April 28, 2011

Victor Ortiz - Winning!

KO Digest Ringside Report by Jeffrey Freeman
MGM GRAND FOXWOODS, CT ~ On a busy April weekend of casino entertainment that included performances by tough talkers Victor Ortiz and Charlie Sheen, boxing fans who were lucky enough to be in attendance for the vicious version of "winning" saw something very special indeed, perhaps even the Fight of the Year.

Victor Ortiz (now 29-2-2 w/ 22 KO's) more than lived up to his nickname in defeating WBC Welterweight Champion Andre Berto (now 27-1 w/ 21 KO's), his upset victory in effect winning over many of his critics. For Ortiz, it was a fan friendly - breakout performance to be sure, one he needed and one he promised.

Manager Rolando Arellano joked at the post fight press conference, "If anyone wants to know why Victor Ortiz performed the way he did tonight, it's because Charlie Sheen is here and he gave Victor some of his tiger blood!" Performance enhancing blood? That explains it.

Whatever it was, tiger blood or pressure from the boxing world, it turned Victor Ortiz into a combination of a tiger and a man possessed.

Like unsuspecting prey, WBC welterweight Champion Andre Berto never knew what hit him.

Duh, Winning!

Leading up to the fight, WBC Champion Andre Berto stressed the simple importance of winning, "coming up with that win is all that matters" - while Victor Ortiz guaranteed it to anyone who would listen, saying repeatedly - "I will win this fight!", and so it went on April 16th that Victor Ortiz walked the walk of his big talk, live on HBO Championship Boxing where winning in the ring is really all that matters. While Charlie Sheen and Andre Berto merely talked about winning, Victor Ortiz went out and did it. 

In an early Fight of the Year candidate, the new and improved Victor Ortiz beat the previously undefeated Andre Berto to lift the WBC Welterweight title at MGM Grand Foxwoods by unanimous decision. The fight featured multiple knockdowns and thrilling action throughout. Berto was down in the first, Ortiz in the second. The sixth was an instant classic as both fighters went down, first Ortiz from a huge right hand and then it was Berto's turn to crash with only seconds left in the round, courtesy of an Ortiz left hook. It was simply an amazing fight and both fighters were indeed elevated on the strength of their respective performances.

Let's take a Round by Round look at this great fight:

Round 1: A fast paced feeling out round. Berto goes down early from what looked like an Ortiz left hand behind the ear, the referee rules it a slip. A flurry of punches including vicious uppercuts from Ortiz sends Berto slumping into a corner with a minute left in the round. That is no slip. Berto is up quickly though. A crafty Berto avoids serious follow up from Ortiz and even lands a big shot of his own. Good opening round.
~Ortiz round 10-8  (All three official judges score it 10-8 for Ortiz)

Round 2: Berto seems to still be recuperating for the first minute of the second round. Berto is using the whole ring to avoid an aggressive Ortiz. A big right hand clips Ortiz on the chin while moving forward and punching. Ortiz goes down backwards, his glove breaking his fall. That's a knockdown. Ortiz up quickly. Great start to the fight.
~Berto round 10-8  (All three official judges score it 10-8 for Berto)

Round 3: A very aggressive Ortiz swarms Berto. It's a slugfest and they are trading punches. Ortiz literally snarls when he punches and Berto continually invites him to the inside for exchanges that Ortiz gets the better of in this round.
~Ortiz round 10-9 (All three official judges score it 10-9 for Ortiz)

Round 4: "Stay off the ropes!" they are telling Berto between rounds. The fighters trade shots early in the round and against the wishes of his corner, Berto is right back on the ropes where Ortiz is abusing him with a variety of punches. Berto invites him in and Ortiz obliges him by, you guessed it - punching him.
~Ortiz round 10-9 (All three official judges score it 10- for Ortiz)

Round 5: Ortiz is warned between rounds by referee for punching behind head. More boxing from Berto to start the round until Ortiz backs him to the ropes and a similar pattern emerges of Berto inviting Ortiz to hit him. Which he does, often.
~Ortiz round 10-9 (All three official judges score it 10-9 for Ortiz)

