by Cliff Rold
Is it ever too late for a rematch?
There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto traded knockdowns in Ring Magazine’s choice for 2011 Fight of the Year. Has it really been that long?
Five years and a combined record of 5-6 later, Berto and Ortiz meet again. The rematch was supposed to happen sooner but a failed PED test for Berto in 2012 scuttled the bout. It would still have felt like a bout between top welterweights then.
Now, it’s something different. This is two fighters on the precipice of irrelevance whose best hope for another big payday is to get through each other.
This rematch might be right on time, and in prime time (Fox, 8 PM EST/5 PM PST).
Ortiz went into a tailspin after his win over Berto. He melted down against Floyd Mayweather, resorting to an ugly foul and then apologizing one time too many. Ortiz forgot the old adage about keeping his hands up at all times and was knocked out. He didn’t do much better in his next two outings, letting enough leather through to lose via corner stoppage to Josesito Lopez and knockout versus Luis Collazo. Single stay busy wins in late 2014 and 2015 kept Ortiz active.
Berto hasn’t fared much better. He got beaten up down the stretch of the first fight with Ortiz and got the hell beaten out of him in losses to Robert Guerrero and by stoppage to Jesus Soto Karass. He performed okay against Mayweather last year, but Mayweather was seemingly in sparring mode most of the fight, almost casually pitching a near shutout.
None of that matters Saturday night. Under the Al Haymon umbrella, a win here could mean something. Haymon has 147 lb. titlists Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, and Shawn Porter in his shop. He also has Adrien Broner. Thurman and Porter are aimed at each other. The rest have dance cards to fill. Ortiz and Berto have enough name recognition to bring something to any dance.
Let’s go the report card.
Previous Titles: WBC Welterweight (2011)
Weight: 146 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Ventura, California
Record: 31-5-2, 24 KO, 4 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-1, 1 KOBY (1-2, 2 KOBY including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Alfred Kotey UD8; Marcos Maidana TKO by 6; Nate Campbell UD10; Vivian Harris KO3; Lamont Peterson D10; Andre Berto UD12; Floyd Mayweather KO by 4; Luis Collazo KO by 2)
Previous Titles: WBC Welterweight (2008-11, 5 Defenses); IBF Welterweight (2011-12)
Height: 5’6 ½
Weight: 146 ¾
Hails from: Winter Haven, Florida
Record: 30-4, 23 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-2, 4 KO (8-3, 5 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Steve Forbes UD12; Luis Collazo UD12; Juan Urango UD12; Carlos Quintana TKO8; Victor Ortiz L12; Jan Zaveck RTD5; Robert Guerrero L12; Floyd Mayweather L12)
Speed: Ortiz B+; Berto B+
Power: Ortiz B+; Berto B+
Defense: Ortiz C; Berto C
Intangibles: Ortiz B-; Berto B
In the first fight, Ortiz’s advantage in raw speed looked like a factor going in. He may still have an edge there but both men appear to have lost some of the sharpness of five years ago. Where Ortiz still holds an edge is in natural size. He’s taller and has longer arms. He’s going to get to target first at any sort of distance.
Does Ortiz still mentally have it in him? There are few fighters who have ridden the divide between an abundance of talent and inconsistent mentality in the ring with more instability. In short, Ortiz has appeared a head case before our eyes. He’s never married the tools he was blessed with into a total package.
Compare that to a Berto who really has been nothing if not mentally tough. While Berto has shown off some solid pop and speed in his career, there are deficits he never overcame. His head movement is lacking, his chin is iffy, and yet he has endured wars. He hasn’t always won them but there is rarely any doubt that Berto left everything in the ring.
How does one handicap a fight like this given what has occurred since the first meeting? Both are now more hittable and a little slower. In this case, it might be about the space between the ears. Ortiz was in a desperate state going into the first fight and bit down to prove himself. Knowing that he came through there may be a huge boost Saturday.
Conversely, Berto knows he can hurt Ortiz and knows he outperformed him against common foes since and even before their first fight. He came from behind to stop Josesito Lopez; Lopez stopped Ortiz. Berto warred with Collazo en route to a debated win on the cards; Collazo flattened Ortiz. He didn’t melt down against Mayweather.
Berto has picked up the harder miles since though. Outside the Lopez fight, Ortiz’s losses were over quick and he hasn’t taken the sort of brutal work that Karass and Guerrero put on Berto. Was the Mayweather fight a sign of Berto having plenty in the tank or was it a superior fighter picking up an easy win and never really letting loose?
This is the sort of fight where we’re likely to see some knockdowns and the crowd leaving happy. Which fighter will be smiling with the masses? The first time, Berto couldn’t keep pace with the physicality of Ortiz. It was a two-way war for six rounds but Ortiz took over and never let up in the second half. Berto’s penchant for swelling and susceptibility to a jab work against him here against the taller Ortiz. Youth is also a factor. Berto is into his 30s; Ortiz has yet to get there. Ortiz is the sort of fighter who can over perform just when it looks like its time to count him out. Entering this one almost a forgotten man, Ortiz should be able to handle the event. He’s the more talented and versatile of the two and this is a style match where that counts. Ortiz wins again on a late stoppage or decision.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2016: 14-5
It’s a pretty solid Saturday for the sport and not just in the US…In Panama, former bantamweight titlist Anselmo Moreno has a chance to earn a mandatory rematch with Shinsuke Yamanaka if he can get by former 115 lb. titlist Suriyan Sur Rungvisai. Assuming the lanky Moreno is still safely making 118 lbs., he should box circles around the Thai battler and set up a chance to right what some felt was a wrong headed decision the first time with Yamanaka…In the US, the super middleweights take center stage on Showtime (10 PM EST)…IBF titlist James DeGale looks like not only the class of his division but one of the better fighters in any weight class right now. He should stop Rogelio Medina to set up a unification match later this year…Will that be against WBC titlist Badou Jack or former foe Lucian Bute? Bute looked rejuvenated against DeGale last year but Jack looked like a fighter finding his prime against Anthony Dirrell and George Groves. Bute has enough power still to make it scary but Jack should continue his upward trajectory…DeGale-Jack, here we come?
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]