Dan Rafael: Victor Ortiz

Victor Ortiz giving it another go

November, 7, 2014
Victor OrtizRich Kane/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsFormer welterweight titlist Victor "Vicious" Ortiz will be back in the ring on Dec. 13.

Victor Ortiz was on top of the world after winning a welterweight world title by decision from Andre Berto in a terrific fight in 2011. He had finally lived up to the vast potential he showed on the way up and seemed poised for a good run.

But Ortiz has not won a fight since. Instead, he has lost three in a row. Badly. By knockout.

In Ortiz’s first defense later in 2011, Floyd Mayweather Jr. knocked him out in the fourth round to take his belt, albeit somewhat controversially. Ortiz returned in June 2012 to face massive underdog Josesito Lopez and was stopped in the ninth round because of a badly broken jaw. A lengthy injury layoff followed (during which he was a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars” and also filmed a role in “The Expendables 3”), and he did not fight again until January.

That went as bad -- worse, even -- than the previous two fights, as former welterweight titlist Luis Collazo knocked him out in the second round. Many were critical of Ortiz’s apparent lack of effort in trying to beat the count.

At that point many thought Ortiz’s career was over, or at least that it should be. But guess who’s back? Yup. The 27-year-old Ortiz (29-5-2, 22 KOs) is giving it another go.

Ortiz will fight an opponent to be named -- and don’t expect anyone very good -- deep on the Devon Alexander-Amir Khan undercard on Dec. 13 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday in Los Angeles at the kickoff news conference for the card, Ortiz said he had no plans to quit boxing despite the terrible results in his past three fights.

"I've fallen a few times in my career, it happens,” Ortiz said. “I don't care what career you choose to do, you're going to fall. You get up and shake it off and move forward.”

Even after the brutal jaw injury to Lopez, Ortiz said he didn’t wallow in self-pity.

"Two years ago I broke my jaw in a fight, but I didn't sit around feeling sorry for myself,” he said. “I immediately took on ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ and six weeks in I was eliminated. From there I get a call from Sylvester Stallone to do ‘Expendables 3.’ Why not? I can't fight and my jaw is still shattered, so I went to Eastern Europe for three months.

"This is a fight that I'm taking very seriously. I can't afford to fall. I'm fortunate to have options, but right now my option is to be world champion. I've put two films aside to fight on Dec. 13. I could've trained and acted at the same time, but I knew that I had to focus completely on this fight. Not having an opponent doesn't affect my current training.”

Anyone would be skeptical of Ortiz regaining his stature in boxing. It seems awfully unlikely given the trajectory of his career.

"No one is forcing me to keep boxing, but I'm only 27 and I have a lot left in me. I'm in my prime and, at the end of the day, I'm back in the ring,” Ortiz said. “It's in me to fight, and I have a lot of unfinished business in the ring. I will, mark my words, be one of the greatest.”

Victor Ortiz planning November return

September, 12, 2014
Former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz, who has been knocked out in his past three fights, plans to return to the ring.

Ortiz (29-5-2, 22 KOs), 27, of Oxnard, California, wrote Thursday on his Instagram page that he will be back in the ring before the end of the year.

He wrote, "Heads up, I'm back in the ring on first week of November! I'm stoked about it! Thought it would be late October but apparently as of today Coach Joel Diaz stated to me first week of November ... thank you for the support!!!"

Since outpointing Andre Berto to win a world title in April 2011 in a fight of the year candidate, Ortiz is winless. Floyd Mayweather knocked him out in the fourth round of his first defense later in 2011. In 2012, he suffered a massive upset -- a ninth-round knockout loss to Josesito Lopez, who badly broke his jaw. Ortiz, recovering from jaw surgery, didn’t fight again until January, when he got knocked out in the second round by former titlist Luis Collazo.

He has spent much of his time away from the ring partaking in other activities. For example, he was a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars" and is one of the stars of the film "The Expendables 3."

Whom Ortiz will fight and when specifically he will fight is unclear.

Collazo turns attention to Khan

March, 5, 2014
Ortiz/CollazoEd Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsLuis Collazo wants a showdown with former junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan.

Immediately after Luis Collazo knocked out fellow former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz on Jan. 30 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., he immediately called out for the biggest fight any welterweight could ask for -- a showdown with champion and pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Collazo probably knew it was unlikely for his next fight, but you can’t blame him for trying. Then his promoter, Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer, voiced interest in matching Collazo with interim titlist Keith Thurman (22-0, 20 KOs), which would certainly be a good fight.

Collazo (35-5, 18 KOs), however, has another idea. With Mayweather set to fight titleholder Marcos Maidana on May 3, Collazo has turned his attention to a new target -- former junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan (28-3, 19 KOs) of England, the long-rumored Mayweather opponent until he got dumped in favor of Maidana.

"I definitely proved that I should be considered part of the top tier of the welterweight division when I beat Victor Ortiz," said Collazo, who recently signed with powerful adviser Al Haymon. “Another name that has been a part of that conversation for a long time is Amir Khan and I know that a fight against him would be huge for both of us and huge for the fans.

“Khan wants a shot at Floyd Mayweather and so do I. It could be a sort of welterweight playoff that would get the boxing world talking. And mark my words, I will knock Khan out like I did against Ortiz."

A potential Khan-Collazo fight would not be out of the question to take place on Mayweather’s May 3 undercard.

