HBO WCB - April 16, 2011

Andre Berto vs. Victor Ortiz


Vicious Victorious

Apr 16, 2011

In the locker room after defeating Andre Berto for the WBC title, Victor Ortiz's manager Rolando Arellano informed his fighter, draped in his new green belt, "Victor, this belt goes back to Andre. It is symbolic. Yours will get made and will arrive in a few weeks."

Ortiz (29-2-2) stopped smiling for the second time since he put on the belt in the ring of the MGM Theater in Mashantucket, CT.

"That's bullshit. I was going to sleep with this belt tonight," said Ortiz after a thrilling unanimous decision win (115-110, 114-112, and 114-111) that included four knockdowns split between the boxer-punchers.

After some haggling with a WBC representative, it was agreed Ortiz could hold onto the belt for the night.

The first time Ortiz stopped smiling in the locker room it was to cry, as he embraced his foster mother and father, who had arrived from Garden City, Kansas, to see their son fight as a professional for the first time. Ortiz, who spent parts of his childhood homeless and eventually adopted his own brother to get him out of foster homes, announced to the room of friends and coaches through his tears, "These two are my mother and father. They raised me." Ortiz's mother, Sharon Ford, then said, "We always told Victor that when he fought for a world title we would be there. Here we are."

Ortiz had been a 4-1 underdog, and ever polite he told the collected media at his press conference, "I want to apologize if I ruined anyone's plans." (Berto was taken to the hospital and could not attend the conference.)

"I want to apologize if I ruined anyone's plans." - Victor Ortiz

To the contrary of Ortiz's apology, the plans of one man be more firm now: Floyd Mayweather, on an 11-month layoff from the ring, was in attendance to chants of "Fight Manny! Fight Manny!" from the 2,491 crowd. Mayweather likely will not fight Pacquiao anytime soon and may have only attended to support Berto whom Mayweather's manager Al Haymon also represents, but Mayweather may also have been watching with an eye toward the Mexican-American. Ortiz seems ready for the challenge, saying, "I want to shoot for the big names," which in boxing today can only mean two: Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, who had called Ortiz before the fight to wish him good luck. (There was no rematch clause in the Berto-Ortiz contract, but a rematch would be worth watching, too.)

For any in the press who doubted Ortiz's heart and chin after having been perceived to have quit in a loss against Marcos Maidana in 2009 that included five knockdowns between them (and Ortiz fought with a broken wrist), the new champion answered both questions: his chin may drop him to the canvas at times, but his heart lifts him back up with only greater resolve.

Berto-Ortiz proved another fight of the year candidate, one week after Marcos Madiana defeated Erik Morales in an epic war.

A continent away at the Manchester M.E.N. Arena, Amir Khan successfully defended his title against southpaw Paul McCloskey, but unsuccessfully demonstrated his dominance of the junior welterweight division. Certainly, unified champion Timothy Bradley did not see much to fear from the Briton, with whom he is expected to have a showdown sometime in July.

Khan landed precisely twice the punches (88 to 44) until an accidental head butt in the six round cut McCloskey's eye slightly, leading the ring doctor to put a stop to the fight. The cut did not appear threatening to the awkward McCloskey's continuing, but as HBO commentator Larry Merchant said of the stoppage, "Khan was fighting an amoeba, and the referee may have put a halt to the fight because he no longer wished to watch it."

McCloskey was furious with the decision, saying, "I've been waiting for this fight my whole life and it has been taken away from me by a doctor. My corner were not even given a chance to work on it. I'm shocked and I am numb. It's ridiculous."

Khan said of the lackluster win, "I wanted to knock him out to be honest. He was getting beat, his head was getting lower and lower and that was always going to happen. I am not the doctor but had it gone on another two rounds I would have knocked him out." Khan looked surprisingly amateurish at times, stepping over with his right foot after firing his right hand and letting McCloskey move him to the right. His trainer, Freddie Roach, had predicted a first round knockout. Instead, Khan appeared the undeveloped fighter who arrived at Roach's Wild Card Gym three years ago en route to masterful victories over Andriy Kotelnik, Paulie Malignaggi, and Marcos Maidana (until Khan was hurt in the 10th round).

Roach's better prediction had been for the fight across the Atlantic, where he picked Ortiz. For Ortiz's next bout, Roach may no longer be in the minority to favor the welterweight division's newest champion.

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