By Robert Morales
Saturday’s main event on HBO featuring Andre Berto vs. Victor Ortiz attracted 1.5 million viewers, making it the highest audience for a fight this year on HBO. This audience number is for the live Saturday night airing of the fight on the network.
If Manny Pacquiao successfully defends his welterweight world title against "Sugar" Shane Mosley next month and then were to sign to fight Victor Ortiz, Oscar De La Hoya said he knows what would happen.
"I have to say if they fight four, five months from now, I have Victor winning probably by knockout," said De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Ortiz. "Victor's a strong guy, a strong guy."
Indeed, Ortiz looked like a beast in moving up in weight and wresting away Andre Berto's welterweight world title via unanimous decision on Saturday in Connecticut. The sixth round, in which Ortiz was dropped with a huge right cross, apparently told De La Hoya a lot because of the way Ortiz responded.
"The big right hand he got caught with in the sixth round, I didn't count him out, but I didn't think he was going to get up and drop Berto," De La Hoya said.
But Ortiz did, at the end of the round. It was, perhaps, a round that proved to be Ortiz's coming out party because it was the same round in which he was stopped by Marcos Maidana in June 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. That was the fight in which many thought Ortiz might have given up the ship. Ever since, Ortiz has had to listen to experts and other fighters - including Berto - question his heart.
This is something De La Hoya went through as a fighter. Flash back to September 1999 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. De La Hoya was winning a welterweight title unification fight against Felix Trinidad Jr. through nine rounds. But De La Hoya got on his bicycle and ran around the ring the last three rounds, ultimately losing a majority decision. Even though most reporters still had De La Hoya winning, many were perplexed that De La Hoya would take such a strategy in the proverbial championship rounds.
This was on the heels of De La Hoya's promise before the fight that this would be a war of a welterweight fight. Yet, he never engaged in that kind of battle.
Instead, he stuck and moved and thoroughly out-boxed Trinidad. Had De La Hoya done just that over those last three rounds, he would have almost assuredly emerged ictorious.
But he overdid it by a long shot, and then had to listen to those who said he was foolish and maybe even short of heart because it appeared he never had any intention of going toe-to-toe with the hard-hitting Trinidad.
When asked Tuesday if he can relate to the criticism Ortiz had received since the Maidana fight, De La Hoya said he definitely can.
"Yeah, absolutely," said De La Hoya, who was playing host to a Los Angeles workout for Saturday's Showtime televised bantamweight card at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
"Look, I mean, obviously, you go in there and you want to prove people wrong. It's a big motivation. You're feeling anger inside because all these people were saying, 'Oh, (Ortiz) has no chance,' and this and that and, 'Berto's going to knock (Ortiz) out.'
"So you feel that for a few days after. But right now I'm sure he's thinking, 'Hey, I won the fight. Critics are just helping me.' There is always going to be criticism. I told him, 'Look, the more criticism you have, the more success you're going to have. It's part of the game.' And so he understands that. I'm sure he's feeling a lot of satisfaction right now."
De La Hoya said Ortiz told him in the couple of days following Saturday's fight that he's already running again, getting ready for the next one.
But Pacquiao is Promoted By The Enemy
Of course, Pacquiao is today's De La Hoya in as much as all contenders want to fight him because they know they will likely receive their largest paydays as well as incredible stature should they be able to beat Pacquiao. With his performance Saturday, Ortiz automatically inserted himself into the Pacquiao conversation. But
Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, told BoxingScene.com recently that if he never does business with Golden Boy again, "It will be too soon."
To say there is no love lost between the companies would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions.
But De La Hoya said that sooner or later, Arum is going to have to relent and do business with Golden Boy.
"Eventually, something's gotta break," De La Hoya said. "People are demanding for these fights to happen. How much longer can Bob Arum keep the fans from denying all these fights will happen? Now we have Victor. We're going to have Victor for a long time and he's here to stay for a long time.
"And eventually the fans are going to want to watch him against Pacquiao or him against Mayweather or him against the top guys. It's a matter of making sure these fights happen. But again, Bob is going to be Bob."
Arum on Ortiz, Etc.
Pacquiao played host to a workout Wednesday at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. Arum, of course, was present. First he was asked what he thought about Ortiz's victory Saturday.
"I thought it was a gutty performance and it really surprised me because based on his past body of work, I didn't feel that he could perform like that," Arum said.
"Now whether this was a one-time thing, or it's what we have to expect from Ortiz, it was a very, very good performance."
Arum was then asked if he might consider putting Ortiz in with Pacquiao, Ortiz's promotional status with Golden Boy notwithstanding. Before Arum had a chance to answer, it was pointed out to him that Ortiz is of Mexican descent and, of course, good Mexican fighters usually sell well.
