ANDRE BERTO vs. VICTOR ORTIZ
When: Saturday, April 16
Where: Mashantucket, Conn.
TV: HBO, 6:45 p.m. PT / 9:45 p.m. ET
Weight: Welterweight (147 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Berto’s WBC welterweight
Also on the card: Deandre Latimore vs. Dennis Sharpe, 8 rounds, junior middleweights; Thomas Dulorme vs. Harrison Cuello, 8 rounds, welterweights.
Height / reach: 5-8½ (174cm) / 72 (183cm)
Hometown: Winter Haven, Fla.
Turned pro: 2004
Record: 27-0 (21 knockouts)
Trainer: Tony Morgan
Fight-by-fight: <a href=" http://boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?cat=boxer&human_id=283680">Click here</a>
The Ring rating: No. 3 welterweight
Titles: WBC welterweight (2008-current)
Biggest victories: Miguel Angel Rodriguez, June 21, 2008, TKO 7 (won title); Luis Collazo, Jan. 17, 2009, UD 12; Juan Urango, May 30, 2009, UD 12; Carlos Quintana, April 10, 2010, TKO 8; Freddy Hernandez, Nov. 27, 2010, TKO 1 (most-recent fight).
Height: 5-8½ (174cm)
Hometown: Oxnard, Calif.
Turned pro: 2004
Record: 28-1-2 (22 knockouts)
Trainer: Danny Garcia
Fight-by-fight: <a href=" http://boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=257314&cat=boxer">Click here</a>
The Ring rating: None
Biggest victories: Mike Arnaoutis, March 7, 2009, TKO 2; Antonio Diaz, Dec. 12, 2009, TKO 7; Nate Campbell, May 15, 2010, UD 10; Vivian Harris, Sept. 18, 2010, KO 3
Losses: Corey Alarcon, June 3, 2005, DQ 1; Marcos Maidana, June 27, 2009, TKO 6
Draw: Lamont Peterson, Dec. 11, 2010, MD 10 (most-recent fight)
Skills: This is one of many toss-up categories in this head-to-head analysis. Both fighters classify themselves as boxer-punchers, although Berto has proven to be more versatile than Ortiz. The undefeated beltholder has shown the ability to employ stick-and-move, pressure-fighting and counter-punching strategies with authority. So has Ortiz, but he’s less effective than Berto when he’s out of his usual stalk-and-destroy mode. Berto moves about the ring better than Ortiz, but the Kansas native has tighter offensive technique and he puts his punches together better than the 2004 Olympian.
Power: Ortiz probably carries more power in each punch than Berto in a pound-for-pound sense. The 24-year-old southpaw has stopped sturdier fighters at junior welterweight, such as Carlos Maussa and Emmanuel Clottey, than Berto has at welterweight. However, Ortiz’s power has yet to be proven against a natural welterweight. Berto doesn’t have one-punch KO ability against top-tier welterweights but he has established himself as a formidable puncher in the division.
Speed and athletic ability: This is a very close category, as both fighters are exceptional natural athletes who are gifted with excellent hand-eye coordination. They seem closely matched in terms of physical strength and raw power, although it must be noted that Ortiz hasn’t been tested at 147 pounds. Berto has a slight edge in speed, reflexes and explosiveness. Ortiz appears to have better balance.
Defense: Neither fighter is known for his defensive ability. Berto uses his fast reflexes and footwork to avoid punches from a distance, and he usually opts to tie up his opponents on the inside whenever in close proximity of a good infighter. Ortiz also avoids punches with good footwork, but he blocks more in-coming shots than Berto does. Ortiz has been more cautious than Berto during some of his recent fights, which has resulted in less contact.
Experience: This is yet another close category as both have fought a near-equal number of pro rounds. (Ortiz edges Berto 133-132.) However, Berto has gone the 12-round distance on three occasions in consecutive title bouts against solid-to-very good opposition (Forbes, Collazo and Urango). Ortiz has never fought past 10 rounds and has only fought that distance twice, against Peterson and Campbell, unless one counts his 10th-round TKOs of Clottey and Hector Alatorre. Both have fought their share of quality opposition. Berto has faced four former titleholders (Collazo, Urango, Quintana and Forbes). Ortiz has been in with three former beltholders (Campbell, Maussa and Harris), plus two RING-rated contenders (Maidana and Peterson).