Round 6: Berto's corner is urging him to box and stay off the ropes. Berto looks determined to stay off the ropes and hit Ortiz in the middle of the ring which he does with a powerful right hand that sends Ortiz slamming to the canvas. Incredibly he rises at "three", though dazed. Berto swarms a hurt Ortiz and lands a huge right hand. With only seconds left in the round and the referee apparently getting in a position to stop the fight, a right-left-left combo to the head from Ortiz sends Berto tumbling backwards and down! Berto rises very quickly. Early candidate for Round of the Year.
~Even round 10-10 (One official judge scores 10-10, the other two score 10-9 for Berto) 

Round 7: Grueling round with some early holding developing. Berto lands a huge right hand that Ortiz walks through as they trade power shots. Berto having a good round and he does just enough to win it by staying off the ropes and avoiding Ortiz's fight.
~Berto round 10-9 (All three official judges score it 10-9 for Ortiz)

Round 8: Berto is using his boxing skills to outwork Ortiz. Both fighters seem a bit tired. Ortiz is warned again by the referee for hitting behind the head.
~Berto round 10-9 (All three official judges score it 10-9 for Berto)

Round 9: "Be ballsy!" they tell Ortiz between rounds. Pace is slowing down despite some fairly even exchanges. Ortiz warned once again for a shot behind Berto's head. Berto wins the round by controlling the tempo of the round and fighting his fight.
~Berto round 10-9 (Two official judges score 10-9 for Ortiz, one judge scores 10-9 for Berto)

Round 10: "All you have to do is box, it's so simple", they implore Berto between rounds. Another shot behind the head costs Ortiz a point and it's more from Berto selling it than Ortiz doing it flagrantly. Despite the best efforts of Berto to box as instructed, Ortiz takes the round on effective aggression though he loses a point for punching behind the head.
~Ortiz round 10-9 (-1 from Ortiz) (All three official judges score it 10-9 for Ortiz and remove one point from Ortiz for a foul)

Round 11: An aggressive Ortiz gets a tired Berto back where he wants him with Berto's back to the ropes and he punches away with fury like earlier in the fight. Uppercuts are landing through the guard of Berto as Berto again beckons Ortiz in. When Berto tries to box, Ortiz either outboxes him or out punches him. Showcase round for Ortiz. 
~Ortiz round 10-9 (All three official judges score it 10-9 for Ortiz)

Round 12: They are telling Ortiz in his corner that he is far ahead on the cards going into 12th round, by as many as five points. Berto is being told he needs a knockout to win. The fighters actually embrace to start the final round. Berto is getting in some potshots against Ortiz, who seems to fight the last round like he thinks he has the fight won but does not want to be accused of taking the last round off, which he more or less does, giving the round to Berto.
~Berto round 10-9 (Two judges score 10-9 for Berto, one scored 10-9 Ortiz) 

KO Digest final score of the fight was 113-113, a Draw. Without the point deduction, Ortiz wins 114-113. On paper, it was a closer fight than it looked in the ring. Official Scores were 115-110, 114-112, 114-111, unanimous in favor of Ortiz. Several reporters at ringside had it even closer. One particularly well known scribe even had Berto winning by a point. 

As noted, KO Digest scored the fight a draw live at ringside and scored it a draw when watching it again the next day on HBO. After the fight, we specifically asked Ortiz about the scores and whether or not he was certain of a victory after the final bell. Apparently he was, saying, "I was certain of the victory, I didn't know the scores. But in my mind and my heart a fighter always knows if he won or lost or if it was close. I didn't see it as close and I knew I had pulled off a victory."

The defeated Berto said surprisingly little to HBO's Larry Merchant after the fight, "that wasn't me in there - nothing was falling in place, I couldn't let my hands move. He was just the better man tonight." Grim reality. By contrast, the new WBC Welterweight Champion Victor Ortiz was all smiles at the post fight press conference following his impressive victory.

And the NEW!
The new WBC Welterweight Champion was also very gracious and very respectful, even allowing fans and media to handle and pose with his new WBC Welterweight title - "Here we are with the green belt!" - beamed an ecstatic Ortiz, clearly proud of what he had just accomplished in the ring.  Marcos Maidana? "Maidana doesn't have anything on me. I honestly believe Morales beat Maidana and Morales is past his prime. People say I gave up in that fight. I didn't give up. They stopped it on my behalf."

On this night, both in the ring and in his demeanor, Victor Ortiz presented himself to the world as a man in the midst of his own redemption.

"Berto hits hard, but my head is like a rock. Nothing but respect to Andre Berto."