Luis Collazo signs with Al Haymon

March, 3, 2014
Luis CollazoMaddie Meyer/Getty ImagesSigning with powerful adviser Al Haymon will open many doors for welterweight Luis Collazo.

Add one more guy to the list of fighters who undoubtedly will say at his next news conference or after his next victory, “I’d like to thank Al Haymon.”

Former welterweight titlist Luis Collazo became the latest fighter to sign with Haymon, the most powerful adviser in boxing, whose vast stable includes many of the best fighters in the world, including Floyd Mayweather Jr., Marcos Maidana, Danny Garcia, Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Peter Quillin, Deontay Wilder, Devon Alexander, Lucas Matthysse and many others.

Collazo, 32, of Brooklyn, N.Y., is coming off a second-round knockout of Victor Ortiz, another Haymon client, on Jan. 30.

"I'm excited to be joining Team Haymon," Collazo said. "I'm looking forward to the doors this opportunity is going to open for me. I can't wait to get this partnership going."

Collazo (35-5 18 KOs), who held a welterweight world title from 2005 to 2006, has won four in a row and put himself in position for a major fight in a deep 147-pound weight class.

"I'm looking forward to a big year ahead and signing with Team Haymon is just one of the first steps," Collazo said. "He works with a lot of guys in my division and with this new step in the right direction, I'm sure I will be fighting some of them in the near future."

Collazo, like everyone else, would love a piece of Mayweather and the big payday that goes with it. Collazo called out Mayweather after knocking out Ortiz, who had previously been knocked out by Mayweather.

"God willing I'll get the chance to be in the ring against Mayweather and prove what I've always thought, that I'm the best in the world,” Collazo said.

Haymon, as always, had no comment.

Thurman-Collazo in the cards?

February, 3, 2014
Victor Ortiz and Luis CollazoEd Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsLuis Collazo's KO victory over Victor Ortiz opened a few doors for the former welterweight titlist.
Luis Collazo’s second-round knockout of fellow former welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz on Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., was impressive, vaulted him back into the consciousness of fight fans and certainly set him up for bigger business.

A case can be made that it was the most notable win of his career because his victories in world title bouts -- against Jose Antonio Rivera and Miguel Angel Gonzalez -- did not come against anyone with the name recognition of Ortiz, even if Ortiz was coming off an 18-month layoff and two consecutive stoppage losses.

So what might be next for Collazo, especially given that his promoter, Golden Boy, is loaded with top fighters in the 147-pound weight class?

After the fight, Collazo, who won his fourth bout in a row, called out pound-for-pound king and welterweight champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. Collazo was excited about the win, and nobody should blame him for seeking a fight with the best, one that would also come with a heavyweight paycheck.

But Collazo (35-5, 18 KOs) is not going to get Mayweather, at least not next, because Mayweather has other plans and Collazo is far from them. So, realistically, who is next?

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer is going to have a lot of say about that. When we spoke the other day, he said he was most interested in making Collazo against interim titlist Keith Thurman (22-0, 20 KOs), the 25-year-old power puncher from Clearwater, Fla., and one of boxing’s most entertaining fighters.

It sounds like an interesting fight and would certainly pay Collazo more than the $100,000 he made to fight Ortiz, who made $400,000 for what might have been his last significant purse.

“I’m going to talk to Al [Haymon, Thurman’s adviser] and to Luis’ team and see if they are interested,” Schaefer said. “I like that fight. They say styles make fights. Luis has heart and is as tough as they come. There’s no quit in him, and he’s a veteran who knows the tricks of the trade. With Thurman you have a young fighter with tremendous punching power but not the kind of experience Luis has. I think it would be a fascinating matchup.

[+] EnlargeKeith Thurman and Jesus Soto Karass
AP Photo/Eric GayHeavy puncher Keith Thurman could be Luis Collazo's next opponent.
“There are a lot of other fights I could do, but my first thing is I would love to see Thurman and Collazo. There are a lot of fights with Keith I’d like to see. Luis is a well-known name in boxing and just had a big win against Victor, so the door is open for him.”

Another fight Schaefer mentioned, but as a lesser possibility, was Collazo against Zab Judah, another former welterweight titlist, in what would be an all-Brooklyn battle.

Whenever Collazo does fight next, Schaefer said he hopes to get something squared away for him in April, May or June.

Schaefer is trying to finalize the light heavyweight unification fight between Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov, which does not have a set date yet. Schaefer said he could envision a Thurman-Collazo bout on the undercard.

The Collazo camp understands that Mayweather is not a serious possibility at the moment, so it is OK with Thurman, according to trainer and co-manager Nirmal Lorick.

“If that’s the fight, fine,” Lorick said of Thurman. “People look at Thurman as a dangerous fighter. He can punch and box. Luis is a little more skilled, especially defensively, but I think it would be a good fight. We’ve taken on all comers.

“We’d rather fight a Floyd or a [titleholder Marcos] Maidana, but whoever. As long as the money is right, fine. You know us. We will fight anybody. But a fight with Thurman? It’s a great fight for both guys. Luis would give him a challenge, and we’d have a good fight.”

Lopez hopes to get back on track

December, 10, 2013
Josesito Lopez moved up to welterweight in June 2012 and pulled a major upset when he broke former titleholder Victor Ortiz’s jaw and stopped him in the ninth round.

