Michael Rosenthal

Berto’s ongoing fight for respect might not be won against Ortiz

Andre Berto might be the most-disrespected undefeated major titleholder in the world.

THE RING’s No. 3-rated welterweight is very good – fast, strong, resilient — but not necessarily anything special in the estimation of many observers. He has beaten some solid opponents but no one who could define his six-year career.

And a victory over Victor Ortiz on Saturday on HBO might not help Berto’s cause because of Ortiz’s perceived limitations.

Berto (27-0, 22 knockouts) seems to take it all in stride.

“I feel I always get a little bit of criticism,” he said recently. “I think a lot of people believe in my skills, believe in my potential. … At the end of the day, I don’t listen to criticism even though I know there will be some. In the fight game, you have to have balls to step in the ring with anybody.

“I have great confidence in myself. My family and true fans are proud of me. I don’t care too much about it.”

Berto has taken down some good fighters. He demonstrated both his skills and toughness in a compelling brawl with Luis Collazo in 2009, winning a unanimous decision. He also has victories over Juan Urango and Carlos Quintana.

None of the above proves much, though. He needs a big-name opponent to gain more credibility.

And Berto had one in Shane Mosley last year but he decided to pull out because of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, his parents’ homeland.

He hoped to win boxing’s version of the lottery by landing a fight with fellow welterweight Manny Pacquiao but he was never really in the running, in part because he doesn’t have great name recognition.

Enter Ortiz, a creative choice for an opponent. The Southern Californian is well known both for his talent and quitting against Marcos Maidana, which makes him a compelling opponent for anyone.

HBO executives certainly thought so because they approved the fight.

“This was the most-difficult fight available, the most-fan friendly fight available,” said Lou DiBella, Berto’s promoter.

Berto has both built up and torn down Ortiz in the weeks leading up to the fight.

One thing Berto and DiBella won’t accept is the notion that Ortiz is the smaller man because he’s moving up from 140 pounds. Ortiz 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.

“He’s a bigger guy than I am,” said Berto, who also cited the challenger’s power, speed and hunger.

At the same time, Berto is among the legions who question Ortiz’s heart. That’s a result of his knockout loss to Marcos Maidana in 2009, in which Ortiz decided to stop fighting.

“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 Saturday). You can’t teach that thing that beats inside you, though. Either you got it or you don’t.”

Such comments might not serve Berto if he hopes to get due credit for a victory.

After all, a victory over an opponent who doesn’t have the stomach to wage war and also has yet to beat an elite opponent doesn’t really stand out on a fighter’s resume.

That’s exactly what some people are thinking anyway, though, that Ortiz isn’t the type of opponent who can take Berto the next level. So Berto could very well maintain his perfect record and pick up little ground on the sport’s biggest stars.

All he can do is remain patient … and continue to win.

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