Fight Preview: Andre Berto v. Victor Ortiz

Saturday night might be the last good chance for Victor Ortiz to break out as a star. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Tell it, Donna:

Hopefully, Victor Ortiz is listening. Saturday night might be the last chance for the bubble-burst former prospect to become the true star that Golden Boy Promotions has been hyping for years, that HBO bought into, the fighter he was supposed to be before he met the right hand of Marcos Maidana in 2009.

Since that fateful night at the Staples Center, Ortiz has gone 4-0-1, but has not been impressive. His wins over three shot fighters (Nate Campbell, Antonio Diaz and Vivian Harris) and one who was never any good (Hector Alatorre) were fights he would have won pre-Maidana. His draw with Lamont Peterson was another disappointment in December.

Now he moves up to 147 pounds, hilariously spouting that he's being run from at 140, which Kevin Iole wrote about this week in a tremendous article at Yahoo! Sports:

It probably comes as news to Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander, Erik Morales and Lucas Matthyse, among others, that they were ducking Ortiz.

Ortiz’s promoter, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions, conceded that there were no talks for an Ortiz fight with any of those guys.

"We matched him appropriately with the fights we thought were the right fights at the time (following the loss to Maidana)," Schaefer said.

...

Yet, he blasted Maidana, who got off the canvas three times in their 2009 fight to win, for not agreeing to a rematch.

"He’s running left and right, dodging me," Ortiz said. "He sees me in his nightmares. When he gets the courage and comes out of the closet, he can meet me at 147."

The one thing that Maidana does not lack is courage. It’s laughable that Ortiz, the guy that Maidana made quit, would have the unmitigated gall to make such an outrageous statement.

I'll be really honest, as I try to be about Victor Ortiz. I didn't like him when he was happy-go-lucky smilin' Victor, and I don't like this new tough guy Victor, either. As a boxing fan, I don't like Ortiz. To me he is the epitome of a mentally soft, overhyped fighter who will never live up to his billing because he just doesn't have it in him. It's not talent; it's something bigger.

But does he have a shot on Saturday? Yes, he does. He'll always have a shot.

Ortiz (28-2-2, 22 KO) can fight. I don't question that. He's a southpaw with power in both hands who can box and brawl. He's got decent speed of hand and when he tries to be, is a pretty sound fighter in most respects.

But Ortiz's image is what winds up carrying my views of him, because so far he's been about 90% image, 10% results. And frankly, you could say just about the same for his opponent, Andre Berto (27-0, 21 KO), one of the weakest so-called "champions" in the sport; and like Ortiz, I don't criticize because I don't think Berto can fight. I think he can. But his title was hollow when he won it and the only time it felt legitimate was after he fended off Luis Collazo in January 2009.

Credit where it's due and all that. Berto was signed up to fight Shane Mosley before the terrible earthquake in Haiti canceled that January 2010 date, and Mosley moved on to sign a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., an instance of tragedy intervening and potentially robbing Berto of a career-making win. Imagine, if you will, had Berto used his youth, speed and power to defeat a Shane Mosley whose last fight was his demolition of Antonio Margarito. By now, maybe Berto would have landed a date with Mayweather or Pacquiao. And we wouldn't have had Mayweather-Mosley, or even this upcoming Pacquiao-Mosley fight.

As for Ortiz, it's tougher to find much credit. He's been matched soft since the Maidana loss, which was supposed to be a coming-out party for him. The fact that it didn't turn out that way has turned Maidana into a headline fighter, while Ortiz has stagnated on Golden Boy undercards, living off the HBO teat as everyone tries to salvage some return on their investment. Berto, too, has been overpaid and arguably overhyped. But he's won. Ortiz buckled in infamous fashion, mentally quitting and memorably wondering aloud if he wanted to be "beat up like that" anymore.

But the past is the past. So what do we have Saturday? We have Ortiz moving up in weight, to the division where he probably belongs in the first place, taking on Berto. Both fighters need a good performance. Berto needs one to put himself in better position for a potential megafight in the next year or so. He wasn't really in the Pacquiao discussion last time out, but his name was included. That's a step.

Ortiz still doesn't have that win that has legitimized him. Criticize Berto for plenty, but the one time he got tested against a good fighter, he came out in the 12th round of a fight that was up in the air and took it for himself. Ortiz hasn't had even that moment yet. And though he's still only 24, fact is, he seems and feels older, and that counts for just as much in the short-term.

Ortiz could lose this fight, find himself later, and have a great career. Berto could lose this fight and still have a great career. But if Ortiz loses, I don't think he ever really pans out. If Berto loses, he potentially leaves a lot of money on the table. This is a huge fight for these two, if not a "huge fight" at the gate or on TV.

Physically, I think Berto has a big speed advantage. And I also think that he's the craftier fighter. To be quite honest, Berto isn't afraid of a good bearhug if he feels he needs one. It's not entertaining, but it can be effective in quelling momentum, and Ortiz is going to need to gather some momentum to win this fight. I think they're about equal in power, but Ortiz might be the better pure puncher.

I also think this could be a very good fight, a very entertaining fight. Neither are great defensively (to say the least), and both like to mix it up. If Ortiz is out there with a tough guy chip on his shoulder, he might look to turn this into a brawl to prove something about himself. He has to know that his reputation has been damaged in the last two years. As for Berto, I think given the speed advantage, he'd welcome some trades. Chances are he lands before Ortiz can, and we know Ortiz can be hurt.

My gut is telling me Ortiz has a legit chance here, but I just don't see him winning. Not after reviewing his performances since the Maidana loss; there's been nothing special about him, and it seems to come from a loss in swagger. He's not the confident fighter he used to be, no matter what he says in interviews. Pick: Andre Berto UD-12

On the Undercard

This is a terrible undercard, to be honest. The most "significant" fight is between Deandre Latimore, the St. Louis fighter who once was a top contender at 154 for about as long as a fart lasts in a whirlwind, against Dennis Sharpe. Latimore (21-3, 17 KO) beat Sechew Powell on Friday Night Fights in 2008, then lost to Cory Spinks his next time out in a fight that saw the St. Louis crowd turn from Latimore's side back to the old pro's, and since then has lost to Powell in a rematch and won a couple of easy fights. Sharpe (17-6-3, 4 KO) has gone 0-6-2 in his last eight and hasn't won a fight since 2004.

Elsewhere, you have some prospects in action, including 21-year-old Puerto Rican Thomas Dulorme (10-0, 9 KO) taking on veteran Harrison Cuello (20-15-3, 15 KO) at welterweight.

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