After the inspiring win, which the Riverside, Calif., product called his “Rocky moment,” he took on the nickname “The Riverside Rocky.”

But then the 29-year-old Lopez (30-6, 18 KOs) hit a rough patch, losing his next two fights. He moved up to junior middleweight and got wiped out in the fifth round by then-titleholder Canelo Alvarez, the much bigger man, in September 2012 in a fight promoters had no business making. After that bout, Lopez got stopped by Marcos Maidana in the sixth round at welterweight in June in a terrific fight.

Lopez hopes to get back on track when he meets former junior welterweight contender Mike Arnaoutis (24-9-1, 11 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round welterweight fight on Friday night (Fox Sports 1, 10 ET) at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif.

Lopez, the clear favorite against the faded 34-year-old Arnaoutis, is determined to put the defeats behind him.

“You have to take it as a learning experience and continue to work hard no matter what happened in the past,” Lopez said. “Staying motivated and keeping active in the gym worked really well for me. At the end of the day, you have to put it behind you and move on.

“Every fight presents a new opportunity to improve and learn and that's how I'm approaching this fight. As long as you prepare well and go in with a solid game plan, then you'll be fine. There's definitely added motivation to come out and look sharp. I know I have world champion talent, I just have to go out and show it. I'm anxious to go out and perform at a high level.”

The co-feature pits Francisco Vargas (17-0-1, 13 KOs), a 2008 Mexican Olympian, against Jerry Belmontes (18-2, 5 KOs) in a 10-round junior featherweight fight.

Also on the televised card in eight-round bouts: junior middleweight Jermall Charlo (16-0, 12 KOs) against Joseph De Los Santos (16-12-3, 9 KOs), 2012 U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr. (7-0, 5 KOs) meeting Carlos Rodriguez (18-12-4, 10 KOs) at junior featherweight, and Errol Spence Jr. (9-0, 7 KOs), Diaz's Olympic teammate, in a junior middleweight bout against Noe Bolanos (25-8-1, 16 KOs).

Junior featherweight Diego De La Hoya (1-0, 1 KO) -- the nephew of Oscar De La Hoya -- is also on the card in his second pro go.

Gary Russell Jr. (23-0, 13 KOs) was scheduled for an untelevised 10-round junior lightweight bout -- although, as usual, he had no opponent less than a week before the fight -- but he pulled out, unwilling to face any of the various names presented to him and his team.

Plug pulled on Molina-Ortiz

October, 22, 2013
One of the bouts that was supposed to take place Dec. 14 on the Showtime PPV undercard of the Adrien Broner-Marcos Maidana welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was junior middleweight titleholder Carlos Molina making his first defense against former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz.

The Molina and Ortiz camps had agreed to a deal, and Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer expressed excitement about having the fight serve as the card's co-feature.

But the fight is off -- and it's not hard to understand why. Although the fighters and their teams wanted the fight, the IBF, whose 154-pound title Molina holds, declined to sanction the bout. It's hard to argue with the decision.

Ortiz simply doesn't warrant or qualify for the a junior middleweight world title shot under the IBF's rules, and it is the one boxing organization -- love it or hate it -- that steadfastly follows its rules. Other organizations almost surely would have sanctioned the fight without so much as a pause. But not the IBF.

"We did get a request to sanction that fight," IBF president Daryl Peoples told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Ortiz is not in the ratings, so we cannot approve the fight. Ortiz was stopped in his last two fights and has been inactive for 16 months."

Golden Boy had made an effort to get Ortiz, who would have been idle for 18 months by the time the fight took place, rated in the IBF's junior middleweight rankings, but it was rebuffed.

The 26-year-old Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs), who has never fought at junior middleweight, is coming off back-to-back knockout losses at welterweight. Floyd Mayweather Jr. drilled him in the fourth round in a September 2011 world title bout. In June 2012, Josestio Lopez badly broke Ortiz's jaw, forcing him to retire on his stool after the ninth round.

Ortiz hasn't fought since, while recovering from the jaw injury and also pursuing other interests, such as a stint on "Dancing With The Stars" and playing a role in "The Expendables 3" movie.

Golden Boy is now trying to put together a different fight for the undercard, although Molina could still be on the show against somebody else.

"We're disappointed. We wanted to fight the guy [Ortiz]," said Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules, who represents Molina. "We hope we can still fight on that show and fight somebody ranked. We'll fight whoever they put in front of us."

Molina (22-5-2, 6 KOs), 30, won the belt by outpointing Ishe Smith on the Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez undercard on Sept. 14.

Garcia-Matthysse nearly set

July, 5, 2013
A few notes from my recent conversation with Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer:

• Golden Boy is trying to wrap up the junior welterweight showdown between unified titlist Danny Garcia and interim titleholder Lucas Matthysse, which is one of the best fights in boxing. Although the main focus has been on finalizing it as a Sept. 7 Showtime main event, Schaefer said there is a possibility that it could land on the Sept. 14 Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez card as the co-feature. If that happens, the show would rank as one of the best pay-per-view cards ever.

• Former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz, who competed on "Dancing with the Stars" while recovering from his broken jaw, is ready to return to action. Schaefer said he likely will be back in September, possibly on a Sept. 7 card or on the Mayweather-Alvarez undercard. He has no opponent yet.

