Víctor Ortiz did more than claim the WBC welterweight title by defeating the undefeated Andre Berto in what could be the fight of the year. He did more than silence critics, a demographic he seemed to have in spades entering the Berto bout.
He gave boxing what the sport has been lacking – a promising face of the future.
The 4-1 underdog was aggressive from the opening bell of the HBO televised fight. Ortiz knocked down Berto in the first round, then proved his resilience in the sixth round, when the referee appeared on the verge of stopping the fight after Berto dropped Ortiz for a second time.
But Ortiz responded with a knockdown of his own and countered any speculation that he’d wear down in the late rounds, never giving up his early lead.
“What we saw tonight is someone who is exciting, who goes down and has the will to come up, someone who is bilingual and somebody who has only turned 24,” Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said. (Ortiz is promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.)
“For all of us in the sport of boxing, we were looking, we were waiting, for somebody like that who can really bring excitement back to the sport of boxing,” Shaefer added.
Ortiz played the part of the showman on Saturday night at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, entering the ring wearing Mexican and American flags and a gigantic sombrero. He answered any questions about his ability, his stamina, his heart and his status as a legitimate contender in the 12-round bout, which he won by unanimous decision.
Ortiz was gracious in victory, commending Berto (27-1, 21 KOs) for the exciting and difficult fight. The new champion also was loose and affable with the media afterward (of course, winning certainly makes that easier).
Named ESPN’s prospect of the year in 2008, Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs) has been on an upward climb since losing to Marcos Maidana, who defeated Erik Morales in early April, in 2009. However, overcoming adversity is nothing new for the young fighter who, after an abusive childhood, spent his youth in the foster care system.
That difficult upbringing drives him to this day.
“It goes back to when I was young,” Ortiz said. “I never had anything when I was a kid. But it’s one of those things that kind of made me think, this is the moment that I’ve been working for my whole life since I was a kid.
"This is my dream," he added. "I’m not going to stand for anything less. I knew I carried the power.”
That message is one he seeks to impart to kids coming from similar situations.
“Keep positive,” Ortiz advised. “Always keep positive, no matter who tells you you can’t. You’re your own worst critic. You’re the person who is going to determine what you’re going to do with your life.”
For Ortiz, life just got a lot better. He has the green WBC belt as proof, and his stock as a fighter is again on the rise.
“I want to shoot for the big names now,” Ortiz said about his next opponent. “I don’t make a whole lot. I wish I did. So why not shoot for the big ones? There’s a lot of great fighters.”
With his win over Berto, Ortiz has proven he’s among them.
Maria Burns Ortiz is a freelance sports journalist, chair of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Sports Task Force, and a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. Follow her on Twitter: @BurnsOrtiz