Boxer Andre Berto tries to relaunch career with curious strategy

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Boxer Andre Berto tries to relaunch career with curious strategy
Boxer Andre Berto tries to relaunch career with curious strategy

There are two overriding themes to Andre Berto's boxing career.

Unquestionably, he's been given an easier than necessary road to world titles and television appearances.

But the second overriding theme is the only one that should matter to boxing fans: He's regularly been an exciting fighter.

After a little more than a year on the sidelines following shoulder surgery, Berto will return in Cincinnati on Saturday on the undercard of a Showtime broadcast that includes Adrien Broner against Emmanuel Taylor in the main event.

Andre Berto was stopped by Jesus Soto Karass in the 12th round of his last bout in July 2013. (AP)
Andre Berto was stopped by Jesus Soto Karass in the 12th round of his last bout in July 2013. (AP)

Berto will meet Steve Upsher Chambers in a 10-round welterweight bout, his first fight since being stopped in the 12th round by Jesus Soto Karass on July 27, 2013.

Berto had surgery to repair a significant tendon tear in his right shoulder on Aug. 7, 2013.

"The last 12 months have definitely been hard, but I have learned a lot about myself and the sport since my last fight," Berto said. "Dealing with an injury like this has helped me strengthen different elements of my game and I can't wait to put all of that into play on [Saturday]."

The fight is an important one for Berto, who is riding a two-fight losing streak and has lost three of his last four. Chambers isn't a big puncher – he has just six wins by knockout in 28 bouts, while going 24-3-1 – and so Berto (28-3, 22 KOs) isn't being severely challenged.

A member of the 2004 Haitian Olympic boxing team, things came too easily for Berto in the pros. He was linked with the powerful Al Haymon as his manager and, as a result, got a slew of dates and questionable opponents on HBO.

He reeled off 27 consecutive wins to start his career but truly didn't have a significant opponent in the lot.

That being said, Berto has been a crowd-pleasing fighter no matter whom he was fighting. When he stepped up the competition level in 2011, his success dropped. He lost to Victor Ortiz in a Fight of the Year candidate on April 16, 2011. He defeated Jan Zaveck after five rounds to claim the IBF welterweight title on Sept. 3, 2011.

He lost a barn-burner to Robert Guerrero on Nov. 24, 2012, in a bout for the interim WBC welterweight title, then was stopped by Soto Karass.

All four of those matches were highly entertaining and well worth watching.

Many of Berto's earlier fights were the same, but he didn't get as much credit because of the nature of his opposition.

Chambers, though, is good enough to push him and so it should be a fascinating match on Saturday.

Berto has been working with Virgil Hunter, who is best known for his work with super middleweight champion Andre Ward. Hunter's basic plan is always to emphasize defense and avoid being hit.

One of Berto's problems as he's faced better competition was a lack of a solid defensive foundation. He inexplicably came out using the shoulder roll in his fight with Guerrero and was tagged mercilessly, and nearly stopped, until he adjusted.

It says much about Berto's fighting spirit after the way he was pummeled in the early going of that bout that he nearly came back to win.

Berto has lost three of his last four bouts. (AP)
Berto has lost three of his last four bouts. (AP)

But Berto clearly needs to be better defensively if he's ever going to make another serious run at the top.

To that end, he's worked tirelessly with Hunter. He's not going to become Ward overnight, but if he's even 10 percent harder to hit than he previously was, it's major progress.

"Virgil and I have been working consistently since I was cleared to start boxing training early this year," Berto said. "Training with him is like being in a classroom and I'm excited to share the benefits of those lessons in Cincinnati."

He's shared the gym with the likes of Ward, Amir Khan, Abner Mares and Alfredo Angulo and has tried to incorporate something from each of their styles into his own.

It's as good of an atmosphere a guy like Berto could hope to be in.

"It was good to be able to be there to support those guys [and] I learned something from each one of them," he said. "Now, it's my turn and I'm ready to go out there and put on a show in Cincinnati."

He's always been a crowd-pleasing fighter, and it's hard to imagine that Hunter will turn him into a defensive master overnight.

But if Berto can show off his defense, not just his offense, against Chambers, it's going to make a major difference.

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