• Now that Karo Murat has his visa and has been reinstated as light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins' mandatory challenger, Golden Boy is trying to reschedule the fight. "I'm looking at dates in late September or October," Schaefer said. The fight was originally scheduled for July 13, but it was canceled when Germany's Murat couldn't get a visa and it looked like it would take several months. Only after the show was canceled did Murat get the paperwork squared away, but by that time it was too late to proceed with July 13.

• When heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder faces former titlist Sergei Liakhovich on Aug. 9 on Showtime, the initial idea was to stage the fight somewhere in Alabama, where Wilder is from. However, that didn't work out, and Schaefer said the card will instead take place at the Fantasy Springs Resort in Indio, Calif.

• Golden Boy is planning a card for Sept. 13 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas as part of the Mayweather-Alvarez fight week festivities.

Berto picks Hunter as trainer

June, 17, 2013
Former two-time welterweight titlist Andre Berto has hired a new trainer -- 2011 trainer of the year Virgil Hunter -- and has been working out with him at his Oakland, Calif.-area gym for the past few weeks.

"I know I have all the talent in world. Now it's time to fine-tune the skill set," Berto told ESPN.com. "Virg is someone I've known since I was a kid, along with a few other coaches I went to interview. I wanted stick with familiar faces that I've had that relationship with and that have watched me from the amateur system [until] now. We're testing things out with this fight and seeing where things go. As of right now, I've been having a great camp. I am excited."

Berto's first fight with Hunter will come July 27 in the main event of a Showtime-televised card at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Berto (28-2, 22 KOs) will face battle-tested veteran Jesus Soto Karass (27-8-3, 17 KOs).

Berto will try to rebound from a clear decision loss in November in an interim title bout against Robert Guerrero, who dropped him twice in a fairly dominant performance. That fight came after Berto had been out of the ring for 14 months, largely because of a failed random prefight drug test in the lead-up to a rematch with Victor Ortiz.

The loss to Guerrero was Berto's second defeat in his past three fights, including a decision loss that cost him his world title against Ortiz in April 2011 (although he bounced back and won a belt against Jan Zaveck). After the loss to Guerrero, Berto parted ways with career-long trainer Tony Morgan. They had been together for nearly 20 years, including Berto's amateur career that culminated with a berth on the 2004 Haitian Olympic team.

There was chaos in Berto's corner during his losses, and it was obvious that a change had to be made -- not to mention the fact that Berto, 29, needs to improve defensively.

Berto hopes that Hunter will be the man to help him. The fighter said that before hiring Hunter he got the blessing from the trainer's main client, super middleweight champion Andre Ward.

"I had to give my good friend Dre Ward a call, and he also gave me a lot of input and direction," Berto said. "He's one that loves his privacy. But he also gave me his blessing with open arms. We've known each other since our teenage years, so it feels great joining the camp. I am in the Bay Area now training with Virg. Actually, I made the decision about a month ago."

GBP working on Garcia-Matthysse

June, 11, 2013
Lucas Matthysse and Danny GarciaGetty ImagesLucas Matthysse and Danny Garcia have a new date for their promotional tour in the U.S.

Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer is awfully busy juggling a bunch of fights that are coming up, including the big one, Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 14. But there are a lot of other fights to get done also, undercards to load up and Showtime dates to fill.

Schaefer, who has been in Mexico on business, told ESPN.com that he and Al Haymon, Mayweather’s adviser and manager to many of Golden Boy’s fighters, plan to sit down in the coming days when they are both back in Los Angeles to go over a host of issues. Among them: ironing out the Mayweather-Alvarez Showtime PPV undercard and trying to finalize a Sept. 7 fight between Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse (both Haymon clients) for junior welterweight supremacy.

Here’s an update from Schaefer on a variety of things he’s working on:

• Schaefer said his main focus is getting Garcia-Matthysse done.

“That’s what I’m working on this week,” he said. “I’d like to have the August and September schedules all done by the end of the week. I need to sit down with Al though and figure everything out.”

Schaefer said while some have been skeptical that Haymon would go through with Garcia-Matthysse, he is not.

“Al realizes that having all these fighters means they will sometimes have to fight each other,” Schaefer said. “Danny Garcia has never turned down anybody. And Matthysse? This is the fight he’s been waiting for. The fighters want it and the adviser is on board. I just have to finalize the money and the site. But I think we will get this done.”

• Former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz, healed from his broken jaw after a knockout loss to Josesito Lopez last June, is expected back in action either late this summer or in the fall. Schaefer said one fight he is considering trying to make is Ortiz against Shane Mosley, who is coming off a desperately needed win against Pablo Cesar Cano on May 18 after exiting retirement.

This is not a fight I am a fan of, especially considering all of the top guys Schaefer could match Ortiz with. For example, I love the idea of an Ortiz fight against Robert Guerrero, a fight Guerrero also wants. Ortiz (two losses in a row) and Guerrero are both coming off defeats, but it would definitely be a fan-friendly fight with the winner putting himself back on track.

With regard to an Ortiz-Mosley fight, Schaefer said, “I would like to see it. Both guys have a lot to prove if they want to fight for a title again. I ask people, ‘Who do you think wins?’ And the response is split. That makes it an interesting fight to me.”

