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Victor Ortiz – Andre Ward: Excitement in Boxing Without Manny Pacquiao

By Gina L. Caliboso

I didn’t have a date this past Saturday night. But just in case I received a call from any would-be suitors, I had my DVR all set to record two great bouts. Well, sadly no phone calls. So, I settled in for the evening.

First, Amir Khan was to take on McCloskey and later, I was all geared up to watch Vicious Victor Ortiz, 29-2-2, 22 KO’s take on Andre Berto, 27-1, 21 KO’s. I had always believed in Berto when he had been all set to fight against Shane Mosley in January 2010. But then, with the disaster in Haiti, he withdrew from the fight and focused on assisting the country’s recovery from the earthquake.

Meanwhile, Mosley went up against Floyd Mayweather, JR., in May 2010 and lost a 12 round decision. But my article isn’t about Berto. My article is actually on Ortiz. Or it’s about Berto too, sort of. Even though Ortiz fought a tough 12 round fight against Berto that resulted in a unanimous decision, the fight between the two welterweight contenders had me wonder about the state of the welterweight division. My perception is bleak, RSR readers. But, tune in, because there is a part two.

First, I’m not necessarily going to take away the hard fought victory by Ortiz. I had the pleasure of seeing Ortiz fight last year at the Staples Center when he went up against Vivian Harris that resulted in a 3rd round KO. It had been rumored that Ortiz needed to really buckle down and focus on his boxing career, but his story is really rather remarkable because he truly is a survivor. Going back to June 2009, Ortiz fought against the highly touted Argentine Marcos Maidana, 30-2, 27 KO’s for the interim WBA Light Welterweight title.

Maidana is the wildcard in the welterweight division because he displays moments of strength and brilliance, but has lapses in his boxing skill. Against Maidana, Ortiz lost the bout with a 6th round TKO. Ortiz had been down twice in the bout in rounds 1 and later in the critical 6th. Maidana’s lapse in this bout also occurred twice when he went down once in round 1 and later twice in round 2. It seems that both fighters need to get knocked around a few times early before they settle in.

Following Maidana, Ortiz had bouts that both showed how good he can be, but also that he does have that ability to put a fight away. In December 2009, he went up against Antonio Diaz that resulted in Diaz retiring because he didn’t come out for the round after he suffered a bad cut over his left eye. Diaz had also been down in the 3rd round. In February 2010, Ortiz fought Hector Alatorre that resulted in a 10th round TKO. Three months later, he went up against Nate Campbell. Campbell went down in the first round with Ortiz earning the 10 round unanimous decision.

In December 2010, Ortiz went up against Lamont Peterson and fought to a draw from majority decision over the course of 10 rounds. Peterson had been down twice in round 3. In this particular bout, I had assessed that Ortiz looked a little reluctant to put the fight into his pocket. Peterson didn’t fight badly, but I don’t think Ortiz exactly dominate the fight either. Hence, the fight resulted in a draw. I will argue that Ortiz had stepped up to the arena of a fighting, but still, at that point, lacked a little something to pull away the fight over his opponent.

Now, this brings us to the bout against Berto this past Saturday. If you look at the fight, I consider that Ortiz did look more focused, more mean, more determined to make a statement against Berto and take away the bout. Maybe it was the beard and his hair. Even so, Ortiz looked like he had no doubts to the outcome. I did not mind that I had not date for the evening.

By contrast, I had always perceived Berto as solidly built with tremendous KO power. He has a somewhat similar record, just as powerful as Ortiz, and considering that he was the defending WBC Welterweight titleholder and had been matched with Mosley, I perceived Berto to be no joke. Against Freddy Hernandez, Berto scored a 1st round KO – a rather convincing KO.

Berto had rightfully earned the title back in 2008 when he defeated Miguel Angel Rodriguez, 29-4, 23 KO’s scoring a 7th round TKO. However, as the bout began, with Berto going down in the first round, I thought, okay, this is good. Night is still young. I can still go out. But then the fight continued, and it got bad, it got ugly, and then, I think I created a wrinkly on my forehead from my absolute disbelief on the performance of both fighters. As Berto went down in round 1, Ortiz soon followed in round 2. The fight went back and forth, and literally, in round 6, it was like a contest of which fighter could score the ugliest knockdown.

If you saw the fight, you know, both fighters had a horrible sixth round. Both Ortiz and Berto went down and when Berto went down it was like in super slow mo because it looked like Ortiz recovered enough from his knockdown, took a couple of steps, and simply clocked Berto with his hook. I thought, jaw open in disbelief, did that just happen? And later, it was scored that Ortiz lost one point in the 10th round for hitting behind Berto’s head. Final result? Ortiz wins by 12 round unanimous decision.

As RSR states, it truly is shocking, but not the victory by Ortiz. For me, it was more the performance of both fighters as contenders, and now Ortiz, as a titleholder, within the welterweight division. Ortiz is now ranked #4 with Berto ranked at #5. Both Pacquiao and Mayweather JR are ranked number 1 and 2 respectively, while Mosley is now ranked #3. With Ortiz mentioning the possibility of fighting Pacquiao, which as it seems he now joins the parade of bandwagon fighters who happen to call out Pacquiao, Ortiz and Berto do not even come close to the caliber of skill to make a good match with Pacquiao. When one considers that Pacquiao and Mayweather are really the stalwarts of the division as well as the sport, then boxing has much to consider in its caliber of fighter. Ortiz and Berto both have game, for sure, but the PPV draw – megafight appeal is simply not present. As the welterweight division is the premier division due to both Pacquiao and Mayweather, boxing overall, will suffer as a result of their eventual absence.

The Ortiz – Berto bout provided much needed proof that boxing needs a Pacquiao – Mayweather, JR bout. So, consider this, who was the real winner after the Ortiz – Berto fight? Obviously, Ortiz won, but the performance of both fighters definitely showed the gap of talent and ability currently missing from the division outside of Pacquiao and Mayweather. Ortiz can definitely take the division eventually, but he has some work to do. Berto will be there, and perhaps Mosley. But Ortiz needs to ground himself and work a bit more to see where he wants to go. He’ll emerge the winner and hopefully give that edge in the division as well as boxing.

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