It took him five years to avenge a loss that temporarily derailed his career. But after scoring a knockout win against bitter rival Victor Ortiz on Saturday night, Andre Berto simply described the victory as soul-soothing.
“This was a fight that was looming in my soul for the last five years,” a smiling Berto said, waving to the cheering crowd at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. “He did give me my first loss, and it continued to carry with me for a little bit. So right now, to this day, this is definitely my most satisfying win.”
In April 2011, Ortiz handed Berto his first professional defeat and stole his 147-pound world title in a slugfest that featured four knockdowns and was named Fight of the Year.
The 147-pound rematch of former champions got off to a much slower start, with both fighters feeling each other out for much of the first stanza. The round’s most poignant moment came in the final 30 seconds, when an inadvertent clash of heads opened a nasty gash on top of Ortiz’s forehead.
The cut looked like it could be troublesome for the 29-year-old Kansas native. But with blood trickling down his face, Victor Ortiz (31-6-2, 24 KOs) scored the bout’s first knockdown, dropping Andre Berto (31-4, 24 KOs) with a straight left hand near the end of Round 2.
“He caught me sleeping for like two seconds, and my feet got tangled,” Berto said. “He knocked me down with that shot, but it didn’t hurt me at all. I was thinking ‘Now it’s time to play catch-up, and just press him, press him, press him.’”
Despite Berto’s desire to steal the momentum, it was Ortiz who won the third on two of the judges’ scorecards. Perhaps sensing he was behind, the 32-year-old Berto pushed down on the gas in the fourth.
Midway through that round, the Winter Haven, Florida, native blasted through Ortiz’s defense with a pinpoint right uppercut. Ortiz immediately hit the canvas, and although he beat referee Jack Reiss’ count, he rose on unsteady feet.
When the fight resumed, Berto unleased a flurry of punches and pinned Ortiz against the ropes, sending him down once more. This time, Ortiz beat the count by a split second, but when Reiss asked him if he wanted to continue, Ortiz didn’t respond. That forced Reiss to wave off the bout at the 1:14 mark.
“It’s one of those punches you don’t see coming,” Ortiz said of the bout-swinging uppercut. “We prepared awesome. I did everything thing right in training camp. I’m lefty, he’s righty, and he just caught me with an uppercut.
“He’s not a guy who hits soft, either. Every punch he throws, he throws at 100 mph.”
After years of trading verbal barbs in person and through the media, both fighters showed considerable mutual respect after the contest, even embracing multiple times in the ring.
“He’s one heck of a champ,” said Ortiz, who saw his two-fight winning streak end.
While Ortiz claimed he would bounce back from his latest defeat, it’s Berto who now is once again a player in the loaded 147-pound division, where he held a world title from June 2008 until losing to Ortiz in their first meeting.
He hasn’t possessed the hardware since, but could get a shot at it soon, possibly against Danny Garcia, who won a 147-pound title in January and was a ringside analyst for Fox on Saturday night.
“I would take on Danny Garcia, sure,” Berto said. “Just tell me when, and I’ll be ready.”
And what about the possibility of a third go-round with Ortiz?
“I would if he wants to do it,” Berto said. “As you can see, every time we get in here, it’s a tremendous fight.”
Check out all of our Ortiz-Berto coverage by bouncing over to our fight page.