• Golden Boy recently won the purse bid for the mandatory fight between junior featherweight titlist Victor Terrazas and Leo Santa Cruz and needs to schedule the bout. Schaefer said it could wind up on the Mayweather-Alvarez pay-per-view. But so, too, could featherweight titlist Abner Mares’ next fight.

“It could be Mares against [former titlist] Jhonny Gonzalez,” Schaefer said. “Gonzalez would love to fight for the title and you know how Abner is. He’s never worried about fighting anybody.”

There is also the possibility, Schaefer said, of Mares and Santa Cruz not appearing on the PPV undercard and instead having their next fights in Mexico, possibly on the same card. It is also possible that one will be on the PPV and one will fight in Mexico.

• With Marcos Maidana defeating Josesito Lopez last Saturday in a barnburner, Schaefer said Maidana is in line for two potential fights. One would be a match with Andre Berto should Berto defeat Jesus Soto Karass on July 27 in San Antonio in the main event of a Showtime tripleheader. The other could be a shot at the winner of the June 22 fight between welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi and Adrien Broner. Maidana could shadowbox and I’ll be watching, so either fight sounds good to me, but I love Maidana-Berto. Can you say fight of the year?

“Maidana-Berto, Maidana with the Paulie-Broner winner, both are great fights,” Schaefer said. “We have so many guys at 140 and 147 you can mix and match any of these guys. It’s insane.”

• Schaefer said in addition to the Sept. 7 and Sept. 14 cards, he will also have a major card on either Aug. 24 or Aug. 31.

Berto wants a shot at Mayweather

May, 31, 2013
Andre Berto and Robert GuerreroAP Photo/Jae C. HongBy losing to Robert Guerrero last year, Andre Berto, left, missed his second chance to face Floyd Mayweather.

Like every fighter in and around the welterweight division, former two-time welterweight titlist Andre Berto hopes to someday match his skills against pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. and cash that fat check that would go with such a big fight.

Berto, however, has twice seen the prospect of that fight slip through his fingers. He lost a decision, and his first title, to Victor Ortiz in 2011 and watched Ortiz move on to face Mayweather in his next fight. In November, Berto suffered his only other professional defeat, a decision at the hands of interim titlist Robert Guerrero, and then Guerrero too moved on to face Mayweather on May 4.

Frankly, Berto is sick of it. He knows that some boxing fans have made him a punch line about how all you have to do in order to get Mayweather is beat Berto.

“For sure, I’m sick and tired of that, but all I can do is bite down and go get it,” Berto told ESPN.com on Thursday. “Everything happens for a reason, but it’s frustrating. I’m a prideful guy and people say that about me, but I have to look at it a different type of way.

“I look at it like I’m the next thing to Floyd, so they know if they can beat me, they can face the best. That’s how I look at it, but it’s enough of that. Two times it happened, and there won’t be a third.

"Enough of that s---. But Floyd is being smart. He’s like, ‘If you can beat Berto, you can fight me.' They know I have comparable speed to Mayweather. They know I have power. But enough of that. It’s time to handle my business, and I think in due time everything will pan out.”

Berto (28-2, 22 KOs), of Winter Haven, Fla., but now living in Los Angeles, was in San Antonio on Thursday afternoon at a news conference to formally announce a July 27 card at the AT&T Center. Berto will headline the Showtime-televised tripleheader against Jesus Soto Karass (27-8-3, 17 KOs) of Mexico.

The fight will be Berto’s first since Guerrero dropped him twice and swelled up both of his eyes, and he hopes to get back on track against a rugged opponent.

“Soto Karass is a good fighter. I've seen his fights,” Berto said. “There's nothing too spectacular about him, but he does have that tough Mexican fighting style.”

Said Soto Karass: “I have a great test ahead of me. I have followed Andre Berto's career very closely. When he was a world champion, I was hoping I was going to get to fight him someday. I wasn't ready for him then, but now that I got offered the fight, I know I'm ready.”

It’s pretty much a must-win fight, especially for Berto, if he has any prayer of landing the big one.

"This is little bit of a crossroads fight for both Berto and Soto Karass,” Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez said. “The winner is going to go on to bigger and better things, and whoever loses is going to have to take a hard look at their career.”

Berto, who has not revealed whom his new trainer will be after parting ways with longtime trainer Tony Morgan following the loss to Guerrero, hope to take out Soto Karass and move a step closer to an eventual Mayweather fight. That is a fight that could be quite easy to make considering that both fighters are managed by Al Haymon and both work closely with Golden Boy.

“I always want to make it a spectacular fight, make it look good,” Berto said of the July 27 bout. “People have to understand you can come back from a loss and put on a tremendous performance and you’re right back in the running for a megafight, and I have that style people want to see.

“I’ll handle Soto Karass and then go again later this year. And I may be seeing Floyd next year, but all of our focus is on Soto Karass right now.”

Also on the Showtime tripleheader, all-action Omar Figueroa (21-0-1, 17 KOs), who is from Weslaco, Texas, but has a growing San Antonio fan base, will face Japan’s Nihito Arakawa (24-2-1, 16 KOs) for a vacant interim lightweight title and Argentina’s Diego Chaves (22-0, 18 KOs) defends his interim welterweight belt against Keith Thurman (20-0, 18 KOs), of Clearwater, Fla., in a matchup of outstanding punchers.

