Five years after they staged the fight of the year, Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto will return for a rematch Saturday night at StubHub Center.
Ortiz and Berto have both healed from injuries that threatened their relevance in the sport, and the winner of the Fox-televised main event could get a title shot against World Boxing Council welterweight champion Danny Garcia.
“My focus has been to get ready for the Victor from five years ago,” Berto said. “Nobody has seen him fight like he fought me since then.”
Their first meeting, a WBC welterweight title fight on April 16, 2011, was a qualifier to meet Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I wanted that Floyd fight so bad … they threw this fight in front of me and,” there was a feeling of frustration, Berto said. “I didn’t train like I was supposed to and it carried into the fight. It was devastating” to lose.
Ortiz found his own despair when he fought Mayweather. Ortiz head-butted Mayweather in frustration during the fourth round of their 2011 fight, then Mayweather retaliated by surprising Ortiz with a borderline sucker-punch combination after a break to KO Ortiz.
Ortiz returned the next year to get his jaw broken in an upset loss to Josesito Lopez, and after participating in some Hollywood work, including “Dancing With the Stars” and the film “The Expendables 3,” he was knocked out in the second round by Luis Colazzo in January 2014.
“I wasn’t distracted by Hollywood. I’ve had two broken wrists and a broken jaw to recover from,” Ortiz said. “I have a great memory, can speak well, look OK, so why not take acting classes?”
Ortiz is 2-3 since his first fight with Berto, who is 3-3 since that 2011 bout.
Ortiz’s boxing comeback is aided by his assistant trainer David Rodela, a former amateur rival also from Oxnard. The pair built a grudge after meeting in the 2004 Southern California Olympic trials finals, then again in the first round of the U.S. trials — Ortiz won the first fight easily, the next disputably.
The hard feelings intensified until Ortiz was driving home from an Oxnard parade and saw Rodela walking home from the same event that honored the fighters. After Ortiz split from trainer Robert Garcia, the fighter began working out with Rodela’s trainer, Joseph “Hoss” Janik.
As Rodela proceeded through his own career, serving as a longtime sparring partner to Manny Pacquiao, his bond with Ortiz improved.
“I help him through the frustration of training and he can always count on me,” Rodela said of Ortiz, 29. “I’ve seen a transformation. He’s matured.”
Meanwhile, Berto faced his own rough spell following a July 2013 loss in which he tore up his shoulder and required reconstructive surgery. He began attending “The One” church in Hollywood regularly.
“I went to church to find answers — by myself,” Berto said. “I found peace in that, I felt a lot more happy. Then, for some reason, my range of motion got better, my arm got stronger and it felt like, ‘I’m coming back.’ ”
Berto, 32, knocked out Lopez in March 2015, earning a date with Mayweather that paid him $5 million. But Mayweather improved to 49-0 with a unanimous decision in September and then retired.
“They’ve brought me the right fight [against Ortiz]. They knew it was one that lingered in my mind for quite a time,” Berto said. “It’ll get me focused. I want to rebuild from those mistakes. I’m a different man.”
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