By Randy De La O
Victor Ortiz was on a mission Saturday night. It showed when he stepped into the ring. It was evident when he and Andre Berto met for their instructions by referee Mike Ortega. Ortiz had a look of complete confidence about him. He seemed sure of himself. Little did we know.
Victor Ortiz was challenging undefeated champion Andre Berto for Berto's WBC Welterweight title. The fight was held at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. There were questions about both fighters going into the fight but the prevailing notion was that Berto would be too much for Ortiz, who was moving up in weight, fighting as a welterweight for the first time. His critics, and I was one of them, underestimated him. There were reasons of course, mainly the Marcos Maidana fight, where he failed the test of "Intestinal Fortitude". Sometimes though, in the midst of a bitter defeat, in the ring or outside of it, there are lessons to be learned. Ortiz was given a second chance last night against a good strong champion, though relatively unproven, at his physical peak. Ortiz stepped into the ring with redemption on his mind, prepared to finally exorcise the memory of his past defeat. In the face of adversity, he answered every question mark thrown at him by Andre Berto.
When the first round began Ortiz was unaware that he would be fighting two opponents but as the fight progressed it became evident. The first knockdown of Berto was incorrectly ruled a slip by Ortega. Later in the round Ortiz would again drop Berto, there was no doubt about it this time. Berto would never quite recover but he was still dangerous and he proved it in the very next round when he knocked down an off balanced Ortiz, who recovered quickly. With every exchange, and the fight was filled with them, Ortiz came back stronger and more determined. Ortiz emerged as a fighter willing to take risks and that is what made the difference for him. Ortiz took everything that Berto threw and always answered back with his own punches, only more so,
In round six Berto fighting now in the middle of the ring and trying hard to gain command of the fight, knocked down Ortiz with a stiff, strong right hand. Ortiz was hurt this time and I have no doubt that everyone held their breath waiting to see what Ortiz' reaction would be. He answered the question by knocking down Berto and staying in control of the fight.
Throughout the fight Berto was complaining about being hit in the back of the head. Referee Ortega reprimanded Ortiz a few times. What he should have done was remind Berto that when you turn your back or head on an opponent you get what you deserve. Ortega continued to make a pest of himself all through the fight, especially when Ortiz had Berto against the ropes, grabbing Ortiz by the arm and continually yelling at him to get back. Berto sensing an opportunity began to whine to the referee about every punch thrown anywhere near the side of the head. In the tenth round, while in the middle of an exchange, Berto lowered his head and was caught near the side, it was out of Ortega's view but Berto put on such a display, he simply took his word for it and deducted a point from Ortiz. Throughout the fight Ortiz was hit behind the head and Betro was continually holding. To Ortiz' credit he never voiced a complaint, choosing instead to win the fight the old fashioned way, by kicking his opponent's ass. There was no quit in Victor Ortiz last night, not one iota. He fought a great fight. It was an old school win and I liked it.
When the fight was over, don't ask me why, I had that sinking, sickening feeling that we were going to witness a robbery. Was the point deduction going to make the difference? Did Berto's whining influence the judges? You just never know what the judges are thinking, which way they will go. I needn't have worried. Judge Julie Lederman had it 114-111, judge Glenn Feldman scored it 114-112, and judge Clark Sammartino had it115-110, all in favor of Victor Ortiz. A well deserved and hard fought victory. In the post fight interview Ortiz was humble and courteous and while Berto tried his hardest to convince us that it was not him in the ring last night, those of us that saw the fight know better.
Ortiz showed that even in the face of adversity, he has what it takes to reach down deep and find a way to win. It was a lesson that was learned the hard way. His reputation and his character took a beating but he proved he could learn and come back. He was mindful of his legacy and his place in boxing. He changed the way we will remember him. he finally lived up to his nick name "Viscious" and he at last, came through for those that believed in him. To the "Victor" belongs the spoils (pun intended). One thing though Victor, lose the sombrero!