By Jake Donovan
While the subject of random drug testing remains on the table, all parties involved are moving forward with plans for Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto to meet again on February 12 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Berto and his handlers were adamant going in about random testing playing a key role in finalizing all terms for a second crack at the man to hand the 2004 Haitian Olympic boxer his first loss as a pro.
Upon announcement of the rematch being official, it was assumed that Ortiz and his team agreed to all terms. Chief among them was Berto’s demand for the same level of Olympic-style drug testing that was made available for Floyd Mayweather’s past two fights – against Shane Mosley in May ’10 and more recently against Berto himself this past September.
Berto and his camp were surprised to learn that no such language has yet made its way to the fight contract, although there remains reason to not yet panic about the issue becoming a deal breaker.
“We have the utmost confidence that once all is said and done, random drug testing will be a part of this fight,” said Lou DiBella, Berto’s promoter since his pro debut in Dec. 2004. “This fight is a terrific way to begin the 2012 boxing season. It’s important that the sport strives in its efforts to show that its best athletes are 100% clean.”
The first fight between Ortiz and Berto was an instant classic and a current contender for Fight of the Year. Both fighters hit the deck twice, including once apiece in a 6th round that also ranks among the year’s very best. Ortiz was able to finish strong and surge to a unanimous decision for what rates as the biggest win of his career.
The Californian – by way of Garden City, Kansas – was able to parlay that fight into a career-high payday, albeit in a humiliating fourth round knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather this past September. Moments after being warned for an intentional headbutt, Ortiz inexplicably failed to defend himself once action resumed, instead trying to continue to apologize to Mayweather. His thanks in return was catching a combination Mayweather has since renamed his “two-piece with a biscuit” that put Ortiz down and out for the night.
Two weeks prior to Ortiz’ woeful night, Berto returned to the ring with a five-round cuts stoppage of Jan Zaveck in an entertaining brawl.
The fight – which netted Berto an alphabet title he has since vacated – was his first with renowned sports scientist Victor Conte. The fight results weren’t very telling of the work put in with the BALCO founder, but the union itself led to Berto discovering that he suffers from anemia and overtraining.
Conte has come a long way since his days at BALCO, which came under fire in its role in a performance enhancing drug scandal that forever changed the way the world views Olympic athletes, particularly track stars. The Bay Area scientist now runs SNAC – Scientific Nutrition For Advanced Conditioning – and has opened the doors to several athletes, boxers in particular.
Berto was the latest from the sweet science to head to the San Carlos, CA-based headquarters, joining such luminaries as pound-for-pound entrants Nonito Donaire and Andre Ward, and former two-division champion Zab Judah.
For his own part since becoming more involved in boxing, Conte has been an outspoken critic against the way drug testing is conducted by stateside boxing commissions and continues to push for reform.
“Drug testing will never be foolproof,” Conte states, and also once proved during his days running BALCO. “But a half loaf of bread is better than not having anything at all to eat when you are hungry.”
The issue Berto and his handlers will soon run up against is the lack of time available for random drug testing to maximize its effectiveness.
Still, such testing even in condensed form still beats the way things are presently done.
“A comprehensive random drug testing program for 6-8 weeks before a fight would certainly be better than having no random drug testing, which is basically the case in boxing now,” Conte insists. “I believe that having a period of random drug testing can definitely serve as a greater deterrent than the announced testing currently conducted just before and after fights.
“I often refer to this type of announced drug testing as IQ testing. What’s the point of having a drug test if you know in advance when exactly it will take place?”
Both promoters involved with the event agree with what Conte is stating, including Golden Boy Promotions, who has Ortiz under contract, and has been doing business with Mayweather since 2007.
“If they want to do it, we’ll do it,” insists Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “There’s no issue at all. It’s not part of the deal (right now), though.”
Though stopping way short of admitting that the issue won’t prevent the fight from happening, DiBella still believes it to be an important part of the storyline, considering the memorable two-way action from the first fight and the rematch promising to be just as brutal and exciting.
“Their first fight was vicious and dramatic,” DiBella states in a proud tone that reminds people that even as a promoter he still prefers to view the sport from a fan’s perspective. “We need to entertain the public. Fans cared about it the first time and will care about it when it begins 2012.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected].