True, neither fighter has exceptional name recognition, but what they do possess is exceptional skill, power, speed, and athleticism.

Andre Berto (27-1, 21 KO's) never seemed to earn the fan base one would expect from a world champion with an undefeated record and high knockout percentage. Perhaps some of this was due to his trilogy of somewhat lackluster wins over Juan Urango, Luis Collazo and Steve Forbes. Though going the distance against Urango is no discredit, most thought Berto should have been able to get a stoppage against Forbes, and many felt that Collazo actually out-boxed Berto. Nevertheless, Berto owns some valuable wins over the likes of Carlos Quintana (TKO 8) and Freddy Hernandez (TKO 1) in his last fight in November. Berto is also an experience amateur with multiple National Golden Gloves titles an appearance for Haiti in the 2004 Olympics (his parents are Haitian, though Andre was born in Miami).

Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KO's) has also had to work on his fan base after a disastrous loss to Marco Maidana in 2009. Given Maidana’s recent exploits, this loss does not seem so detrimental on the surface; however, the manner in which Ortiz quit the bout after an eighth round knockdown, despite looking as if he could continue and being ahead on the score cards, certainly affected his “street cred.” That loss aside, Ortiz has had a terrific career since being abandoned as a child by his parents in Kansas and taking up boxing at an early age. After winning the 2003 Junior Olympics, Ortiz moved to Oxnard, California in order to train with former champion Roberto Garcia and turned pro at the age of seventeen in 2004. One of Ortiz’s losses was a disqualification after Ortiz knocked his opponent down while the referee had ordered a break. Ortiz possesses wins over former champions “Mighty” Mike Arnaoutis (TKO 2), Nate Campbell (UD 10), and Vivian Harris (KO 3). His last bout in December was a ten round majority draw with Lamont Peterson, a fight in which Ortiz had Peterson down twice in round three.

They both came out aggressively, then just over a minute into the round, Ortiz landed an illegal shot behind Berto’s head and Berto went down. He complained about the illegal punch as he got up and the referee called it a slip. As the fight went on, Ortiz came in more confidently. Then they traded power shots and Ortiz landed a hard right hook, sending Berto into a corner. Ortiz kept throwing and after landing an uppercut Berto went down. Berto was up quickly, though clearly concerned. Ortiz charged in like a bull and clobbered Berto with left and right hooks, and landed another great uppercut, though Berto made it through the round.

Ringside commentator Jim Lampley said in the second round, “Berto has a look of concern in his eyes unlike anything we’ve seen during his professional career.” Ortiz was stalking his man, when suddenly Berto caught Ortiz with a hard right counter which knocked Ortiz off balance. Ortiz fell backwards, and he used his glove to keep from falling over. The referee correctly ruled it a knockdown.

Berto landed a serious uppercut in the third and Ortiz responded like a warrior, going on the attack, landing an uppercut of his own and backing Berto into the ropes. Both men exchanged shots until the end of the round. Ortiz backed Berto into the ropes again in the fourth, really hurting Berto with power shots. Berto kept waving him forward. Berto tried to work behind the jab in the sixth, but Ortiz again backed him to the ropes and went to work once he was there.

In the sixth, Berto landed some very hard and accurate rights, and was off to the best start of any round thus far in the fight. With one minute left in the round, Berto landed a beautiful right counter and Ortiz went down. As he got up, Berto went in for the kill, pounding on Ortiz’s head with left hooks and straight rights. Then Ortiz landed a counter right hook and a counter left hook which stunned Berto. Ortiz immediately followed that left with another left hook and Berto hit the canvas!

At the start of the seventh, Jim Lampley said what everyone watching was thinking, “The phrase ‘fight of the year candidate’ is perhaps a bit overused, but…” Both men were trading hard shots, though Berto was obviously looking for the right hand. Ringside commentator Larry Merchant joked, “Does anyone think we’ve seen the last knockdown in the fight?”

The action slowed a bit in rounds eight and nine, with the referee warning Ortiz about punching behind the head. Ortiz then landed a punch behind the head in the tenth and the referee was forced to take a point. Ortiz came on strong, not wanting to suffer a 10-8 round in such a close fight and it made for great action with both men going toe-to-toe at the end of the round.

Ortiz was surprisingly aggressive in the eleventh and Berto’s corner told him he needed a knockout to win before the start of the twelfth and final round. Both men were swinging, though Ortiz’s aggression certainly won him some fans if not the fight. The judges scored the match 115-110, 114-112 and 114-111 (I had it 115-111) all for the new WBC Welterweight Champion Victor Ortiz.

Ortiz has now defeated several former and current world champions and should be given the credit he deserves as a fighter. And as a result of this fight, in overcoming such adversity, Victor Ortiz just took a humongous step towards erasing the image of him as quitter in the minds of fans. If nothing else, his vicious aggression will make him a marketable commodity in the sport of boxing.

Article posted on 17.04.2011

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