Chin: Both fighters have suspect chins, although Ortiz has been down more times than Berto. The West Coast gun slinger has officially hit the canvas three times (against Maidana, and journeymen Tomas Barrientes and Dairo Esalas). However, it should be noted that Maidana is one of the best punchers in the sport and both Barrientes and Esalas are known for their heavy hands. Berto has been down only once in his pro career, at the end of the sixth round against Cosme Rivera. Berto may have caught a break by going down (from a short left uppercut) late in the round and by getting more than a minute’s rest between rounds thanks to a torn glove that had to be replaced. Berto was visibly rocked by a left hand from Collazo, who isn’t known for his power, in the first round of their fight.
Conditioning: Both fighters are gifted athletes who enjoy training and often push past the limits set by their trainers.
Wear and tear: Neither fighter has taken a career-ending or career-shortening beating in the ring, physically speaking. Sure Ortiz’s shootout with Maidana was a hard fight, but it wasn’t until he was overwhelmed by the relentless Argentine in the sixth round that he absorbed serious damage to his body and brain. Fans and many members of the media wonder about the psychological toll the Maidana fight might’ve taken on Ortiz, but it’s clear that the young man is physiologically OK. Berto had a hard, fast-paced 12-round fight with Collazo, but luckily for the defending beltholder, he wasn’t in with a hard-punching fighter with a killer mentality.
Corner: Ortiz finished his amateur career and began his pro career under the guidance of respected trainer Robert Garcia. However, he left Garcia and took on the former 130-pound beltholder’s older brother Danny Garcia when he declared bankruptcy in early 2008 in order to split with Top Rank and sign with current promoter Golden Boy Promotions. Danny Garcia makes sure his fighters are in excellent shape and teaches good technique, but he’s not in his younger brother’s class in terms of devising fight strategies or working corners. Tony Morgan, who has trained Berto since the fighter was 12 years old, is in Robert Garcia’s class. The underrated trainer, based in Winter Haven, Fla., has a knack for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Berto’s opponents and making sure his fighter is well prepared to exploit them.
Outcome: Fans can expect fireworks early in this one. Berto will want to test Ortiz’s confidence as soon as possible and will find out that the hard-punching southpaw is ready to rumble when he is rocked by a left uppercut near the end of the first round. Ortiz will attempt to close the show in the second round, and he’ll again have Berto on wobbly legs from a series of left hands, but the defending titleholder will tie the challenger up until his head clears. The two will exchange explosive two- and three-punch combinations until the end of the second round and continue to go at in the third and fourth. Berto will a cause a momentum shift when he hurts Ortiz with a big overhand right in the fifth. Berto will swarm Ortiz in an attempt to stop his wounded foe and it will appear that the powerful Floridian was successful when the challenger takes a knee to escape further punishment. However, Ortiz will beat the count and evade Berto until the end of the round. Berto will hunt a backpedaling Ortiz with a stiff jab and single right hands to the body and head in rounds six through eight but the challenger will get back into the fight with a hard right hook that knocks the undefeated fighter off balance and into the ropes. Once again, the fighter who landed the power punch will attempt to KO his wobbly foe, but Ortiz will find that Berto can adequately fight off the ropes. Ortiz will hurt Berto again in the 10th round, courtesy of a crisp hook-cross combination, and the two will go toe-to-toe to the delight of the Foxwoods crowd. However, the brutal pace of the fight and the constant exchanges will take a toll on Ortiz, who isn’t used to fighting the distance in championship bouts. The fatigued challenger will take his foot off the gas pedal in order to preserve his stamina and Berto will take full advantage of this strategy by intelligently applying pressure in the final two rounds of the bout.
Prediction: Berto by close decision.