Victor Ortiz Earns Back Respect in Beating of Andre Berto

After his post-fight interview following a loss to Marcos Maidana in 2009, I thought I was done with Victor Ortiz.

That night saw a fight that was heading towards fight of the year territory with both men knocking each other down multiple times in the first half of the fight before a deep cut on one eye and swelling on the other for Ortiz caused the ref to stop things. The fight itself was extremely entertaining and the stoppage was justified as the cut was deep and the blood was flowing. There was nothing wrong with Ortiz’s performance and it appeared as though this would be a highlight-reel loss rather than something potentially more devastating.

However, his post-fight comments were what made me think that this man was going to be another great “what if” in the realm of Juan Diaz.

In his in-ring interview after the loss, Ortiz commented, “I’m young, but I don’t think I deserve to be getting beat up like this. I got a lot of thinking to do.” This was after a fight I had him winning at the time of the stop, and was a fight that he didn’t get too badly beaten up and very well could’ve won if not for the cut. Despite winning his next couple of fights, he gave away the Lamont Peterson fight last December by dogging the last few rounds and ending up with a draw in a fight he had dominated almost the entire way. It was all of this that made me think that his fight this past Saturday with Andre Berto would be the fight that would send Andre Berto to the next level—maybe making the Shane Mosley fight happen after it was delayed due to the earthquake in Haiti, or maybe even a fight with Manny Pacquiao.

How wrong I was.

Saturday’s fight turned out to be the revitalization of Victor Ortiz as his unanimous decision win not only gave Berto his first career loss, but may have helped launch Ortiz into the star category that Berto was looking to get into with this fight. And while Berto will likely still end up with a fight against Shane Mosley (unless Mosley pulls off the upset against Pacquiao), it may feel more like a step back.

Ortiz must have still felt the monkey on his back from the Maidana fight or maybe it was the lost opportunity that was the end of the Peterson fight, because he came out storming in a way that resembled the Ortiz of two years ago.

Round one of this fight was easily the best opening round boxing has seen in a long time. Andre Berto went to the canvas twice in the round (one was called a trip, but looked like a pretty clear knockdown) with the second being the thing that likely saved him. Berto succumbed to a flurry of blows in a corner as Ortiz continued to keep the pressure on after the first “knockdown.” Berto finally fell and had he not there was a real chance that the referee may have had to stop the action with Berto was taking punch after punch while throwing nothing back. For the next few rounds it looked as though Berto was still shaking off the cobwebs.

Berto’s most costly mistake in this fight would not come until later when he attempted to not only slow the pace of the fight, but force Ortiz to punch himself out. Neither strategy worked as Ortiz kept a manic pace with workman-like consistency in his punch output, never tiring and never slowing. During this time Berto’s output decreased noticeably as he spent the better part of three rounds taking punches. It cost him points that may have come in handy near the end of the fight when Ortiz’s major negative came into full view.

Despite a spectacular outing on this night Ortiz had a big problem, one that cost him a point deduction in the tenth round and should’ve have gotten him deducted before that, with punches to the back of Berto’s head. Ortiz had a real tendency to hit Berto in the back of the head and was warned by the ref more times than necessary before the deduction; he also appeared to have gotten away with more than a few shots before and after the deduction. I write this while realizing that because of head and fist movement sometimes it appears that a fighter is hitting his opponent in the back of the head when he really isn’t or he isn’t intending to do so. The problem with Ortiz was that this happened numerous times throughout the fight and it didn’t appear that he made an effort to stop it, nor did his corner make a real effort in letting him know that doing that was going to cost him on the scorecards. In a sense it didn’t because Ortiz was already ahead enough by the time he got a point deducted, but another late collapse almost manifested itself because had he been caught again in the tenth (and maybe should have been), then a possible DQ would’ve been on the horizon. Luckily for Ortiz he was able to keep things in check and finish strong in outworking Berto for the final two rounds, putting an exclamation point on his night.

Despite Berto’s lackluster showing, he did have his moments. In round two, while still reeling from the first round pounding he had gotten, Berto was able to knock Ortiz down. The tradeoff (on my card) was that the round was a push (I thought Ortiz won the round, but had to take the point off because of the knockdown), but that’s beside the point. The fact that Berto responded to Ortiz knocking him down in kind meant that Berto wasn’t going to let this fight go as quickly as some ringside may have thought he was going to after the lightning-quick hands of Ortiz pounded him for those opening three minutes. He didn’t, but he didn’t do enough to give himself a real chance of winning the fight either.

The sixth round proved to be the highlight of this fight and my pick for round of the year as of now. It was not only striking for its excitement, but for how opposite it was to the rest of the fight. This was the round where Berto was relentless in his attack and where Ortiz had to show his heart, his determination, and his ability to withstand the kind of beating that two years ago he didn’t think he wanted to take anymore. And for two and a half minutes, he did, with Berto flooring Ortiz and nearly flooring him at least once more during that stretch. But what added that little extra something to this round was the one good punch Ortiz landed in the round: a simple left hand to the chin that sent Berto to the floor as if it hit the sweet spot in a way that was too perfect. It prevented the round from becoming a 10-8 one for Berto and that one punch swung the fight back into Ortiz’s favor when it looked as if Berto was about to turn the tide.

Phil’s Scorecard:

Ortiz 10 9 10 10 10 8 10 9 9 9 10 10 114
Berto 8 9 9 9 9 9 9 10 10 9 9 9 109

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