It’s “Repeat or Revenge” for Berto and Ortiz
By Gabriel Montoya, MaxBoxing (Dec 20, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Phil McCarten /, Golden Boy Promotions)
Victor Ortiz (R) - Andre Berto (L)
2012 is already looking up for boxing. In January, Golden Boy Promotions will kick off the year with Erik Morales vs. Danny Garcia and James Kirkland vs. Carlos Molina in what surely will be an action card. Then February 11, Golden Boy goes big on Showtime with the rematch of this year’s “Fight of the Year” candidate as Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto take their act to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for a highly anticipated rematch of their April war. On Monday, the two met along with Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, representatives of Berto’s promotional team, the Haymon group and DiBella Entertainment, as well as the new President of Showtime Boxing, Stephen Espinoza, at a press conference held in L.A., announcing the fight.
Unlike the first fight, for Berto’s WBC welterweight strap, this fight will be a non-title, 12-round, special welterweight attraction. Make no mistake; there is something much more important at stake for these two men than a mere belt.
The first time these two met, Berto was six defenses deep of his title. Ortiz was thought to be damaged goods at junior welter by some boxing critics after losing to Marcos Maidana. A promising fighter with all the talent in the world, Ortiz struggled against Lamont Peterson the previous December after dropping him twice early. The fight ended as a draw and Ortiz was thought to be not quite what some had hoped.
Four months later, Ortiz would prove the doubters wrong and, unfair as it seems, prove Berto’s critics right by moving to 147 pounds and virtually ripping the belt from Berto’s grasp. The fight went all 12 with both fighters hitting the canvas twice but it was Ortiz who had control for much of the fight. In the end, Ortiz got the decision win, giving Berto his first loss.
The loss raised questions about Berto and he went looking for answers. He found them in the Bay Area with nutritionist and sports medicine guru Victor Conte, famous for being a central figure in the BALCO scandal, now dedicating his life to weeding out performance-enhancing drug cheats. When he isn’t doing that, Conte has been helping fighters like Nonito Donaire physically get to the next level through natural means. The education fighters get about their bodies from Conte and his associates is invaluable. For Berto, they were life-changing.
“Berto was just out of it [in the first fight], said Berto’s trainer, Tony Morgan, who was all for working with Conte and travels with Berto to the Bay Area to train at the Undisputed Gym. “He tried to come in light. He was completely deficient. We found out after that, he was anemic but no excuses. Victor [Ortiz] fought his butt off. I’m not making excuses. I’m just saying Berto wasn’t 100 percent. This time, we’ll be 100 percent and we’ll see the true outcome. I think we knock him out. I just hope for a good fight.”
Berto learned he was not only overtrained but indeed anemic. His body simply was not being fueled by the proper nutrients and so he began learning and rebuilding processes that have since netted him an IBF welterweight belt in September. In order make this more lucrative fight instead, Berto has to pass on his mandatory defense, vacating his belt. Now, he wants his revenge.
“This is a tremendous opportunity. I’m ready to get it on. I’ve had to improve my game. I’ve had a hard, tough, training camp and just have to stay focused and get the job done,” Berto said simply and humbly. “I’m hungrier than ever. I predict a win.”
While Berto has had a period of self-discovery, Ortiz has been taking lumps and learning as well. Following his big win, Ortiz was deemed ready for a shot at Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s elite standing in the sport. Four rounds, a blatant headbutt and a left hook/right hand combo from Hell later and Ortiz found himself curled up in a ball on his back, wondering what just happened. Mayweather’s “legal sucker punch” will be debated forever. The effects of the devastating loss of Ortiz remain to be seen.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” said Ortiz of the Floyd fight. “It was a learning experience at its best. In the ring, I didn’t show any hurt, any kind of pain. Back in the locker room, my coaches were there to witness it. I cried like a baby. I cried for easily two, three hours. Got back to my room, I cried more. Why? I was supposed to be against one of the best fighters of all time which, to my eyes, I strongly disagree. If I disagreed, then I super-disagree now. It was one of things where you don’t take a belt from someone like that. That is my opinion. End of the day, it’s a shame.”  
