By Jake Donovan
Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto were both at a much better place in their respective careers heading into their first meet way back in April ’11. Ortiz was still in the rebuilding phase of his career, but was unbeaten in his previous five starts heading into his challenge versus Berto, at the time an unbeaten welterweight titlist on the verge of a lucrative showdown with Floyd Mayweather.
What came of the night was arguably the best stateside fight of the year, with both boxers hitting the deck but with Ortiz ultimately prevailing in the biggest win of his career, while Mayweather sat ringside. It was Ortiz and not Berto who would land the coveted shot at Mayweather, though suffering a 4th round knockout on a night where in-ring protocol dominated post-fight discussion given the manner in which the fight ended.
Regardless, the loss kicked off a forgettable stretch for Ortiz, who would suffer three consecutive defeats while going 44 months between ring victories.
Berto’s career bottomed out as well, as a planned rematch with Ortiz in 2012 was scrapped after random pre-fight drug testing as conducted by Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) produced a positive test result for a banned substance found in his system.
The Florida-bred Haitian-American stumbled in his return, suffering back-to-back losses before rediscovering the win column in 2014. Two wins in a row led to a long awaited clash with Mayweather, serving as the final opponent of his illustrious career – and coming up well short in their 12-round clash last September.
Needless to say, both can stand to win, which only further raises the stakes for their rematch. The pair of familiar foes meet this weekend at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Their long-awaited sequel headlines the second primetime edition of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. local time).
“We did it before in 2011, it was the Fight of the Year. He hadn't arrived all the way yet. I hadn't arrived all the way yet. Now we're both here and ready to do it again,” Ortiz (31-5-1, 24KOs) noted during a recent media conference call to promote the event. “We both had some nice wars. We're ready to put it on the line again. Berto's coming to kill me and I'm coming to kill him.”
Ortiz comes in having won his last two starts, though spread out exactly 52 weeks and the latter taking place last December in San Antonio, Texas. A one-sided 8th round stoppage of Gilberto Sanchez-Leon gained airtime on NBC Sports Network, as part of a lead-in showing to a PBC on NBC telecast topped by Omar Figueroa’s 12-round win over Antonio DeMarco in a thriller.
At the time, Ortiz wasn’t entirely sure where the win would take him. There were brief discussions of fighting for a welterweight title, but instead came the chance to once again do battle with Berto (30-4, 23KOs), who hasn’t fought since his loss to Mayweather last September.
“We had a lot going on heading into that fight (with Mayweather), so we just relaxed a little bit. The fight just came about,” Berto stated matter-of-factly of how he landed the opportunity to avenge the first loss of his career. “It wasn't a fight I had to take, but decided to get it on. We've been looking to get back (in the ring) for some time.”
While both insist it’s a fight that wasn’t necessarily on the other’s radar, it’s one that they both treat as a must-win scenario for their boxing future.
“Berto is one hell of a fighter and I don't take that for granted,” Ortiz insists. “We've prepared for 12 hard rounds like we did the first time. I'll be holding my hands in glory once again.”
Naturally, Berto has a differing viewpoint.
“I'm winning this one,” he promises. “He can try, he can certainly try.”
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow him on his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2