Five years after one of the most scintillating scraps of the decade, a now-classic throwdown that radiated the intensity of a barroom brawl sans the airborne beer bottles and arrest reports, Andre Berto is comparing the man he battled in the 2011 Fight of the Year to a certain winged pest.
“I feel like he’s been a gnat that’s been flying around my ear,” Berto says of Victor Ortiz, whom he gave hell in April 2011 while feeling the flames himself. “I just feel like I need to smash this bug that keeps reminding me what happened.”
What happened was sensational, a Shakespearean drama with fists in place of flowery prose and poison sipping Italians, a breathless, back-and-forth firefight that resulted in Ortiz winning a fiercely contested unanimous decision.
Now, at long last, the heavily anticipated rematch between the former 147-pound world champions has been finalized, as Victor Ortiz (31-5-2, 24 KOs) and Andre Berto (30-4, 23 KOs) will meet again on April 30 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California (Fox and Fox Deportes, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
Forget the popcorn, better get your defibrillator ready.
“I know I’m in for another war,” Ortiz says. “I’ve always been open to a rematch because Berto has a big mouth and something to prove. After our fight, he went on a losing streak, because I gave his opponents a blueprint on how to beat him. My losses have been unfortunate, but I wouldn’t want to come up against me at this stage in the game. My name is Victor and that’s no coincidence.”
From the opening bell of their first meeting, Ortiz and Berto went at it if their blood had been transfused with a gallon drum of 5-Hour Energy shots.
Damn near every round was a mini-masterpiece, with seismic shifts in momentum thanks to a combined total of four knockdowns, with each fighter hitting the canvas twice. It was the boxing equivalent of watching a PGA pro on the driving range or a cleanup hitter in the batting cage: With every shot, the idea was to go long, to swing freely, to just plain blast away, defense be damned.
“You see that type of stuff in the Rocky movies, knockdown after knockdown,” Berto says. “It was classic fight stuff, two young guys trying to put it all on the line.”
And that they did, especially in a fight-defining Round 6. Berto floored Ortiz with a minute left in the round and almost had him out on his feet afterward, lunging at him wildly, hurling everything he had at his opponent after Ortiz was able to beat the count. But with only six seconds left in the round, Ortiz made Berto pay for his aggressiveness, catching him with a short left hook that sent him crashing to the canvas, a fittingly violent coda to three minutes of blistering action.
When it was all said and done, Ortiz got the victory, but both fighters won plenty of acclaim for putting on such a thrilling show.
Attempts were made for a rematch in 2012 on a couple of occasions, but the fight never came to fruition.
Since then, Ortiz and Berto have had their ups and downs: After stopping veteran Jan Zaveck in his next fight, Berto lost a pair of action-packed ragers to Robert Guerrero and Jesus Soto Karass. In his most recent outing last September, he was bested by Floyd Mayweather Jr. after winning two straight.
Meanwhile, Ortiz came up short against Mayweather as well, getting knocked out in their 2011 clash, before suffering back-to-back losses against Josesito Lopez and Luis Collazo, both of whom Berto has beaten. Ortiz has since won a pair of fights, most recently an eighth-round TKO of Gilberto Sanchez Leon on December 12.
Now, Ortiz and Berto meet again to add another chapter to their rivalry, although Berto promises a different ending this time around.
“If he’s going to try and be a forceful bull, he’s going to have a lot to deal with,” says Berto, who acknowledges that he overlooked Ortiz the first time around as he was pursuing a fight with Mayweather. “I’m not that same kid who fought him years ago, who came in there half-assed and who shouldn’t have been fighting because I was so high on fighting somebody else, getting a lot of money and not taking things seriously. I’m more experienced now, a lot more seasoned. I’m going to come in and showcase it all.”
In the co-main event, 175-pound bombers Edwin Rodriguez (28-1, 19 KOs) and Thomas Williams Jr. (19-1, 13 KOs) will drop a heavy payload of fists in a scheduled 10-round battle of wills.
"This is a very big fight for the light heavyweight division," Rodriguez says. "Thomas brings it, but so do I. You can expect fireworks from the opening bell as we are both looking to put on a sensational performance. That being said, the light heavyweight championship is right around the corner, and there is nothing that is going to stop me from getting there."
Well, there’s Williams, who’s intent on serving as a human roadblock come April 30.
"I'm thrilled to be fighting on this card," he says. "When they called me about this fight, I said, 'I love it, let's make it happen.' I think that it's going to be a really exciting and fan-friendly matchup. Edwin is a strong fighter who I know is going to be prepared to bring it on fight night, and I'll make sure I'm ready to do the same."
In the televised opener, expect yet another full-on melee when 126-pound brawlers Fernando Montiel (54-5-2, 39 KOs) and Jorge Lara (27-0-2, 19 KOs) put their Mexican warrior heritage to the test in a scheduled 10-round throwdown.
"I promise an exciting night for the fans," says Montiel, a former three-division champ. "I always come to fight and I will be throwing punches nonstop until I'm victorious."
For Lara, a victory over Montiel would represent another rung on the ladder toward the top of the division.
“My dream is to be a world champion, and to do that I have to beat fighters like Montiel,” Lara says. “I respect my opponent, but right now he is on my way and nothing is going to stop me."
For full coverage of Ortiz vs Berto and Rodriguez vs Williams, visit our fight pages.