"He's hardly a Mexican," Arum said. "He has, obviously, a Mexican last name. But he was raised in the Midwest (Kansas) and he doesn't speak Spanish, so he's not a person that would appeal particularly to the Mexicans. But that being said, we're not going to be stopped by anything as far as opponents are concerned.
We've got plenty of guys out there. Manny is ready to fight anyone.
"There is a whole host of guys that we're considering for the next fight, led by Marquez, but also Zab Judah or Timothy Bradley. And Ortiz, with another victory or two, would figure into it."
Does that mean, Arum was asked, that his extremely strained relationship with De La Hoya and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer would not stand in the way of a Pacquiao-Ortiz fight?
"Only under the condition that they make a full and open apology to Manny Pacquiao," Arum said. "Because it's not me, it's Pacquiao. I'm a protector of Pacquiao, as his promoter. What they said about Pacquiao, both Oscar and Richard, is disgusting."
Arum was talking about the alleged accusations the two - along with the Mayweathers - made regarding Pacquiao's never-proven and supposed use of performance-enhancing drugs, which resulted in a defamation suit filed by Pacquiao against the lot.
"It was based on no evidence at all," Arum said. "It was just designed to hurt and defame and they have to account for that. There are no free lunches. You're responsible for what you say. If they said bad things about me, well, I'm a promoter and business is business and so it doesn't affect me the same way as saying defamatory things about somebody like Manny Pacquiao, whose boxing career is just a weigh station in his life where he hopes to become president of a country and a world leader. And you don't want that stigma to follow you."
Roach's Two Cents
When Roach was told that De La Hoya said Ortiz would knock out Pacquiao, he snickered slightly, yet doled out heavy praise to Ortiz.
"No, I don't know about that," Roach said of De La Hoya's proclamation. "But I picked Victor to the fight (against Berto) because I liked him at the weight. My reason is that one day he sparred with Manny Pacquiao when he was weighing like 155 and not making weight, not close to a fight and he and Manny Pacquiao had one of the best sparring sessions I ever saw in my life.
"Manny started getting to him at the end, but it was a great sparring session and I've always told Victor, 'Victor, you're at 140, you're struggling, you're killing yourself to make that weight and you're making yourself weak. At 147, you're a better fighter.' I told him that for years."
The sparring session Roach spoke of came as Pacquiao was preparing to challenge lightweight champion David Diaz in June 2008 in Las Vegas; Pacquiao won via 9th-round technical knockout.
He Almost Came Back
De La Hoya was able to quiet a lot of his critics to some degree when he stopped his hated rival, Fernando Vargas, in the 11th round in September 2002 at Mandalay Bay. It was considered one of De La Hoya's best wins - another was his victory over Ike Quartey in February 2002 - partly because Vargas came out like a bull and was later found to be on steroids.
But De La Hoya lost every big fight after Vargas, going 4-4 to end his career. His best win during that juncture was a narrow one over then-middleweight champion Felix Sturm. (Some thought Sturm won). The four losses came against Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao.
De La Hoya's career ending in that fashion must have left a sour taste in his mouth, and there have been rumors over the past couple of years that he would come back for one more big bout.
De La Hoya admitted he came close to doing that.
"No, I'm good, man," De La Hoya said, when asked if he would ever come back; he had just thrown a sharp left hook into a boxing dummy standing in the West Side Boxing Gym.
"Can I be honest with you?" he said. "I almost did, recently. I almost did, but I have back problems. I almost did, really. And luckily the other day my back went out on me and that confirmed for me once again.
"What am I going to do, announce a fight, be in the gym training, back goes out? No, I'm good."
Mares Made Right Moves
One might say that Abner Mares (21-0-1, 13 KOs) lives a charmed life. Born in Mexico, he moved to the rough Los Angeles County neighborhood of Hawaiian Gardens when he was seven. At the age of 15 he moved back to Mexico. He wanted to fight for Team Mexico in the 2004 Olympics, which he did, and he admitted Tuesday the move got him away from a gang life that so many fall into.
"No doubt," said Mares, when asked if there was ever any temptation to get involved in gangs. "I think if my family wouldn't have sent me to Mexico at the age of 15, I would have ended up not doing good stuff. That's all you see every day on an every day basis. A lot of gang activity."
Mares got married to his wife, Natalie, at the age of 19 while he was still in Mexico. They live with their 5-year-old daughter, Emily Angela Mares, in Norwalk, which is about 12 miles down the freeway from Hawaiian Gardens. And Natalie is three months along with their next child.
"Through my family, I discipline myself," said Mares, 25, when asked if he leads a regimented life because he got married so young. "This is my meal ticket. This is what I fight for, I fight for my family."
Part of this charmed existence is Mares' comeback from surgery to have a torn retina repaired nearly three years ago.
"It's a hell of a story," said De La Hoya, Mares' promoter. "He really is looking at his past and his history. He's living the American dream; he really is. And his career was almost derailed with the whole eye situation. It's a wonderful story."