The first time Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto got together, the stakes were sky high, as both were slugging it out for Berto’s 147-pound title and a spot in the upper echelon of the division.
Five years later, the bitter rivals are ready to tango again, only this time there will be no championship on the line. But that doesn't lessen the importance of this battle. In fact, Ortiz and Berto could very well be fighting for something more signficant than a piece of hardware: their future careers.
“I expect a really good fight again with the winner given life in what has become a live, and maybe the best, division in boxing,” says longtime Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood. “They’re at a point where [recent] uneven performances have left them on the outside looking in at the best welterweights in the world.
“The stakes are desperation for both fighters. The loser could be eliminated from contention—likely, for good.”
And there you have just one of several intriguing subplots attached to Saturday’s 12-round showdown between Victor Ortiz (31-5-2, 24 KOs) and Andre Berto (30-4, 23 KOs) from the StubHub Center in Carson, California (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). At Friday’s weigh-in, both fighters hit the scales at 146.8 pounds.
A rematch five years in the making, Ortiz-Berto II is expected to be another high-octane brawl between two exciting former champions who are eager to get one more shot at a world title. But while this second go-round very well could live up to the hype, it tough to fathom it surpassing the excitement of their first clash back on April 16, 2011, which was widely recognized as the Fight of the Year.
That night at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut, a then-24-year-old Ortiz—who was making the leap from 140 pounds to 147—stormed his undefeated 27-year-old opponent in the first round, dropping him to the canvas. Berto not only made it to his feet but he evened the knockdown score in Round 2.
From there, the champ and the challenger continued to trade—and land—big bombs. Then came a thrilling Round 6, when both boxers hit the deck.
The knockdown flurry ended there, but the nonstop action did not. And even though Ortiz was docked a point in the 10th round for hitting behind the head, he pulled out a unanimous decision, snatching Berto’s title and handing him his first pro defeat.
Although Berto has moved on and enjoyed some success in the past five years—including earning a big payday in his last fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr.—the Winter Haven, Florida, native has never stopped bristling for another shot at Ortiz.
Come Saturday, he gets his chance at revenge.
“Ortiz built a career off me and damaged mine, but I’m tired of hearing his name,” says Berto, who was 27-0 with 21 knockouts and making his sixth title defense when he took on Ortiz. “For me to get this monkey off my back, I can’t accept anything less than to finish him off. This won’t go the distance.”
“ I’m back with my mind intact and a chance to further my career by beating Berto again. … I wouldn’t want to come up against me at this stage of my game. ” Victor Ortiz
As is usually the case when two high-caliber boxers engage in an epic war, neither man has been the same since their first scrap. Now 32, Berto has split six fights and suffered injuries to both his back and biceps that required surgeries.
Meanwhile, Ortiz dropped three consecutive fights after taking Berto’s title, falling to Mayweather (fourth-round KO), Josesito Lopez (ninth-round stoppage, in which Ortiz suffered a broken jaw) and Luis Collazo (second-round KO). He bounced back with a pair of TKO victories in his last two fights, but those were against lightly regarded Manuel Perez (then 22-10-1) and Gilberto Sanchez Leon (33-13-2).
“We’ve both been through wars, but I think he’s more damaged than I am,” says Ortiz, 29. “Berto has a big mouth and something to prove, so I know I’m in for another war.”
Ortiz does believe he’s got a couple of built-in advantages this time around that weren’t there in their initial battle. First, he says he had to work extra hard to pack on pounds in making the jump from 140 to 147, which is no longer the case.
Also, the Kansas-born, Southern California-based fighter believes he’s got fewer miles on his odometer than Berto, thanks to a couple of lengthy ring absences. One hiatus lasted 19 months as Ortiz took on roles in the third installment of The Expendables as well as Dancing With the Stars.
“The first time we fought, I had to lift weights to get up to 147,” he says. “Now, I’m a full-on welterweight who diets to get down to 147.
“The break with acting and dancing was helpful, [because] I got to rest my body. I’m back with my mind intact and a chance to further my career by beating Berto again. … I wouldn’t want to come up against me at this stage of my game.”
As for Berto, he’ll enter the ring knowing he fared much better against three common opponents he and Ortiz share: Mayweather, Collazo and Lopez. While Ortiz got stopped by all three of those fighters, Berto went 2-1, with the setback coming by unanimous decision in Mayweather’s farewell bout on September 12.
“Berto’s confidence is sky high after the Floyd Mayweather fight,” says trainer Virgil Hunter, who is in his fifth fight with Berto. “That’s been very obvious in our sparring sessions. He’s energetic and throwing better combinations and looking better, overall.”
Says Berto: “I am in a good place, mentally, physically and spiritually. Everything I’ve been through has turned me into a savage. It’s time to close this chapter once and for all.”
Check out all of our Ortiz-Berto coverage by hitting up our fight page.