Ortiz and Berto seek to rekindle former glories
It was the thrilling welterweight spectacle that boxing fans hoped would happen in Michigan three months earlier.
In January 2011, Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander met in a unification contest that on paper had the potential to be something special but instead had the life sucked out of it before it even got going.
Step forward Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz to provide us with a wild slugfest that contained four official knockdowns, one unofficial and one of the broadcasting moments of the year when the late Manny Steward yelled “OH MY GAWD!” in the sixth round of HBO’s fight coverage. A great round for Berto that saw Ortiz go down from a heavy right hand only to get back up and detonate a left of his own to buckle the legs of his opponent and drop him.
That night Ortiz would become WBC welterweight champion and fulfill some of the potential that had been thrust upon him at an early age. Five years later they meet once again (tonight 30 April), both at a crossroads stage of their career but expecting the Californian crowd in Carson to get their money’s worth once again.
“I like exciting fights. I like to give fans what they pay for,” Ortiz (31-5-2, 24 KOs) told Boxing Monthly when we asked him why he was taking this fight on.
“It’s a fight that I didn’t really prepare like I needed to. He came in there and was definitely prepared. I just wasn’t at my best that night and he came out to win,” said Berto (30-4, 23 KOs) to BM when he recalled the night Ortiz took his undefeated record.
Ortiz has described this fight as a new chapter of his career that promised so much before a gunfight with Marcos Maidana ended with the Kansas-born gunslinger wanting no more of the Argentine's firepower after six rounds of pulsating action.
“I wouldn’t change any of my career the way it’s gone for anything,” Ortiz insisted.
“Marcos Maidana was 2009, this is Victor Ortiz 2016. I’ve got nothing to say. It’s a learning experience, a life lesson.”
One month before, Berto was making the third defence of his WBC title against Juan ‘How does he make the weight’ Urango. It was a carnival time for Berto. HBO had given him a handsome contract but his next big thing status was treading water.
“Of course, some things I couldn’t help when it comes to some of the defeats I’ve had, some of the injuries I’ve had,” said Berto when discussing his career to date.
“That’s what comes with the game,” he added. “You have to learn how to reprogram yourself and stay focused and continue to move forward. I can say I’ve won world championships, I’ve made a lot of money to provide for my family and I believe that’s the ultimate goal as a fighter.”
Reprogramming himself is something that Ortiz has done but far away from the confines of a boxing ring and, in the more secure environment of a movie set, when he landed a role in The Expendables 3. A crash, bang, wallop film franchise that tries to prove that 1980s action stars still have a place in the same genre some 30 years later.
The broken bones (jaw and wrist) have been the lows for Ortiz during his career, the highs unsurprisingly have been the big fights, the titles and working in film. A part of his life he plans to revisit at some stage but not before reprogramming his boxing career.
“Making films was fun but I just know that my window in boxing isn’t that big so I’ve put making films aside for now and just full on focused on boxing,” said Ortiz.
“I’m far from satisfied with my boxing career. There’s been a lot of downfalls, been a few uplifting times but at this point in time I’m not content with where I stand in boxing and I won’t stop until I am content.”
For Berto, it’s all about the big fights, the titles and cementing a legacy for himself. Something that he doesn’t want to be chasing when he enters his forties.
“Closing it and ending everything strong," Berto said of his plans. "To end your career in a strong manner and to make sure that legacy is concrete. I want to make sure every fight at this point is a big one and I come in 100% to try and establish my legacy.
“The welterweight division is steaming hot right now, steaming hot. And right now it’s a great division, it’s an exciting division and I’m looking forward to the future of the welterweight division. It’s definitely a sexy division that’s going to bring a lot of exciting fights in the future.”