'Left-Hook Lounge': Ortiz/Berto, Juanma/Salido, Pacquiao/Mosley, Haye/Wladi-K, and Khan!

By Vivek Wallace: Henry C. (Aventura, FL): In your prediction article for the Berto/Ortiz fight, I think your "Four to Explore" was very interesting and accurate. Ortiz seemed to capatilize on those very things. What were your thoughts coming into the fight, and what do you think made the biggest difference between the two men in the end?

Vivek W. (ESB): Coming into the night, I felt that there was really no way that this fight could be boring because both these men knew full well that major questions surrounded them. We can dig deep into analysis and criticize them on many levels, but the one thing no one can ever say they lack any more is heart. They fought their hearts out, and I was very proud of the way these young studs handled the spotlight.

In the case of Ortiz, you have to really and truly appreciate that this young man once appeared as fragile as a leaf in a storm, even once questioning whether he "deserves to get beat up the way he did"; and suddenly, with a little evolution and a shot of confidence, he reached a level many felt he would never be part of. These are the moments that make me most proud to be a part of the sport, and truthfully, I can only think of one major thing that probably separated the two men on fight night.

Yes, Ortiz showed more determination, and yes, he appeared better conditioned, but I think the confidence he received from being in the presence of what many view to be simply a better team is what served him best. After the fight, several fans openly commented about how Berto's corner was in absolute disarray with very little order, at some points, even as many as 3 voices speaking at one time.

The perceived panic mode brings into question how much control does his lead man truly have of the situation, and whether or not this, as well as perceived conditioning issues would have been an issue in the presence of a veteran trainer with no close affinity to him? It isn't totally uncommon to hear others in a corner chime in, but when emotions are high, it pays to have one voice as the established leader. I won't say he needs to change trainers or how he runs his camp, but many have, and I'm beginning to wonder if in fact he does need a new nucleus around him. If this happened with so much at stake, what's really happening on a day to day basis in training? Is it too 'user-friendly'?

Change isn't always the answer.......ask James Kirkland; but in the case of Berto, perhaps it is time for someone new to bark some unfamiliar cadences to help challenge his mental disposition, and help improve his perceived questionable defense, stamina, and durability. Personally, I can't point to anything else that may be more necessary to consider for change which separate the two men right now, (in my humble opinion).

Angelo H. (Orlando, FL): JuanMa and Berto have both been questioned for the longest time regarding their stamina and chin. According to your Facebook post, you don't feel the losses EXPOSE THEM like me and several others seem to think. Why?

Vivek W. (ESB): I think the word "exposed" is a very easy word to use, and extremely dismissive, as it allows one to definitively state something that isn't quite definitive. Lets be clear......when people use terms like "exposed" to describe them, are they saying exposed in the sense of being exposed as "worthless fighters" overall? Or are they saying exposed in the sense of being exposed as men who lack stamina and strength of chin? Call me crazy, but I think one is far different from the other, in the sense that one is complete; wherein the other is a downside that can be overcome with the proper adjustments.

Miguel Cotto was once called "exposed" when Colombian Ricardo Torres knocked him down at 140. Those close to him stated that he was a bit weight drained, so he went up in weight, and suddenly he was durable enough to withstand power punches from the likes of Shane Mosley, Pacquiao for 12 rounds, and an alleged padded glove wearing Margarito. Same thing with Ortiz. He was knocked down and said to be a "soft" fighter, yet in complete accordance with the old Japanese proverb, he fell seven times and got up eight! To parallel Ortiz as well as several others, I don't think a loss is the end of the world, and for young men with heart like they've displayed, I certainly don't think you can say they were exposed as "bad fighters".

That being said, I will say that one can argue that they were exposed as two men who do suffer from challenges along the lines of chin and stamina. These two things were questioned for a while now, and when they faced opponents who could test them in those very categories, they unfortunately failed the test. Does it mean they were exposed as "worthless fighters"? No. Because just like Ortiz, when you remain focused and believe in yourself, all it takes is time, evolution and confidence, and suddenly, you're right back on top of the world.

Personally, I look forward to seeing where they go next, but it will all come down to their level of dedication. Over a year ago I stated that JuanMa could campaign as welterweight or jr. middleweight easily after spending time around him. Hearing Arum recently state that he balloons up to well over 180lbs between fights solidified that. Both of these men need to take certain aspects of their career more seriously, and when they do, I think the sky is the limit. They will hold straps again, one day. How soon depends on their level of dedication and commitment.

Phillip K. (Houston, TX): There's a ton of upsets taking place in the sport almost on a weekly basis. Of the pending fights, which do you think we are most likely to see an upset?

Vivek W. (ESB): To be honest, it looks like no one is exempt right now! Hell, I'd even venture to say that catching a few cases may have even been a good thing for Mayweather, as even he and his "O" aren't guaranteed to be exempt from this list! We're seeing it all, and it's getting down right scary! We have Wladi-K/David Haye pending. We have Pacquiao/Mosley pending. We have Hopkins/Pascal pending. We have several fights looming and I really don't think anyone is exempt.

At its best, we're learning again what makes this sport so interesting, because on any given night, any man involved can use a certain level of motivation to put himself on top of the world. When you look at these pending fights, I think any of those 6 men mentioned can walk out of the ring victorious. Tell you the truth, I don't even know that any of them are truly underdogs. I think the only one that is close to a sure lock is for victory is Manny Pacquiao, as I just really have a hard time seeing him getting stopped or beaten on points. That being said, all it takes is a few well timed flush shots, and the entire equation changes.

I don't think it would be totally fair to try to say any of these fights have more of a chance for upset, because truthfully, I just don't see any of these men being that overly matched. I think Hopkins has proven that he is well within a shot of victory. I think David Haye could conceivably win against Wladimir, and if he does, I don't see that being an impossible victory. And again, I think Pacquiao should win, but I don't see him losing to be outside the realm of possibility. I'm just interested in seeing great the end of the day, if we can produce fights like we saw this past weekend, I don't care who loses, because the sport will win!

Alex U. (London, UK): I thought Amir Khan looked very average and very lackluster this past weekend. Do you think he has what it takes to defeat Timothy Bradley?

Vivek W. (ESB): I think there were distractions that potentially took away from the end product of this fight. The whole network issue falling apart within days of the showdown didn't help, but something else I don't think really helped was Khan playing to the level of his opposition, as he didn't appear to be really too inspired in the fight. He just seemed very "lackluster" (to use your word) and not very interested. He won all rounds on the cards, but it was truly not a great performance.

What's troubling is that, for whatever the legitimate reason is, he didn't seem to be himself, and as a result, listening to some of the feedback, I think he actually lost a few fans, as even he acknowledged that he "won't be fighting in the U.K. for a while" based on the local network and fan response. For a fighter trying to gain international acclaim to lose support at home, I don't think that's a good sign. I would like to think that going into a fight with Bradley he'd be more focused, but this can't sit too well, and I'm just not really sure if what we saw is something he can turn on and off, or if it's something that will in fact prove problematic.

I think he has the talent to defeat Bradley, but he will need to come with his best foot forward. Remember, not too long ago those around him were trying awfully hard to build his confidence, as he was a fighter with a bruised ego. So don't let the last few victories fool you. Khan very much needs to keep a certain mindset for dominance and confidence, because coming off a performance like this that ended with many questions, I think he could easily enter his next assignment without the proper focus and drive. Not totally probable, yet in many ways possible. We'll have to stay tuned to see which Khan shows up.

(Vivek Wallace can be reached at, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEKWALLACE747), Skype (VITO-BOXING), and Facebook).

Article posted on 18.04.2011

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