Why boxer Andre Berto is always worth watching

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Andre Berto celebrates his fourth-round knockout win against Victor Ortiz on April 30, 2016. (AP)
Andre Berto celebrates his fourth-round knockout win against Victor Ortiz on April 30, 2016. (AP)

These days, when a fight can headline a televised boxing card and not be for a world title, it speaks volumes of the type of fight it figures to be.

And though it’s not getting a lot of attention, Saturday’s bout between Andre Berto and Shawn Porter at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Showtime is one of those rare fights that doesn’t need the approval of a sanctioning body to make it compelling.

Berto and Porter are aggressive, attack-first fighters who figure to put on a show Saturday.

And while some may see Berto’s career as a disappointment, given his talents and his fast start as a pro, he’s among the more compelling fighters in the sport to watch.

When Berto was preparing to face Floyd Mayweather on Sept. 12, 2015, he was being inundated with questions about how abysmal Mayweather’s bout with Manny Pacquiao had been.

Berto leaned forward in his seat and gave almost the perfect answer: “Come on, man. When have you ever seen me in a boring fight?”

And the answer, clearly, is rarely.

For all the slings and arrows he’s taken in his career, and the accusations that he’s a two-time world champion only because of the work of Al Haymon, his powerful manager, Berto is nothing if not one of the sport’s most exciting fighters.

Time and again, Berto has drawn fans out of their seats. Sometimes, it’s for what he lands. Other times, it’s for what he absorbs. Berto’s fights, though, are always compelling.

Say this for him: He always keeps your interest. There was the time he fought Robert Guerrero, and inexplicably came out trying to use the shoulder roll, a defensive tactic in which the fighter tucks his chin and protects it with his shoulder.

Andre Berto, left, lost a decision to Floyd Mayweather in September 2015. (AP)
Andre Berto, left, lost a decision to Floyd Mayweather in September 2015. (AP)

It’s a move Floyd Mayweather has perfected and used to great effect.

But when Berto tried it, he simply was open to getting battered by Guerrero, who repeatedly nailed him with hard, clean, thudding shots.

Guerrero built a big early lead and Berto’s eye was an opthalmologist’s worst nightmare. Berto, though, isn’t deterred easily and he kept pushing forward. He won over many fans that night by roaring back and finishing strong in a fight he lost by unanimous decision.

He scored knockouts in 20 of his first 22 fights and won a world championship when he defeated the less-than-frightening Miki Rodriguez in 2008 to claim the WBC welterweight belt.

Haymon, many critics howled, had held Berto’s hand and almost single-handedly gave him the title belt. To be sure, Berto hadn’t beaten a string of elite fighters to earn the title shot and few of his first 22 victims had ever amounted to much.

In considering Berto’s career, that’s looking at the glass as half-empty.

While he might not have been on the level of welterweights such as Mayweather, Pacquiao and Paul Williams, who were on top in those days, he was a guy who had no quit and whose will to win knew no bounds.

History won’t remember him as a great fighter, and unless he goes on some unexpectedly massive run late in his career, he’s probably not even going to sniff the Hall of Fame.

Not everybody, though, can be great.

Berto is fun, a guy who, if you’ve seen him once, you make sure to set the DVR every time he’s on.

Boxing needs more guys like that. He’s a professional in every way, always coming in great shape and always willing to give every bit of himself in search of victory.

He has taken it on the chin both in the ring and in the media, but never backed down in either case.

“Well, from my first loss moving forward, I’ve been written off,” Berto said. “Like I said going into it, it’s just where the fight game is. It’s just where the fight game is. From my first loss on, it’s been this and this, this and that. I’ve been through my hard times. I’ve been through everything in this fight game and [it’s all] been in front of that TV screen. That’s what you need to understand. I’ve got a chance to fight all over. I was with Lou DiBella and HBO. Everything that I’ve done has been in the eyes of the public. My rise, my fall, going through my defeats. Coming back from shoulder surgery, coming back trying to continue to make a statement, make people know I’m still here. I love it, because I love that roller-coaster ride.

“I’ve never seen my career coming into the game as being perfect. Never. Never. I’ve always wanted to feel everything that this game had to offer. But it’s just like Muhammad Ali said a long time ago, he was able to feel everything this game had to offer. He got knocked down. He got stopped. He wasn’t tired. He was the best alive. This and that. He had to experience it all. When I’m done, I’ll be able to read my story and see that and explain everything this game had to offer.”

Porter is a big favorite, and it would be no shock if he were to stop Berto. Berto gets hit a lot and Porter is younger, probably stronger, and highly motivated. He’s not going to back off.

But for all the negative that can be said about Berto, no one can accuse the man of just showing up to collect a paycheck. He fights hard and he fights until the finish.

He fought in an era with far bigger, far more accomplished stars.

Quietly, though, Andre Berto has had himself a fantastic career.

Those who know the fight game will be tuned to Showtime on Saturday, because Berto is as sure of a thing as there is in this business in terms of delivering a quality performance.

He’s had his share of ups and down, but he’s always a joy to watch.

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