If I believe in any sort of god or gods, it is "the fight gods." The ones who give you that chill that runs up your spine when you are watching something special unfold in front of you as two men try to beat the other into unconsciousness. If they're real the fight gods are also the ones who plant the idea in your head that you really need to see an event.
Yes, I could spend my time today focusing on Joe Warren being gifted a decision. But I'd rather remember April 16, 2011 as the day I woke up with an itch to watch boxing and was treated to a back to back fantastic main events. Yes, this is an MMA blog first. But we have the staff and knowledge to cover great events in grappling, wrestling, kickboxing and boxing. Combat sports fans should be able to enjoy great action in any combat sport.
Andre Berto came into his HBO main event against Victor Ortiz with an undefeated 27-0 record and 21 knockout wins, he also was considered by anyone with a lick of sense to be the #3 welterweight in the world behind only Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. He hadn't always been the most exciting fighter in the world but he had been plenty successful.
Victor Ortiz was signed by Golden Boy to be Oscar de la Hoya version 2. The next great Mexican-American star who would run things both at the box office and in the ring. Unfortunately, Ortiz was scheduled in a bout against Marcos Maidana in June of 2009 and despite knocking the rugged Maidana down several times in the bout, eventually he was knocked down, cut up and swelling and he quit as the doctor was checking on him. For some, that moment was enough to write off Ortiz as a never-would-be. Scott Christ discussed Ortiz's future after that fight at Bad Left Hook:
Personally, I came away impressed with Maidana as a never-say-die warrior, a guy with huge huevos and a bigger right hand. Fight alone, Ortiz's loss was no great big issue. He wasn't able to finish a double-tough guy. It happens. Fighters lose fights when they take risks, and this was a risk by Ortiz.
But his post-fight comments are troubling. Some are already wondering whether or not Ortiz will ever step into a ring again, and they're perfectly right to do so. The 22-year old slugger from Oxnard was outgtunned by a nasty opponent, but he quit. And not only did he quit, but after the fight, he remarked, "I'm young, but I don't think I deserve to be getting beat up like this. I got a lot of thinking to do."
There are a LOT of fighters that came up through the ranks very fast, were deemed the next big thing, and then met the brick wall. For Ortiz, it might well be Maidana, the heavy-handed slugger that wouldn't accept a loss despite three knockdowns. After he'd beaten Ortiz up fairly badly, he made him quit. In Maidana, there was no quit. In Ortiz, there seemed to be nothing but.
Ortiz was fighting at welterweight for the first time last night after spending his career at junior welterweight and he was looking to erase the stain of the Maidana fight in a way that going 4-0-1 against soft opposition since the loss hadn't. He came out hard in the first round and floored Berto early with a left hook, but it was ruled a slip. Ortiz refused to be denied and flurried again, stunning Berto in the corner and forcing him to take a knee. Early on it was clear that Ortiz seemed more comfortable at the new weight and looked very strong.
The second round saw Berto come back and land a hard shot that sent Ortiz reeling for a knockdown to even things up. The two men would not let up from there, firing big shots back and forth but Ortiz was clearly taking control of the fight on the scorecards early. Berto would have his moments, but much of the fight had been him going backward while Ortiz threw with power.
Then the sixth round happened, the same round where Maidana dropped Ortiz and made him quit. The two men went back and forth before Berto landed a huge right hand that sent Victor crashing to the mat. Ortiz struggled to his feet and looked to survive to the bell as Berto flurried trying to finish the fight. Suddenly, despite legs that didn't want to stay under him, Ortiz launched a left hand that dropped Berto with under ten seconds left in the round. Berto would get up and the two would continue to slug it out in a tremendous twelve round fight.
Just like the Maidana fight, the sixth round came and down Ortiz went. But unlike Maidana, Ortiz dusted himself off and removed the doubts about his heart. By staying on his feet and dropping Berto in the same round he was not a man who would always look for the easy way out when the going got tough. And his gutting through the sixth led to his winning a unanimous decision and taking Berto's undefeated record.
Fights like Berto/Ortiz are why I truly feel that there is no sport on earth that can match the drama of a great boxing match. Do I enjoy MMA more? Absolutely. But a great, drama filled boxing match is special in the sports world.
Follow after the jump as we take a quick look at the bout between Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez.
Just as the HBO main event was ending, the Showtime main event was about to start. Juan Manuel Lopez had become the newest star in the rich history of Puerto Rican boxing. Lopez, like Berto, entered the night undefeated, having scored 27 KO's in his 30 wins. In Orlando Salido (34-11-2, 22 KO), Lopez was facing a rugged veteran who promised to be there all night.
Lopez had started to get lazy in his defense and in Salido he met a man who had no problem walking forward and exploiting that lazy defense. It started a little slow in the first round but it was clear that Salido was going to trust his great chin to allow him to walk down Lopez and unleash overhand rights. By the third round the fight had actually gotten "subtly nasty" with both men throwing punches with truly bad intentions.
By the fifth round the fight had turned into a slugfest with both men landing and backing the other off before momentum would swing again. Gus Johnson was doing a terrible job on commentary, but once you got past that it was a tremendously entertaining bout. In the fifth round my scorecard read 38-38 and Salido was landing the right hand over and over before Lopez dropped to the ground. JuanMa managed to get back to his feet but was very unsteady as the round came to a close.
In the sixth it was an all out assault by Salido as he tried to finish Lopez, who was still badly hurt and on unsteady legs. When he couldn't manage to get the finish and Lopez survived the round it was Gus Johnson yet again ruining the moment with a shout of "Nuts and guts!" to show just how unable he is to exist "in the moment" like a great sports announcer would.
The seventh round saw Salido appearing to fade as he had spent the better part of two rounds throwing with huge power to try to get a stoppage. Lopez landed a bomb of a right early in the round that appeared to buzz Salido and it was on again with both men scoring and having moments as Lopez clawed his way back into the fight. It wouldn't last though as Salido bombed him in the eighth only to have Lopez held up by the ropes on two occasions. The referee would jump in to stop the fight at an awkward moment as Lopez was still trying to punch, but he was reeling around the ring all round and was being held up by the ropes toward the end. Despite an immediate reaction by fans that the stoppage was quick, replays and really understanding the context of the fight and round as a whole should remove much of the anger.
It was the second tremendous upset of a highly ranked, undefeated fighter in one night. Some nights the fight gods smile on you and last night was absolutely one of those nights. Great fights are great fights, and I highly suggest that you make an effort to catch these two clashes. Even if you don't consider yourself a "boxing fan" you should be able to love the gutsy efforts and huge punching put on display by these four men.