Boxing fans can check one much-anticipated rematch off their holiday wish list. Andre Berto-Victor Ortiz II is officially set for Feb. 11.
As for that other big fight fans have been hoping for – the often-discussed, never-quite-set-up meeting between Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather Jr. – well, you can’t get everything you want.
Berto and Ortiz will face off in Las Vegas 10 months after Ortiz’s decisive upset, a win that put the Mexican-American fighter on the map and paved the way for his fight (and controversial loss) against Mayweather in September. The first meeting between Berto and Ortiz gave fight fans one of the best – if not the best – fights of the year.
Talk of a rematch between the two rising stars began almost immediately after the final bell. Berto believed (as the losing boxer often seems to) that he should have won the fight. Ortiz believed it showed his superiority in the ring.
The buzz around a repeat meeting grew after Berto leveled accusations of Ortiz using performance-enhancing drugs, a claim for which Berto offered no proof and that Ortiz vehemently denied. Ortiz has never failed a drug test.
To eliminate any questions or accusations this time around, the two fighters have agreed to Olympic-style drug testing, which includes random blood and urine testing.
This is the exact issue that brought a much-hyped meeting between Pacquiao and Mayweather to a halt two years ago. Pacquiao was reluctant to agree to such extensive testing. Mayweather insisted upon it. The Filipino fighter eventually agreed to a form of blood and urine testing. While talk of a fight between boxing’s No. 1 and 2 never dissipated, the fight never materialized.
The two fighters recognized as the pound-for-pound best instead fought a number of lesser challengers. Though both Pacquiao and Mayweather have improved their records, they’ve failed to win approval from fans who have grown tired of the never-ending debate of “will they or won’t they” just settle who’s better in the ring.
Legal issues on Mayweather’s behalf haven’t helped. Since Sept. 2010, Mayweather faced a number of assault charges, most significantly a domestic battery charge.
And just as word had begun to spread that a match between Mayweather and Pacquiao was actually going to happen, this time actually including a date and location – May 5 in Las Vegas – the fight was dealt a major blow when Mayweather took a plea deal on the domestic violence charge and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. The fighter was ordered to report to jail Jan. 9.
However, the sentencing could actually be the catalyst that leads to a meeting between the two fighters. According to the Los Angeles Times, Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum has said the uncertainty regarding Mayweather’s future was part of the reason for the holdup when it came to setting up the super fight.
Certainly, if the bout is ever going to happen, it has to happen soon. Mayweather will turn 35 in February. People want to see two boxers at the top of their game, not two aging fighters simply battling it out for a big payday.
That’s part of what makes Berto-Ortiz II so attractive. While Mayweather-Pacquiao is certainly at the top of everyone’s wish list, the Berto-Ortiz rematch at least gives boxing fans something definite to look forward to in 2012.
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