Leading into his April 2011 clash with Victor Ortiz, Andre Berto’s career couldn’t have possibly been in a better position.
The then-27-year-old was undefeated, in possession of a 147-pound championship that he’d successfully defended five times and had defeated a number of quality fighters—including Luis Collazo, Carlos Quintana and Freddy Hernandez. The latter was a hammer-fisted boxer who entered the ring with a 29-1 record and yet lasted all of 127 seconds agaimst Berto, losing by first-round TKO.
On top of all that, Berto appeared to be on a collision course to meet the king of the boxing world, Floyd Mayweather Jr., in a what was to be a lucrative matchup of unbeaten champions. All the pride of Winter Haven, Florida, had to do was take care of business against Ortiz, a twice-beaten southpaw who was making the jump from 140 pounds and considered weak-hearted with a fragile psyche.
Alas, as is often the case in the sweet science, the script didn’t exactly play out as planned: In an action-packed brawl that featured two knockdowns by each fighter—with both guys hitting the deck in a zany sixth round—Victor Ortiz dethroned Andre Berto by close unanimous decision.
Just like that, Berto’s perfect record, world title and big payday against Mayweather were gone.
“I was the young guy just running through everyone,” Berto, now 32, says upon reflection. “After making that impressive statement against Hernandez, there was talk of me fighting Floyd. I wanted it known that I should be next to face Floyd, but I didn’t train like I was supposed to for Ortiz, and I paid for it.”
“ I’ve tried to forget about Victor Ortiz, but if other people don’t bring him up, he’s talking about me. ” Andre Berto
In fact, it was Ortiz who got the opportunity to take on Mayweather, doing so five months after beating Berto. Ortiz was knocked out in the fourth round in controversial fashion, as he got tagged by two violent punches when his guard was down while attempting to apologize to Mayweather for an intentional head-butt.
“Ortiz got the fight with Floyd after he beat me and went on to other things. It was discouraging,” Berto says. “I moved forward, but he got stopped a few times. Fans would see me and say, ‘You need to get that one back and finish this kid.’ That always played in the back of my mind.”
It’s taken more than five years, but Berto (30-4, 23 KO) finally gets that shot at redemption Saturday when he and Ortiz (31-5-2, 24 KOs) meet in a 147-pound scrap scheduled for 12 rounds at the StubHub Center in Carson, California (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
In Berto’s most recent fight in September, he finally got the opportunity to face Mayweather, losing a wide unanimous decision in the legendary champion’s final match. That followed consecutive victories over Steve Upsher Chambers (10-round unanimous decision in September 2014) and Josesito Lopez (sixth-round TKO in March 2015).
Like Berto, Ortiz has also matched up against Mayweather, Lopez and Collazo. In addition to the early knockout loss to Mayweather, Ortiz was stopped by Lopez (ninth-round TKO in June 2012, with Ortiz suffering a broken jaw) and Collazo (second-round KO).
Given those results against mutual competition, Berto is convinced his body of work surpasses that of Ortiz. And he’s determined to prove as much come Saturday night as he looks to even the score—and even it in decisive fashion.
“I was subpar that night [against Ortiz], and he got the win,” says Berto, who is entering his fifth fight under the tutelage of former Trainer of the Year Virgil Hunter. “I’ve tried to forget about Ortiz, but if other people don’t bring him up, he’s talking about me.
“I’m in the gym 30 minutes early fine-tuning everything, feeling like I’m 22 again. I’m explosive, fast and strong. This fight will not go the distance.”
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