By Jake Donovan
A bombshell was dropped on the boxing industry last Thursday, when it was reported that Showtime secured the rights to the welterweight rematch between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto.
The announcement became big news not just because a deal was reached, but on what network the fight would air. Their first fight – regarded by many as 2011’s first true Fight of the Year candidate in which both fighters were twice dropped – aired live on HBO, which has played host to most of Berto’s career and has regularly showcased Ortiz over the course of the past few years.
With such news came the speculation that random drug testing was agreed upon by both sides. The issue was initially raised by Berto and promoter Lou DiBella when negotiations first began earlier this fall.
“I would not make this fight without Olympic-style drug testing,” DiBella told Boxingscene.com in late September, in the wake of Ortiz’ fourth-round knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather, a fight in which which Ortiz was required to submit random blood and urine samples. “Yeah we want the fight, and we’d demand the same drug testing that just happened in the Mayweather fight.”
Ortiz’ loss meant conceding the very title he won from Berto earlier in the year. Berto had since rebouned to pick up another welterweight belt, with his 5th round stoppage of Jan Zaveck just two weeks before the Mayweather-Ortiz pay-per-view event.
No belt will be at stake for their rematch, which is tentatively scheduled for either January 28 or February 12 at a venue to be determined.
In addition to the absence of a title, there is also no confirmation of random drug testing to take place prior to the fight.
“That was not part of the deal,” stated Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, who promotes Ortiz.
The news comes as a bit of a surprise, considering that Berto’s side was adamant about Ortiz being tested, to where it was suggested that negotiations were still ongoing because of the issue.
DiBella was unavailable for comment at the time of this article.
Ortiz and his handlers are not averse to random drug testing, as evidenced by his own participation in the subject for the Mayweather fight. If anything, they are in favor of anything that points to a drug-free sport, or at least flushing out those who choose to seek such an edge.
However, at the moment it is not something that contractually stands in the way of the rematch from taking place.
“If they want to do it, we’ll do it,” Schaefer insists. “There’s no issue at all.”
Talk of the subject has been a sticking point in the lingering (and thus far, failed) negotiations between camps for Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. It became a major breaking point in their first round of talks nearly two years ago, resulting in Pacquiao facing Joshua Clottey and Mayweather squaring off with then top-rated welterweight Shane Mosley.
The latter fight became the first pro boxing event in the United States to feature mandatory random drug testing conducted by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, with Mayweather-Ortiz being just the second to do so.
Pacquiao’s camp – specifically promoter Bob Arum – has since gone on record to insist that the subject is no longer a sticking point in preventing such a superfight. Yet to date, Mayweather is the only fighter to set it as the standard for all of his remaining fights.
Golden Boy is in favor of random drug testing one day becoming the industry standard, rather than just the exception for the occasional superfight.
“The leadership role from Floyd is to be applauded for raising awareness to the effect performance enhancing drugs are having on major sports,” Schaefer states. “Random drug testing is something I would like to see happen in boxing if it can be done cost effective, because Olympic-style drug testing is an expensive process.
“If it’s good for Olympics, why not for boxing. There’s no room for it in any sport, but an added element in boxing considering that it’s already two fighters looking to hurt each other. ”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at JakeNDaBox@gmail.com .