Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto believe another “classic slugfest” is on the horizon when they finally lock horns in a highly anticipated rematch set for June 23 at Los Angeles’ Staples Center.
Named the 2011 “Fight of the Year” by American fight scribes, the rematch is now over a year in the making after a March date was cancelled due to a Berto bicep injury. Both men suffered two knockdowns apiece with Ortiz emerging with the unanimous decision victory and the WBC welterweight title.
After subsequently losing that belt in his next fight with Floyd Mayweather last September, Ortiz sees this rematch as another opportunity to silence persistent questions about his mental focus.
“I’m counted out 100 percent of the time, but that’s my comfort zone,” said Ortiz yesterday the fight’s Los Angeles press conference. “He’s a great fighter, but I’m here to win. It doesn’t matter that this is in my backyard. As long as there is a ring and gloves, I’m comfortable. I always fight with my back against the wall. I like being counted out. It makes me hungry.”
The good will Ortiz garnered from the Berto win was quickly erased in the aftermath of the Mayweather defeat. After falling down early, Ortiz resorted to roughhousing and blatantly headbutted Mayweather in the fourth round. Ortiz apologized profusely for several minutes and was promptly KO’d with a right hand, the result of not protecting himself and still offering conciliatory gestures once the referee resumed action.
Ortiz cautioned Berto against using that mental collapse as any indication of what to expect in their rematch.
“I told him I’m going to beat you again and he told me I got lucky,” detailed Ortiz. “He tried to bring Floyd in, but I told him to keep this between me and him. Floyd doesn’t have anything to do with us. I beat him (Berto) last time and I’ll beat him again.”
The Staples Center has hosted its share of memorable fights such as Shane Mosley’s victories over Oscar De La Hoya (2000) and Antonio Margarito (2009). Berto spent much of last year pushing for this fight, believing it was not only the most lucrative option for both parties, but also the most fan friendly, action packed bout that could be made in the welterweight division.
“I didn’t have to take this fight. I vacated the title to make this happen again,” said Berto, who dropped the IBF title he won last September from Jan Zaveck. “This fight is for the fans. The last one was tremendous and this one is going to be even better. We’re doing it in Kobe’s (Bryant) house, so come out for a great fight. I know all the stars will come out for it.”
After surviving a hard first round knockdown, Berto stormed back to floor Ortiz in rounds two and six. In the latter round, Berto was within one major punch of ending it until a Ortiz haymaker scored the fight’s fourth and final knockdown. Ortiz would use that momentum to dominate the remaining rounds.
“I just need to be smarter and there are a few things I’ll do differently this time,” Berto acknowledged. “I came back from the Ortiz fight hungry, got a world title and gave it up to beat Ortiz. This is the most important fight of my career.”
Showtime has confirmed three episodes of Fight Camp 360 will precede the bout’s June 23 date. The co-main event will feature Humberto Soto facing Lucas Matthysse.