Now the two men are looking to get back to where they once were but with the knowledge of battles lost and opportunities missed. For Ortiz, the work is just beginning. The fallout from the Mayweather fight was negative but Ortiz appears to be using that as fuel.
“It is the same now. I am being counted out once again,” said Ortiz of his mental state going into this fight as opposed to the first. “Once again, counted out. Once again, not the best. Once again, too nice. Once again, it’s always everything about ‘once again.’ I will show you February 11 why Andre Berto is where he is at and why I put him there. I don’t need to say any more than that.”
Ortiz told me he didn’t feel any sort of advantage because he won the first fight.
“There’s definitely not. Every fight is different. New fight, new game plan,” Ortiz said. “Whatever the coaches have in store for me, I am open for it and ready. I know he is hungry. He is hungry to get what he wants from me.”
While Berto seemed relaxed and ready to get revenge, Ortiz was quiet and polite, without a hint of bravado and open that he felt the first fight was not quite up to his personal standards despite winning.
“The first fight, I wasn’t necessarily happy. I was satisfied that I captured the title. That was it but I apologized to my team in the locker room [for not performing] my best,” said Ortiz. “[That night] was good enough to beat Berto but if I got blamed for steroid usage [at 50% of myself], I will show you February 11 I am not playing anymore. And If I may add, I was a 140-pounder. I am 147 now. I put on like a good seven pounds of muscle. I’m ready.”
From the looks of the staredown where both men, who had been respectful to that point, began to jaw quietly to each other, you can tell this one will pick up right where it left off.
As Ortiz’s manager, Rolando Arellano said, “This one will end early.”
Beyond an excellent match-up, this card will be important for a few reasons. For one, this will mark a new era at Showtime Boxing. This is the first fight purchased under Espinoza, who outbid HBO for the fight. It signals that Showtime wishes to be a player in the sport at the level HBO has enjoyed for years. In addition to the fight, Showtime Extreme will be televising what is normally the untelevised undercard. With the main event being a tripleheader featuring Erislandy Lara and Gary Russell Jr. in support, fight fans could be treated to as many as eight televised fights on February 11.
“I’m very excited and proud to have this as my first official press conference,” said Espinoza, who did in fact appear excited. “I’m more excited and more proud that this is the first fight that I acquired in my position as Executive Vice President [and General Manager] of Showtime Sports and Event Programming. This fight is the most compelling, most exciting, most highly anticipated fight available. That’s why it was my number one priority from the very first minute I accepted the position with Showtime…to make sure that this fight appeared on Showtime.”
Along with a “Fight Camp 360” series documenting the fighters as they go through training camp, this promotion, to hear Richard Schaefer tell it, will be treated like a pay-per-view. Only the fights will be on regular cable. None of this is bad for boxing.
“We’ve wanted to do this for a while,” said Schaefer. “When Stephen became the new President over at Showtime, I immediately started having conversations about that. I think it is something that is good for the fighter, good for the promoter but it’s great for the network. Because what you do now, you start creating a connection with your audience and the fighters very early on. Instead of having to wait to see a fighter for the first time and he is 20-0, you came follow that fighter in his career as he moves from Showtime Extreme to Showtime. That will ultimately help with the ratings down the line.”
A historic reason this fight is important is that the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) headed by Dr. Margaret Goodman, will be administering testing for the very time in this fight. As of Monday, both teams had still to finish their paperwork to sign up but that was a mere formality. VADA, which will use new, more advanced techniques and philosophies such as Carbon Isotope Ratio testing (for detecting synthetic testosterone) and the 50% hematocrit rule (which is used to detect blood doping such as EPO use), will be pushing the envelope not only in terms of testing but cost. As VADA is funded through sponsorship, there is no cost to the promotion or the fighters. It’s all taken care of. All the fighters have to do is agree to be tested during the agreed upon window of time. It is a first step toward full, year-round testing which, from what I understand, VADA would be in favor of. However, it’s also the dawn of a new awareness and transparency for athletes and fans of the sport.
