There was a time when a rematch between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto was among the sport’s most anticipated fights. This was back in 2012. Their first bout was 2011’s Fight of the Year. Berto came into the bout sporting the WBC welterweight title, 27-0 with 21 KOs. Ortiz was fighting for the first time at the true welterweight limit. They were considered two of the sport’s hottest young fighters.
They did not fair to deliver on that April night five years ago. Ortiz dropped Berto in the first round. Berto came back to return the favor in the second. Both men tasted the canvas in Round 6. In the end, Ortiz survived to claim the title by unanimous decision. It earned him a shot at Floyd Mayweather in September 2011.
Ortiz’s fight with Mayweather will go down as one of the most strange and controversial bouts in boxing history. In Round 4, Ortiz became frustrated and through a blatantly illegal headbutt at Mayweather, causing a bad cut to Mayweather’s mouth. This was not the first or last time that Ortiz lost his head in a fight and fouled.
Boxing is a rough sport and fighters are liable to do all manner of rough tactics when they feel pressed. Ortiz’s headbutt was an ignoble act, but his reaction to doing it was far more disgraceful. When referee Joe Cortez waved time back in after deducting a point, Ortiz made a pathetic attempt to hug it out with Mayweather. Mayweather responded by clocking him in the jaw and knocking him out. Some have called it a cheap shot. I’m of the opinion that a fighter should protect himself at all times and that if you are going to foul a man to gain an advantage, don’t try to hug and make up seconds later.
There was still a great deal of excitement for the Berto-Ortiz rematch going into 2012. But then Berto failed a drug test. Ortiz was mentioned as a likely opponent for Saul Alvarez, but all that went out the window when Ortiz got upset in June 2012 by Josesito Lopez. Lopez refused to be bullied by Ortiz, hanging tough and breaking Ortiz’s jaw in Round 9. Although leading on the cards, Ortiz opted not to fight out the remaining rounds.
Ortiz then took off over a year. He did an appearance on Dancing With the Stars. He returned to action in January 2014 against veteran Luis Collazo and was knocked cold in Round 2. One would have thought Ortiz would have retired after that, but instead he has knocked out a pair of obscure journeyman since. One of them, Manuel Perez, was a former featherweight.
Things have gone no better for Berto during the half decade since his famous clash with Ortiz. The same month that Ortiz was stopped by Mayweather, Berto struggled against Jan Zaveck, but managed to stop him in Round 5 on cuts. After serving a suspension for PED use, he lost a brutal slugfest with Robert Guerrero in November 2012, another Fight of the Year performance. He followed that loss with a brutal Round 12 TKO to Jesus Soto Karass, a journeyman/fringe contender, in July 2013.
Berto took off over a year and came back in September 2014 to defeat Steve Chambers via UD. In March 2015, Berto beat Josesito Lopez by Round 6 TKO. It was one of the worst stoppages I’ve ever seen. Lopez was handling Berto prior to Round 6.
That “win” got Berto his long-awaited fight with Floyd Mayweather, in Mayweather’s final professional bout (at least for the time being). Mayweather won by unanimous decision, while barely breaking a sweat. It was nothing more than a glorified sparring session.
Ortiz vs. Berto makes sense, so long as both men still want to fight. I’ll certainly be tuning in to watch on Saturday night, when they face off in the Stub Hub Center. Neither has lived up to the promise they showed so many years ago. But the two did combine for an epic fight once upon a time. The badly faded versions of what they once were are very likely to do the same thing again.