Ortiz ready for the dance floor

February, 27, 2013
Victor Ortiz and Lindsay ArnoldRick Rowell/ABC via Getty ImagesFormer welterweight champ Victor Ortiz will be the fifth boxer to compete on "Dancing With the Stars."

Former welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz is exchanging his boxing gloves for dancing shoes, at least for a little while.

The new lineup for the hit show “Dancing with the Stars” was announced this week and Ortiz will be one of the contestants to compete for the Mirror Ball Trophy on the 16th season of the series, which debuts March 18 (ABC, 8 p.m. ET/PT).

Ortiz was enthusiastic about being part of one of the most popular shows in the country when we spoke about it on Wednesday.

“I’m gonna have a blast doing this,” Ortiz said.

I've never danced in my life. Just random social dancing, like a night club or something, but not actual proper posture or co-ordination. This is very different.

-- Victor Ortiz on being part of "Dancing With the Stars."
He will be paired with pro dancer Lindsay Arnold, who will be on the show for the first time. They began practicing this week.

“She pushes me to my limits,” Ortiz said.

Like many of the celebrities who join the show, Ortiz is a novice dancer -- using his fists far more than his feet in his line of work.

“I’ve never danced in my life,” Ortiz said. “Just random social dancing, like a night club or something, but not actual proper posture or co-ordination. This is very different.”

Ortiz, who has been a casual fan of the show, counts Hollywood star and onetime “Dancing” runner-up Mario Lopez as a pal. He said they’re going to have lunch this week and he’ll ask him about what to expect from the show.

“Mario has been on the show and is a great friend of mine,” Ortiz said. “Mario and I go back a good eight years. So why not pick his brain about it.”

He will be the fifth boxer to compete on the show. The others were Evander Holyfield (fifth in the first season), Laila Ali (third in the fourth season), Floyd Mayweather Jr. (ninth in the fifth season) and Sugar Ray Leonard (ninth in the 12th season).

“I think it’s a cool thing and bringing this kind of attention to the world of boxing is a good thing for the sport,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz, of course, lost his world title to Mayweather by controversial fourth-round knockout in 2011.

Maybe Ortiz can do better than Mayweather did on the show?

Floyd Mayweather
Carol Kaelson/ABC/Getty ImagesFloyd Mayweather Jr. finished ninth in the fifth season of "Dancing With the Stars."

“I didn’t even know Floyd did it (until recently). That’s cool,” Ortiz said. “I’m just having a good time. Thankfully, I got paired with a great person, Lindsay.”

Ortiz returned from the loss to Mayweather last June and suffered a severely broken jaw against Josesito Lopez, forcing him to retire on his stool after the ninth round for his second loss in a row.

He said his jaw feels OK now, but it locks up from time to time. Although it has healed well, he said his doctors recommended that he hold off on fighting for the time being until it gets stronger.

“I went to a specialist before making any decisions,” Ortiz said. “The specialist said seven or eight months after having my jaw broken that it would not be smart to go back in the ring just yet. He said my bones are still a little too vulnerable. So I said, ‘Let’s go for it, ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ I’m taking this very seriously, like training camp. We’ll have a blast.”

Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) figures since he isn’t going to fight in the first half of this year, doing “Dancing” is a great way to stay busy, have some fun and raise his profile outside of the boxing world.

“I’ve put my mind on being recognized in boxing, but I also want to be a household name all around,” Ortiz said, adding that he also has “some movie deals going on.”

“I am very happy for Victor,” said Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer, Ortiz’s promoter. “This is tremendous exposure for him and it’s always great to see that a fighter crosses over into mainstream. It obviously means that Victor has done something right. He has created a brand and was approached by the producer. How do you create a brand in boxing? It is what Victor does best -- always deliver exciting fights.

Victor is a tremendous competitor and as of us at Golden Boy wish him well. Go and knock 'em out Victor.”

Once his “Dancing” season is over -- it would go into late May if he advances to the end -- Ortiz said he will turn his attention back to boxing and has every intention of fighting before the year is over. He has split from trainer Danny Garcia but has not yet hired a new trainer, although he has spent some time working with Freddie Roach.

“I’m taking this (healing process) as a positive,” Ortiz said. “When I come back, my jaw will be healed and there will be no questions. If I get punched I’ll have no doubt in my mind that the jaw is OK. I don’t know exactly when I’ll be back, but this year. I have to. I’ve been missing the ring.”

Also on the new ‘Dancing” season will be comedian D.L Hughley, Super Bowl winner Jacoby Jones of the Baltimore Ravens, comedian/actor Andy Dick, General Hospital soap opera star Ingo Rademacher, Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Aly Raisman, country singer Kellie Pickler, county music legend Wynonna Judd, Disney actress Zendaya Coleman, legendary figure skater Dorothy Hamill and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Lisa Vanderpump.

Andre Berto fires trainer

February, 27, 2013
Andre Berto and Tony MorganAP Photo/Jae C. HongAndre Berto is leaving his career-long trainer Tony Morgan after two loses in his last three fights.

The alarming thing about seeing former two-time welterweight titlist Andre Berto losing two of his last three fights – to Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz -- was his inability to adjust to his opponents in those defeats, not to mention the disarray in his corner when thing got rough.

Berto, perhaps realizing these were issues, announced Wednesday that has fired career-long trainer Tony Morgan.

They had been together for nearly 20 years, including Berto’s amateur career that culminated with a berth on the 2004 Haitian Olympic team.

