Victor Ortiz spoke on a conference call Thursday with the bravado of a fighter certain he will be victorious. Welterweight titleholder Andre Berto, his opponent on April 16 in Carson, Calif., on HBO, doesn’t buy it. He questioned Ortiz’s heart for umpteenth time since the fight was announced.
Ortiz has spoken with confidence in the past but his easy-going nature has always been evident. Not now. Now, with his first major title in sight, he declares that the future is his.
This after a shaky draw against Lamont Peterson in his most-recent fight, in December.
“I know where I’m going, I know what I want,” he said. “… I must be champion of the world. Berto has been touted and talked about as being the next big thing. I disagree.
“April 16 I will win, bring back the belt, because I must. Period. End of story.”
Ortiz didn’t want to discuss the past.
That includes his unforgettable sixth-round knockout loss to Marcos Maidana in 2009, after which he was accused of quitting, and the Peterson disappointment. He would only say he thought he won the latter fight.
He wants to focus on the task at hand, which obviously is a major challenge.
Ortiz, a junior welterweight contender, is moving up a weight class to face Berto. That shouldn’t be a problem given that he weighed in at 156 the day of his fight against Peterson, meaning he gained 15 pounds in one day after making the catch weight of 141.
Ortiz has been billed by promoters as the bigger man even though Berto has fought at junior middleweight.
“There’s not much difference,” Ortiz said, referring to how he feels in his new weight class. “I always made weight. … When everyone runs from you at 140, why stick around?”
The Berto camp isn’t convinced he was able to make 140 easily.
“Gaining (15 pounds) isn’t normal,” said Lou DiBella, Berto’s promoter. “I think he probably eked out a decision against Peterson but he looked weak to me. … I think he’s moving up in weight because he has to.”
Berto obviously isn’t concerned about Ortiz’s size or anything else.
The stocky Floridian gave Ortiz credit as a capable fighter, saying he thought Ortiz did enough to beat Peterson, but he added that his opponent “is very limited in a lot of areas.”
Berto also seemed to try to avoid questioning Ortiz’s heart when asked about it. However, when he was pressed, he gave his honest opinion.
“He had just that one situation that he’s been through in a fight where he really had to endure some (adversity), a bump in the road,” he said. “Every other fight he was knocking guys out. One guy cracks him back and he didn’t like that too much at all.
“That pretty much shows you how his heart is. … He might try to prove something (on April 16). You can’t teach that thing that beats inside you, though. Either you got it or you don’t.”
Ortiz has been hearing such talk from all quarters since the Maidana fight. This might be his best chance to prove everyone wrong. And it’s Berto’s chance to say, “I told you so.”