Andre Berto has blazed through the Welterweight division with an impeccable string of knockouts and unanimous decisions.
Two years ago, that was Victor Ortiz, in the 140 lb. weight class, only minus the whole "decision" part. He brought an eight knockout streak over mostly competent journeymen and well-regarded stepping stones into the biggest test of his life, on June 27, 2009, against heavy swinging Marcos Maidana.
And he failed that test, in ignominious fashion, by seemingly giving up when faced with adversity for the first time in an utterly dominant career.
He was put down twice in the fight, but he was on his feet when it ended, apparently unwilling to go on against Maidana's relentless assault and acknowledging as much in his post-fight interview meltdown with Max Kellerman.
Two years later, it is Berto who brings the shining undefeated record and dazzling knockout rate into the fight. His 21 KOs in 27 fights may be misleading, though.
That rate has not held up as well as the competition has gotten stiffer, with three of his last five fights going the distance.
Arguably his three toughest opponents, Collazo, Forbes and Urango, each stood on their feet at the end of 12 rounds. Collazo hurt Berto numerous times throughout the scrap, in the roughest fight of Berto's young career. Victor Ortiz awaits, probably the biggest test to date, much as Maidana was for Ortiz.
As is often the case in an unforgiving sport, the rising star contender has become the opponent.
Victor Ortiz has undeniable physical gifts that are apparent to anyone who has seen his fights. He has terrific hand speed, a strong, compact body and obvious power. On talent and potential alone, he has all the makings of a boxing superstar, but combine that with one of the sport's most inspiring, heartbreaking back stories and a ton of natural charisma, Ortiz is the type of figure fans will rally around, if he keeps winning.
Berto, a very intelligent and interesting guy with a compelling biography of his own, just doesn't have that kind of magnetism to connect with mainstream audiences.
That is my opinion.
Obviously, Berto's fans (and there aren't many judging by the attendance at his fights, zing!) will disagree with me.
Berto hasn't had a tough fight since Collazo over two years ago. His last fight, against overmatched contender Freddy Hernandez, was a one round stomping. Berto didn't walk all over him. He paced around, boxed, bided his time and clocked Hernandez with one, clean shot and Hernandez was down for the count.
Berto is not going to come at Ortiz throwing haymakers like Maidana did; he is a patient fighter. Which means there should be opportunities, especially early in the fight for Ortiz to take the initiative and be the aggressor.
The brawl with Collazo showed Berto can absorb some hits. I think Victor Ortiz will put his chin through a much more grueling test.
Ortiz has to go on the attack early, heavy to the body and swarm him on the inside. He needs to put Berto on the defensive immediately, he can't let him settle into a rhythm. Ortiz has to come to terms with the fact that he will take punishment in return for this strategy, but it's his best way to win the fight.
A win over Berto would be a huge statement and put Ortiz back on the map for all the big fights around the Welterweight division.
I don't see Berto knocking Ortiz out. If he wins, it'll most likely be a decision. If this turns into a technical boxing match, I actually think Ortiz takes more of a beating than if he tries to end it swiftly in a brawl.
Over 12 rounds, a methodical puncher like Berto inflicts a lot of damage. Ortiz has to get inside early and go for broke. If he takes a big shot and gets knocked out, it's one shot.
A hundred jabs in a night add up.
My prediction is that things go the other way. Victor Ortiz will turn the fight into a war and shockingly stop the undefeated Berto in the middle rounds.
There's a chance that he hurts Berto badly early and boxes his way to a unanimous decision.
Regardless, I got Victor Ortiz winning this fight and I think Andre Berto will be the one facing questions about his chin and reassessing his future come next week.