“It’s going to be good,” said Berto. “It’s an amazing new process. At the same time, it’s cost effective, so it’s going to be a situation that a lot of fighters will want to be a part of.”
For Schaefer, who has supported more extensive testing in the past, it’s an opportunity to not just support clean athletes but add to a card that will hopefully move boxing forward.
“You have VADA doing the testing which is a first. Both fighters wanted it,” said Schaefer. “You have a fight promoted on CBS; you have the non-televised portion televised. You have a ‘Fight of the Year.’ Often, ‘Fight of the Year’ rematches are pay-per-view but this is not pay-per-view. There is a lot of excitement with this card, which shows, if you sum it all up, it really shows you that Showtime is serious.”
Sounds good to me.
The Golden Future
Schaefer also spoke on the future of Golden Boy Promotions’ rising star, James Kirkland.   
“James wants big fights and he is ready for everyone,” said Schaefer. “So maybe one fight, which would be a big fight, would be him and Paul Williams. Coming into 2012, we want to do exciting fights where you know, going in, it can only be a great fight. This fight is impossible to be a boring fight. So we want to showcase guys like [Saul] ‘Canelo’ [Alvarez], James Kirkland, Robert Guerrero, Amir Khan, Alfredo Angulo. Who cares if he won or lost? We want to see him again. That is exactly what they do in UFC. It doesn’t really matter if you win or lose. If you are an exciting guy, then people want to see you again.”
As evidence that Golden Boy is a company all about the excitement, Schaefer pointed to the fact that five of the seven most exciting fights this coming year broadcast by HBO are Golden Boy fights.
I’ll leave fight fans to judge if he is right.
A Point of Order
Last week, the California State Athletic Commission overturned the TKO decision in the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson fight to a no-contest. The hearing, held in Southern California, was the last order of business for Espinoza (who was Golden Boy’s lead counsel before accepting his new job) with his old company. While some reports had him overseeing the hearing, Espinoza both acknowledged how awkward that would have been professionally but also explained his presence at the hearing.
“It was my final duty for Golden Boy,” Espinoza told Maxboxing on Monday. “Ethically, I’ve got an obligation to Golden Boy, whether it’s as a lawyer or any other client not to do something that harms the client. I recognize that with my job with Showtime, because I took the job on two weeks’ notice, which is really strange for an attorney- usually you have a longer period of time- I told both sides that there was going to be some sort of crossover [in terms of time]. So the hearing was one of those things because it was a little weird for everyone. I didn’t speak at the hearing. Hopkins’ attorney, Eric Melzer, actually handled everything. Why I was concerned was that having filed the protest when I had no idea I would be leaving Golden Boy, that if [Melzer] got up and said and [introduced himself as the attorney for Hopkins] that [the CSAC] would say, ‘Wait and minute. No, no, no. You didn’t file the complaint. You have nothing to say here.’ The appeal was actually filed by me on behalf of Golden Boy Promotions for the benefit of Hopkins. So I was concerned. I wasn’t going to skip it altogether in case they stopped [Melzer] and asked [for me, being the person who filed the complaint].”
While Espinoza did not present the case for Hopkins, he did have one job at the hearing.
“The reality was- and we were joking after- was all I did was run the projector,” laughed Espinoza, who now runs one of the largest projectors in the world in Showtime’s boxing department. “I sort of cued up the fight footage but I literally didn’t speak during the entire hearing. I thought it was more important for Bernard’s interest. Golden Boy doesn’t really have as much of a stake in it. It’s really Bernard. I didn’t want to compromise his interests by not at least showing up.” 

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You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

* Special Thanks To MaxBoxing.

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