MASHANTUCKET, Conn. –- This time Victor Ortiz lived up to his nickname. “Vicious Victor” has a nice alliterative ring to it, though far too often in his ring career the 24 year-old Kansan seemed anything but vicious. Saturday night at Foxwoods Casino in the Connecticut woods, though, Ortiz turned in a career-best performance, taking the fight to Andre Berto in a sensational 12-round war that saw both combatants go down twice apiece in the first six rounds, and handed Berto his first career defeat in capturing a unanimous decision to win the WBC welterweight title.
Ortiz’ strategy was apparent from the opening bell, as he aggressively swarmed over Berto, forcing an inside game that deprived the champion of his strategic advantages. Ortiz’ relentless attack saw Berto hit the deck early, and while referee Mike Ortiz ruled it a slip – Berto, as he would for much of the evening, complained that he had been hit behind the head – Berto seemed somewhat unsteady when action resumed, and sensing this, Ortiz tore into him with a fury. Before the round was out, he had pummeled Berto to the canvas with a pair of clubbing right hooks. Discombobulated, Berto covered up but didn’t try to clinch as he survived the round.
Ortiz resumed his attack in the second, and seemed to have Berto on the run until Berto surprised him with a good counter right that sent Ortiz spinning backward. His right glove barely grazed the canvas, and as knockdowns go, it wasn’t much of one, but it sufficed to level the issue on the scorecards.
Ortiz pressed the attack over the next three rounds, with Berto apparently determined to throw up some version of the rope-a-dope in return. While he managed to block many of Ortiz’ punches, some of them got through, and Berto tried his best to occasionally counter, it was clear that the fight was being waged on Vicious Victor’s terms.
Then in the sixth round, with Ortiz once again pressing forward, Berto stunned him with a picture-perfect counter right. Ortiz went down so hard and so quickly that it seemed he might not even get up again, but get up he did. Berto, trying to follow up on his advantage, desperately chased the wounded Ortiz to the ropes in a race against time, hoping to knock him out before the bell could end the round, and was throwing punches from every angle when Ortiz stunningly interrupted the attack by sticking out his left hand and dropping Berto in his tracks.
After such a spectacular first half, there’s no way the pace could have continued for six more rounds, and it didn’t, but Ortiz remained the aggressor. Vicious Victor was not, let it be noted, exactly paying strict attention to the dictums of the Marquess of Queensbury. His punches strayed to the back of Berto’s head far too often to seem accidental, and when Berto tried to hold him, Ortiz buried the top of his faux-hawk in his face as if to administer a noogie.
The tactics clearly frustrated Berto, who spent far more time complaining to Ortega than he did mounting a significant offense of his own, and even when Berto was winning rounds as the bout turned toward home, he seemed increasingly fatigued.
By the tenth Berto’s complaints finally paid dividends. When Ortiz followed a rabbit punch with another blow that clearly struck Berto on the back of the head, the referee stopped the action and deducted a point from the challenger – and for good measure, gave the winded Berto additional time to recover from the infraction.
While Berto seemed to have battled his way back into the contest, in the end it was a matter of too little, too late. Ortiz prevailed on the scorecards of all three ringside judges. Dr. Clark Sammartino had it a whopping 115-110, Julie Lederman 114-111, and Glen Feldman 114-112. Most ringside scribes had it much closer than that, and a sizeable proportion of press row narrowly favored Berto. (The Sweet Science card had Ortiz winning, but by a slim 113-112 score.)
In keeping with his remade image, Ortiz, a native Kansan, knew better than to wear his usual Jayhawk-embossed trunks into UConn turf, and instead wore trunks decorated with the Mexican and American flags. (He also wore a sombrero for his ring entrance.)
Ortiz mettle had been questioned by some after his loss to Marcos Maidana two years ago, but, said Berto promoter Lou DiBella, “I thought he was out in the sixth round. Gone. I don’t think anyone can question his balls after that.
“If this fight doesn’t warrant a rematch,” added DiBella, “no fight ever deserved a rematch.”
Asked if the win – and the title – had atoned for the Maidana loss (the other blemish on his record was a five-year old DQ occasioned when the teenaged Ortiz knocked out opponent Corey Alarcon after the referee had broken the fighters), Ortiz replied, “Absolutely not. Maidana was never in my class. I never gave him any respect – especially after he wouldn’t give me a rematch.
Ortiz raised his record to 29-2-1 in wresting the title, which Berto had won three years earlier and maintained through five defenses.
Berto dropped to 27-1 with the loss, had his right thumb examined after the loss, and said, “I just didn’t feel it tonight. I just couldn’t get off.”
Of course Victor Ortiz had more than a little to do with that.
