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03 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

Berto Gets Another Chance On HBO




By Lou Catalano: He was in trouble right from the beginning.

When Andre Berto met up with Victor Ortiz in a welterweight showdown in April, few people gave Ortiz much of a chance. Ortiz was still fighting to get the “quitter” label off of him after bowing out against Marcos Maidana. He was moving up in weight, and he’d never been in with a guy as fast and slick as Berto.

Berto meanwhile, had pitched an undefeated record while testing out his freakish hand speed and solid power on guys like Freddie Hernandez and Juan Urango. He had been getting paid exorbitant amounts of money by HBO to pound on guys with very little chance of beating him, similar to how things worked with Roy Jones in the late 90’s. The difference is that Jones had already established himself as the best fighter on the planet by the time HBO opened the bank for him. All Berto had done, after all of the hype, was beat Luis Collazo in a life and death fight.

The reality was that no one was really sure what to make of Berto yet, because he had yet to be tested by an elite fighter. He had shown signs, against moderate opposition, that he could be a force. He’d also shown, sometimes against that very same opposition, that he might have some kinks in the armor. For all of Berto’s quickness and reflexes, he sure got hit a lot. For all of that ridiculous hand speed, he seemed to lose his share of rounds. There was also the issue of his chin. He had been wobbled a couple of times on the way up, and he was dropped by George Foreman-like puncher Cosme Rivera in 2007.

The feeling here was that the next elite fighter to square off with Victor Ortiz would beat him up. But was Andre Berto an elite fighter?

The answer seemed fairly obvious after the first round of the fight, a round Berto barely made it out of. He was dropped and battered all over the ring by a possessed Ortiz. Many of the same questions about Berto’s abilities leading up to the fight were asked of Ortiz, but while Berto came out looking to show off his speed and technical skills, Ortiz came out like a bull ready to destroy anything in his path. In this case, it was a shocked and horrified looking Andre Berto. Ortiz was desperate to silence his critics and prove that he was a top fighter, and he made his opponent look utterly lost in the ring. Berto was being embarrassed by his first true test.
He then came out and dropped Ortiz in the second round.


He wasn’t fully recovered from the beating he took in round one; in fact, he never seemed to truly get his legs back at all. He laid against the ropes for long stretches during the fight, and ignored his corner’s pleas to get off the ropes and attack the body. He instead fought back on heart and guts, and turned a one sided beat down into a brawl. He actually had the still wild charging Ortiz hurt and down in the sixth round when he caught him lunging in, but he got careless and was dropped himself a few moments later. He lost a fantastic fight by unanimous decision.

So what do we make of Andre Berto? He’s probably not as good as he was made out to be early in his career, but he proved that he isn’t just an overhyped, average fighter either. We still don’t really know, and we’ll most likely get no answers this Saturday night, when he fights Jan Zaveck on HBO. If you’re asking yourself who Jan Zaveck is, you’ve obviously hit onto why we won’t know much more about Berto after the fight. Zaveck is a 35 year old fighter with a 35-1 record built mostly by fighting guys whose records range from decent to horrific. If Berto is to be taken seriously, he has to look good against Zaveck and then step up the competition again.

Just a few fights ago, Berto talked of being ready for Mayweather and Pacquiao. Instead, he’s fighting Zaveck with more questions surrounding him than ever. It’s obviously not where he wants to be, but the good news for him is that he’s in a position to change all of it. It’s simple; he has to get back into the win column and keep going. There are plenty of options for big fights in and around the welterweight division. He’s flashy, he’s lighting fast, and maybe most importantly, he has the backing of HBO. He’s lucky. Some fighters never get a second chance.

September 1, 2011


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