LOS ANGELES – Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto say they don’t make New Year’s resulotions, but if the two welterweight contenders did it’s clear after a recent press conference for their anticipated rematch that their No. 1 goal for 2012 is to do better in their Feb. 11 showdown than they did in their first bout, a fight-of-the-year candidate for 2011.
Ortiz won the first bout, which took place in April, by hard-fought unanimous decision, despite being a huge underdog to the undefeated WBC titleholder. For six rounds, the HBO-televised bout was as good as boxing gets. The two explosive welterweights engaged in a shootout that resulted in Berto being floored in the first round, Ortiz hitting the deck in the second and then both boxer-punchers trading knockdowns in the unforgettable sixth round.
Ortiz, who surprised many observers by being the stronger, more aggressive fighter down the stretch, outworked Berto over the second half of the fight to win by scores of 115-110, 114-111 and 114-112. Berto boxed well enough in spots during the late rounds to eke out a decision in the eyes of several prominent members of the ringside media, including Dan Rafael, Ron Borges, Tim Smith and Steve Farhood.
However, he took no solace in the press row scorecards. Berto knew he could have fought better and that Ortiz had seized the moment.
“I believe it was a close fight that could’ve gone either way, but I’m my biggest critic and I wasn’t happy with my performance,” Berto told reporters at a press conference for the Showtime-televised rematch at the JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE on Monday. “I didn’t implement my game plan the way I needed to. I wasn’t where I needed to be physically.
“I wasn’t going to complain about the decision because it was a great fight for the fans. It was the kind of fight that made me fall in love with boxing when I was kid. Victor came in and handled his business. It was his night.”
However, Ortiz, who earned a high-profile pay-per-view event against Floyd Mayweather with his WBC-title winning effort, doesn’t think it was his night on April 16.
“I apologized to my team after the fight,” Ortiz said. “I didn’t do my best. I didn’t perform to my ability and I was upset about that. I wanted to end the fight. I should have knocked him out.”
Ortiz, who suffered a fourth-round knockout to Mayweather, will get the opportunity to rebound from his controversial loss in September and get the KO he wants when he meets Berto again at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Berto, who got back to his winning ways with a fifth-round TKO of Jan Zaveck in September, is anxious to put his new strength and nutritional regimen – designed by controversial conditioning guru Victor Conte — to the test against Ortiz.
Conte, who diagnosed the 28-year-old fighter with anemia in August, believed Berto had been overtraining for past fights, which was in part responcible for his problems with fatigue.
As far as Berto is concerned he wouldn’t have lost to Ortiz if he hadn’t faded in the late rounds. Beyond increased stamina, Berto said he will bring a sharper mind to their rematch.
“I have the speed to outbox him and the power to hurt him,” he said. “All I need to do is be 100 percent prepared and be smart.”
Ortiz acknowledged that he won’t be facing the same version of Berto he fought in April.
“Every fight is different,” he said. “I know he’s hungry now, the way I was before our first fight. He’s in a different place than he was.
“But I’m different, too. I was coming up from 140 pounds when we first fought. Now I’m used to being a welterweight. I’ve put on seven pounds of muscle. And I think I’ll have a fair referee this time.
“The referee (Mike Ortega) in the first fight didn’t count my first knockdown in the first round. I really dropped Berto twice in that round, but he had to count the second knockdown.”
Whoever winds up refereeing the rematch is probably going to have to count a lot of knockdowns. With both fighters vowing to do better, the rematch just might be a better fight than the first one.
Showtime outbid HBO for the right to broadcast the Ortiz-Berto rematch with a substancial offer and the subscription cable network, which is part of the CBS Corporation, intends to get as much bang for their buck as possible (in the form of high ratings, of course).
It will do that by promoting the fight across the various Showtime and CBS broadcast platforms, including spots on the CBS network, as though it were a pay-per-view event.
According to Ortiz’s promoter Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, and Stephen Espinoza, the new Exectuvie VP and GM of Showtime Sports, the promotion for Ortiz-Berto II will include a Fight Camp 360 preshow.
Junior middleweight contender Erislandy Lara and undefeated featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. will be on the Ortiz-Berto II undercard, and thanks to a new Showtime policy, fans inside the MGM Grand’s Garden Arena won’t be the only ones who watch the two southpaw talents.
Beginning with the Feb. 11 show, the network will televise undercard bouts that are usually left off the Showtime broadcast on Showtime Extreme, a sister network dedicated to action films and the rebroadcast of Showtime sports events.
The undercard bouts will be broadcast live and will lead into the co-feature and main event bouts that begin at 10:00 p.m. ET on Showtime.
Lara, by the way, is scheduled to face Ronald Hearns. Russell does not have an opponent yet.
Photos by Phil McCarten – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Doug Fischer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dougiefischer