By Gary Purfield
In a no doubt fight of the year candidate Victor Ortiz took the WBC welterweight title from Andre Berto with pure intensity, determination, heart, and skill. Along the way he proved the Maidana fight where he was so heavily criticized was the exception, not the rule to his career.
Ortiz came in the underdog to the champ Berto that was believed to have more speed, more skills, more power, and most importantly more heart for a tough fight. It turned out Victor proved everyone wrong in that he had the power and the heart for a war. He also showed he has chin and an instinct to fight that no one knew he possessed.
From the opening bell both men were ready to get it on. They came out firing violent power punches that would send many fighters into a deep sleep. Yet each man absorbed the others blows by retaliating with their own aggressive punches. Then Ortiz set the tone two minutes into the first round backing Berto into the corner landing numerous power punches including a powerful uppercut that put Berto to the ground. Berto got to his wobbly feet but a minute remained and Ortiz went for the early finish. Berto withstood the pressure and made it through the round.
In round two Victor continued his attack and Berto appeared still dazed. But then Berto showed he was not going to go quietly when he fired back with a big right. Ortiz stumbled back and his glove touched giving Berto the knockdown and evening the scorecards.
The two proud fighters fought at a full speed pace over the next three rounds but Ortiz was clearly getting the better of the exchanges landing one bomb after another. Berto took it well and showed he has heart and fire that was also a question mark on his resume. Ortiz would take Berto’s big right hands and keep moving forward.
Just when it looked like Victor would cruise to a stoppage Berto dramatically shifted things in round six. With Ortiz firing away Berto landed a massive right hook to Victor’s chin dropping him to the canvas. Ortiz got up but was far from steady and anyone watching likely began having images of Ortiz being overwhelmed by Maidana. Berto pursued with pure aggression to end it right there and landed over and over to Ortiz’s chin. When it looked like Victor should hold to survive he continued fighting and with seconds remaining in the round he smashed the pursuing champ with a straight left that put Berto on the canvas to even the knockdowns in the round.
Halfway through both men had been dropped twice and anything was possible over the second half of the fight. The next six rounds did not produce the fireworks of the first six but was still highly competitive and exciting. Ortiz would continue to get the better of most rounds and when the final bell sounded it was clear a new champion had emerged.
The cards were read and Ortiz was awarded a hard fought well deserved unanimous decision by scores of 114-112, 114-111 and 115-110. Ortiz improves to 29-2-2 (22 KO) while Berto loses his undefeated record falling to 27-1 (21 KO).
Berto has nothing to be ashamed of and probably gained more fans and respect in defeat than in any of his previous wins. Several times it appeared he would be stopped but he would never go away and never stopped fighting with everything he had to turn the tables. He was simply beaten back by a man who would be not be denied his chance to shine. The fact that Berto made it to the final bell is impressive considering Ortiz did everything other than smash him with a 2×4 yet Andre not only stayed alive but continued to go for the win. He may have lost his belt but showed the heart of a champion.
For Ortiz this was a career changing night in so many ways. Prior to this fight Ortiz was so heavily chastised by the hardcore fan for his giving up against Maidana and the legendary comments afterwards. It was said the in his fights since that time that he was timid and not the same “vicious” fighter. Over twelve rounds he became a fighter that will be admired and loved by the hardcore fan.
Ortiz did it all against a tough and skilled champ. He fought with intensity and excitement from the opening bell to the last second of round twelve. He absorbed power shots to his chin including stunning knockdowns but even in his toughest moments continued to fight back with the passion of a warrior. It is hard to believe this was the same man that was in the ring with Maidana almost two years ago. This was an incredible performance from a young hungry challenger that would not be denied becoming champion.
This was a fight with no loser in the long run. Ortiz will move forward a welterweight belt holder with new excited fans looking forward to his next test. Berto may have lost his zero but anyone who saw his performance will look forward to seeing him between the ropes again. I doubt anyone would complain if the next time they step into the ring it is for a rematch of what was truly a great fight.
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