Victor Ortiz vs. Andre Berto was supposed to be a matchup of the two hottest young fighters in the welterweight division; a fight between two men was to bring electricity into the ring with them and produce fireworks with their fists. It was going to be a fight of the year candidate.
It probably was supposed to take place a couple years down the road as well.
Instead it’s taking place this Saturday with little or no fanfare and the expectation that one of the two men will end up knocked out early. Of course, it’s Ortiz whom they believe will be on the short end of the stick in an early stoppage.
“Vicious” Victor has had a precipitous drop without ever having reached the stratosphere of boxing. He had the look. He had the ability. He had the skills. Hell, he even had the back-story of a fighter who was destined for great things.
Then along came Marcos Maidana and away went any notion of “vicious.” It was a bad night for Ortiz and regardless of anything else he’s accomplished to this point, it was his defining moment.
Just to recap quickly, early in the fight with Maidana, Ortiz dropped Maidana and then was dropped almost immediately after. Then came back to knock Maidana down twice in the second round only to get cut over his eye in the fifth, knocked down in the sixth before the fight was stopped. Knowing what we know now about Maidana, that in itself wasn’t so bad.
It was the post-fight interview that doomed Ortiz. In summary, when asked by Max Kellerman about the stoppage, Ortiz replied, “I don’t deserve this.” He said he didn’t deserve to take a beating like that. I bet if he’d have been fine with it if he were the one doing the beating.
In boxing, you can’t be called “Vicious” and then when the fight gets stopped say, “I don’t deserve this.” If Ortiz had simply said something like “Maidana was the better man tonight” or “I’ll learn from this and get better” or even if he’d have made an excuse like, “I had trouble making weight…I hurt myself during training.” Quite literally almost anything else he could have said would have been better than what he actually said.
So much of boxing is heart. It has been perceived since then that this is the major flaw in Ortiz and it has yet to be disproven with his actions. In his last fight against Lamont Peterson, he again knocked his opponent down early, but instead of keeping the pressure on, he sort of played to prevent. He prevented himself from getting knocked out and prevented himself from winning a fight that he should have won.
A lack of heart, or the perception thereof, is probably the worst weakness to have against a strong, fast pressure fighter like Andre Berto. I say perception, because if Berto perceives that, which he most assuredly does, he’s going to come into the ring and try to blow Ortiz out early. I guarantee that throughout Berto’s training for this fight that has been the mantra: Test his heart early and test it often.
Having no chin, no speed and no punching power are also bad weaknesses to have against Berto, which are weaknesses that many of Berto’s recent opponents have had. To put it mildly, Berto hasn’t fought a murderer’s row lately. It’s not all his fault, but that doesn’t make it untrue either.
Berto’s toughest fight to date came against the skilled southpaw Luis Collazo, and although he won a tough contest, it was in doubt until the decision was announced. It’s hard to say if Berto’s difficulty against Collazo was a product of his fighting a southpaw or if it was a product of Berto simply stepping up in class.
What’s not hard for me to tell is that it seems as though Golden Boy Promotions has given up on Ortiz. I don’t believe that their willingness to put him in with an ultra-aggressive puncher like Berto has much to do with an overwhelming amount of confidence. I think it’s more like the opposite.
It’s as though they have thrown Ortiz to the wolves and told him he needs to fight to survive. This can go very badly for him, and if that’s the case, then Golden Boy will know what they have and move on in another direction. If he wins, or at least has a good showing and shows grittiness or toughness then they’ll probably continue to promote him as a rising fighter.
I believe Ortiz does have the skill and strength to make this fight very interesting. If he can get out of the first couple of rounds without getting bombed, that is. If he can display what it is that he is perceived to be lacking.
Maybe this is what Ortiz needs, to be thrown to the wolves.