Berto, 29, said it was a difficult decision to part ways with Morgan.

"Tony and I had a great ride together from the amateurs to two professional world championships, and he will always be a very important person in my life," Berto said in a statement. “He taught me a lot and I am grateful to him for that, but this is a decision I had to make at this point in my career.”

Berto lost his welterweight belt to Ortiz in 2011 in a brutal distance fight in which both guys were knocked down twice. He rebounded in his next fight to stop Jan Zaveck in the fifth round in September 2011 to win another belt but vacated it in order to make a rematch with Ortiz instead of fighting a mandatory fight that nobody was interested in. However, Berto tested positive for a steroid in a random drug test before the June fight and it was canceled.

Berto eventually was licensed in California and returned in November, but got dropped twice and took a beating in a decision loss to Guerrero.

Berto (28-2, 22 KOs), who does not have a fight scheduled, said he is in the process of selecting a new trainer.

"I'm still in the gym on a regular basis and getting my body in great shape,” said Berto, who is from Winter Haven, Fla., but now living in Los Angeles. “Boxing is the sport that I love and I can't wait to get back in the ring and perform again soon. I want to remind everyone why they love to see me fight. You will see a new and improved Andre Berto here soon.”

Lara ready; Ortiz, Cotto will wait

January, 25, 2013
Martirosyan-LaraChris Farina/Top RankWe could see Vanes Martirosyan and Erislandy Lara slugging it out in the ring one more time.
I caught up with Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer this week and he filled me on a few things. Here are the updates:

• Two weeks ago, Golden Boy won the purse bid for the rematch between Erislandy Lara (a Golden Boy fighter) and Vanes Martirosyan (a Top Rank fighter), who fought to a ninth-round technical draw in November. That meant there would be a rematch to determine the mandatory challenger for the belt held by Canelo Alvarez. Schaefer said a contract was sent to Top Rank for Martirosyan to have the fight on Feb. 23 in Detroit on Showtime on the undercard of the Devon Alexander-Kelly Brook welterweight title bout. Cornelius "K9" Bundrage defends his junior middleweight belt against Ishe Smith in the co-feature.

Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said that Martirosyan might not be ready by then. When told that, Schaefer said, "The WBC ruled that is plenty of time. If Vanes can't make the fight, I guess he gets removed from his position and we will have to move on to the next available contender. But we are ready to move forward. Lara is ready to go."

• Victor Ortiz is expected back in the ring in September, Schaefer said. Ortiz has lost two fights in a row since outpointing Andre Berto to win a welterweight title in April 2011. Ortiz then got knocked out by Floyd Mayweather Jr., and in June retired on his stool after the ninth round because Josesito Lopez broke his jaw in a major upset, ruining Ortiz's planned September fight with Alvarez. Schaefer said Ortiz's jaw is healed and that he will return in the fall. The reason for so much time off, Schaefer said, was not because of a medical issue, but because of a project Ortiz was working on, which Schaefer declined to discuss.

• Although Schaefer doesn't have a promotional contract with Berto, Golden Boy is his de facto promoter due to the strong relationship he has with Berto adviser Al Haymon. Schaefer said he and Haymon have been talking about Berto's return.

"We want to get him back in the ring in April," Schaefer said, adding that Berto could challenge Paulie Malignaggi for his welterweight belt on April 27 now that the Malignaggi-Shane Mosley fight is off. "Paulie and Berto can both make good paydays, and it's a fight that there would be interest in, so we are talking about it."

• Miguel Cotto, who works closely with Golden Boy (although they have no promotional agreement) won't be back until at least the summer, Schaefer said. Cotto lost an upset decision to junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout in December and has dropped two in a row, having lost a decision to Mayweather in May. "I've been in touch with Miguel's team and I think he's planning to do a fight in the second half of the year," Schaefer said.

• Bantamweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz broke out in 2012 by winning all five of his fights, claiming a 118-pound title and emerging as one of boxing's most exciting fighters. He even headlined the return of boxing to CBS in December. After such a rigorous schedule last year, Schaefer said Santa Cruz is taking some time off.

"He was a bit tired. He fought a lot and needed to let his body to rest," Schaefer said. "It was a big year for him, and we are planning to bring him back in May. It could be on his own date or it could be part of [Mayweather's] May 4 pay-per-view card. I am also having conversations with CBS about our next fight, and he could be on that card, as well. We are having discussions with CBS about which dates would work."

More 2012 awards in boxing

January, 2, 2013
Robert Garcia and Kelly PavlikAP Photo/Cal Sport MediaFormer middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik is one of trainer Robert Garcia's latest reclamation projects.

Yes, 2012 is in the books, but beyond last week’s daily annual awards for fighter, knockout, round, prospect and fight of the year, here is part 1 of some additional awards:

Trainer of the year: This was a slam dunk: Robert Garcia had a huge year as head trainer for fighter of the year Nonito Donaire, who moved up in weight, won two junior featherweight belts and went 4-0 against four quality opponents. But Garcia had more going for him than just Donaire. He also trains Brandon Rios, who was in tremendous shape for his ultra-exciting knockout win against Mike Alvarado in the fight of the year runner-up (after being massively weight drained for a gift decision against Richard Abril in April), and younger brother Mikey Garcia, who stayed undefeated and will challenge for a featherweight world title against Orlando Salido on HBO on Jan. 19. Garcia also took over as trainer for former junior welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana, who is 2-0 with Garcia after a switching to him after a loss, and continues to work with former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, who won his three 2012 fights, albeit against lesser opposition.