The co-feature between unbeaten welterweight Thomas Dulorme and veteran Harrison Cuello was both brief and frightening. Dulorme (11-0) who had switched to southpaw, knocked Cuello (20-16-3) cold with a devastating straight left at 1:27 of the first. Cuello had protested earlier when referee Johnny Callas administered a count after what Harrison maintained was a slip, but there was to be no arguing with this one. The blow landed with such force that it even sounded like a gunshot, and there wasn’t a soul in the building who didn’t realize Cuello was out before he even hit the deck.
Callas immediately waved it off, and the ringside physician, Dr. Michael Schwartz, raced into the ring. Cuello remained unconscious for a couple of minutes, and a stretcher was summoned. He eventually made it to his feet and left the ring under his own steam, but was transported to Backus Memorial Hospital in nearby Norwich, where he was held for observation.
Former world title challenger Deandre Latimore prevailed in a one-sided decision over New Jersey veteran Dennis Sharpe in their eight-round prelim. Latimore (22-3), who lost a split decision to Corey Spinks in an IBF junior middleweight title fight in their hometown of St. Louis two years ago, was able to hit Sharpe with virtually everything he threw, while Sharpe, though game, was so busy catching he barely had time to throw much in Latimore’s direction.
The loss extended Sharpe’s winless streak to nine in a row. The Bayonne journeyman is now 17-7-3 after beginning his career 17-0-1, but the loss to Latimore marked the first time he had lost to a fighter who wasn’t undefeated at the time. (The authors of Sharpe’s previous defeats were an aggregate 76-0 at the time he fought them.) All three judges – Lederman, Steve Weisfeld, and Sammartino – scored it an 80-72 shutout.
New York schoolteacher Sonya Lamonakis won a unanimous decision over GiGi Jackson of Columbus, Ohio, in a four-round matchup of super-sized female heavyweights. While giving away more than sixty pounds to her corpulent, 285-pound opponent, Lamonakis was predictably the quicker of the two and consistently outlanded Jackson, now 2-2. Weisfeld (40-36) gave Lamonakis (now 5-0) every round, while Feldman and Sammartino both scored it 39-36. Jackson’s record dropped to 2-2.
Southpaw Joseph Elegele, a sometime Berto sparring partner from the champion’s hometown of Winter Haven, Fla., remained unbeaten at 12-0 when he registered his 11th knockout, a second-round KO of Indiana journeyman Angel Hernandez (14-0). Elegele, who had dropped Hernandez in the first round, caught him with a solid left to the body late in the second, and Hernandez took Callas’ count on his knees at 2:54 of the second.
New Haven featherweight Luis Rosa (6-0) subjected his Dominican opponent Joselitz Cepeda (4-2) to a nonstop body attack from the opening bell of their scheduled six-rounder, and while Cepeda did his best to return fire, the accumulation of blows to the midsection eventually took its toll. Cepeda went down early in the fifth, and while he got up from that one, Rosa chased him across the ring and put him down again with a hard right to the ribs. Once it became apparent that Cepeda had no interest in regaining his feet, referee Dick Flaherty abandoned his count at 1:12 of the round and awarded Rosa the TKO.
In the opening bout of the evening, Detroit super-middleweight J’Leon Love stretched his unbeaten skein to 6-0 with a second-round TKO of his overmatched Guyanan opponent J.C. Peterson (1-11). Love put up little resistance in the first round, when Peterson backed straight into the ropes and invited him take target practice. In the second Love trapped Peterson against the ropes again, this time somewhat less voluntarily, and had successfully landed such a barrage of unimpeded blows that Flaherty appeared on the verge of intervening when Love toppled his foe with a right hand. The referee waved it off at 2:13 of the round.
* * *
Foxwoods Resort Casino
April 16, 2011
WELTERWEIGHTS: Victor Ortiz, 146, Garden City, Kansas dec. Andre Berto, 145 ½, Winter Haven, Fla. (12) (Wins WBC title)
Joseph Elegle, 144 ½, Winter Haven, Fla. KO’d Angel Hernandez, 147, Gary, Ind. (2)
Thomas Dulorme 144 1/4, Carolina, Puerto Rico KO’d Harrison Cuello, 143 ¾, Santo Domingo, D.R. (1)
HEAVYWEIGHTS: Sonya Lamonakis, 223 ¼, New York, N.Y. dec. GiGi Jackson, 285, Columbus, Ohio (4)
SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: J’Leon Love, 166, Dearborn Heights, Mich. TKO’D J.C. Peterson, 169 ¼, Georgetown, Guyana (2)
JUNIOR MIDDLES: Deandre Latimore, 155 ½, St. Louis, Mo. Dec. Dennis Sharpe, 155, Bayonne, N.J. (8)
FEATHERWEIGHTS: Luis Rosa, 124 ½, New Haven, Conn. TKO’d Joseliz Cepeda, 125, Santo Domingo, D.R. (5)
Who Should Floyd Mayweather fight next: