By Chris Robinson
It's hard to understate the electricity created by welterweight hopefuls Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto last night. Squaring off inside of the MGM Grand Theatre of Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, the 24-year old Ortiz pulled off a very unlikely victory in dropping Berto twice on his way towards an action-packed twelve round triumph.
With the upset Ortiz now lays claim to the WBC welterweight title that Berto once held and fulfills much of the promise that was bestowed upon him years earlier. The Oxnard, California transplant had to show much grit along the way, surviving a pair of knockdowns of his own from the stout-punching Berto and it's safe to say that this fight exceeded our expectations.
Reaching out to boxing historian Bert Sugar for our weekly column, I decided to take a look at what this victory means for Ortiz and how devastating of a loss this was for Berto. While I knew that Sugar, who analyzes the sport from top to bottom, almost certainly had checked the fight out I had to ask just to make sure.
"Yes, in fact I'm watching it a second time right now," Sugar opened up. "I thought it was an exciting, exciting fight. It's what boxing needed. It's exactly what boxing needed."
Ortiz came into the fight against Berto with a 28-2-2 record with 22 knockouts and despite his vast array of skills the public still hadn't completely forgiven him for his 6th round TKO loss to Marcos Maidana a few years back, a fight in which Ortiz appeared to say 'No mas' once the Argentinean turned up the pressure. Adding to it, Ortiz was moving up in weight for this fight and was a definite underdog yet Sugar seemed to recognize ahead of time just how dangerous he could be come fight night.
"I gave it to him in the early rounds," Sugar continued. "I thought he could get off fast. I've always been questioning Berto's balance. And Ortiz just fought a brilliant fight. He was possessed and he just came on and on."
When asked what else stood out about the contest, Sugar showed his disappointment to referee Michael Ortega, who he felt did a porous job of officiating the bout, with included a knockdown by Ortiz in the first, a return knockdown from Berto in round two, and each man again trading knockdowns in a raucous sixth round.
"That first knockdown, which was a knockdown, then the referee I thought did a poor job, at best, all through the fight. He broke the fighters too quickly. Ortiz would always have an arm free and he would break them. Berto moves his head so that you can only hit him in the back of the head half the time. And Ortega just kept breaking them and warning them," said Sugar.
Throughout the lead-up to the fight several boxing insiders such as welterweight contender Rashad Holloway, former champion Paulie Malignaggi, and RingTV's Doug Fischer all told me that Ortiz was a very live dog but few could have expected him to win in such dramatic fashion. Sugar pointed to the aforementioned sixth candle as the defining mark of the fight.
"Oh I think it was shocking," Sugar claimed. "You could hear it in the voices of the announcing team. He shocked everybody in that sixth round. I had never heard, as Manny Steward screamed into the microphone, say 'Oh my God!' when Berto hurt him and he came back with that left and he knocked down Berto."
Sugar, just like many in the sport, wasn't fully sold on Berto because he hadn't seen him in enough high-pressure situations against a string of world class fighters to properly assess him. This victory may have showcased Berto's tremendous heart but it also showed that he wasn't on the level some had pegged him.
"How does he recover from this? This wasn't just a loss. It was a beating. Does the king have no clothes? I had questions about him. He hadn't really shown me that he was an elite like Pacquiao and Mayweather and everyone was talking about him as the third part of that trilogy. Maybe Ortiz is now."