Manager of the year: I’m calling a tie between Cameron Dunkin and Frank Espinoza, who compete for talent and even used to work closely with each other. Both did extremely well in 2012, moving their fighters and generating career paydays for them without the benefits the networks give Al Haymon because of his relationship with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Dunkin is a candidate year in and year out, but had a particularly strong 2012. He was a major factor in getting fighter of the year Donaire on HBO four times for the biggest purses of his career. Although Timothy Bradley Jr. fought only once, Dunkin was a big part of getting him a fight with Manny Pacquiao for a career-high payday of $5 million. Dunkin also guides the careers of Rios, Garcia and Pavlik, among others. One thing about Dunkin: He’ll fight for his clients with the same passion that they do in the ring.

Espinoza guided Abner Mares to a junior featherweight world title (after he moved up from bantamweight) and Daniel Ponce De Leon to a featherweight title. He also got Carlos Molina, a decent lightweight prospect, a career payday against Amir Khan and signed talented two-time Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez to a stable that also includes other prospects.

Upset of the year: There were several surprising results but I thought Sonny Boy Jaro’s sixth-round destruction of future Hall of Famer Pongsaklek Wonjongkam on the road in Thailand to win a flyweight title was as shocking as any outcome in recent years. Wonjongkam was not what he was at his best during his first reign (2001 to 2007, with a division-record 17 defenses) but he had reclaimed the title and had made four defenses before meeting Jaro, a journeyman from the Philippines. Jaro dropped him in the first and fourth rounds and twice more in the sixth to take the title and hand Wonjongkam only his second loss since 1996.

[+] EnlargeJosesito Lopez and Victor Ortiz
Tom Casino/ShowtimeJosesito Lopez broke Victor Ortiz's jaw in a great and surprising fight this past year.
There were a slew of other upsets too, including: Josesito Lopez, in his “Rocky moment,” breaking Victor Ortiz’s jaw and stopping him after nine rounds; Mario Rodriguez’s knockout of Nkosinathi Joyi in the seventh round to claim a strawweight title; Austin Trout outpointing Miguel Cotto in his house at Madison Square Garden to retain a junior middleweight belt; heavyweight Johnathon Banks drilling Seth Mitchell in the second round; journeyman Gamaliel Diaz outpointing Takahiro Ao in Japan to win a junior lightweight belt; Danny Garcia rallying for a fourth-round knockout of Amir Khan to unify junior welterweight belts; Carl Froch’s fifth-round knockout of then undefeated Lucian Bute to win a super middleweight title; Paulie Malignaggi going to Ukraine and not only handing Vyacheslav Senchenko his first loss, but doing so by TKO to win a welterweight belt; light heavyweight Denis Grachev’s stunning eighth-round rally to knock out heavily touted Ismayl Sillakh.

Worst stoppage of the year: If you follow boxing you know that former cruiserweight titlist Enzo Maccarinelli has a glass chin. But his second-round stoppage loss to Ovill McKenzie in a Commonwealth light heavyweight title bout in November had nothing to do with his chin and everything to do with incompetent referee Ian John-Lewis, who stopped the fight because of, well, absolutely nothing.

Robbery of the year: Hands down, Pacquiao-Bradley. Judges Duane Ford and C.J. Ross were on another planet with their scores that gave Bradley a spit decision. Then Ford made himself look even more foolish when he told HBO’s Jim Lampley that Bradley had given Pacquiao a “boxing lesson.” Somebody should give him a judging lesson.

Worst fights of the year: 1. As I fully expected, lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez’s defense against Mercito Gesta was putrid and stunk up the Marquez-Pacquiao undercard. 2. Devon Alexander’s welterweight title win against Randall Bailey also stunk out loud. How bad? CompuBox has tracked punch statistics for 27 years covering thousands of fights. Bailey landed just 45 of 198 punches, the fewest ever landed in a 12-round fight that CompuBox has tracked. 3. The fight between Sergiy Dzinziruk and Jonathan Gonzalez (who showed up nine pounds overweight for what was supposed to be a junior middleweight fight) was agony. It was ruled a draw. Nobody won, not either fighter and certainly not the HBO viewers.

[+] EnlargeDanny Jacobs
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireReturning to boxing after beating cancer was a great accomplishment for middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs.
Comeback of the year I: Middleweight Daniel Jacobs, the 2009 ESPN.com prospect of the year, made a triumphant return in October after being idle for 19 months because of a battle with cancer that nearly killed him. Forget about boxing, Jacobs was lucky to be alive, so when he fought in his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y., and knocked out Josh Luteran in the first round it was quite emotional.

Comeback of the year II: Yeah, Ricky Hatton got knocked out by Senchenko but how can you not be impressed by what Hatton did? The former junior welterweight champ came back 3 years after being severely knocked out by Pacquiao and a descent into depression, drug and alcohol abuse, significant weight gain and multiple suicide attempts. But he got his life together, got in great shape mentally and physically and was winning before getting caught by a ninth-round body shot. Hatton retired again, but fought well and looked like he could still contend if he wanted to fight on.