by Cliff Rold
This hasn’t been a case where the emperor had no clothes.
They just haven’t been the clothes the hype machine dreamt about.
Former Welterweight titlist Andre Berto has been a shining example of the value of good management. A fighter with solid speed and pop, Berto was presented from the start as one of the sports future stars and the noise machine stayed loud enough to drown out a steady stream of whispers.
Whispers about his chin, about his matchmaking.
The whispers grew over time to be as loud as the hype. A bad knockdown against Cosme Rivera, the laughable title win against the unknown and undeserving Miguel Rodriguez, and a questionable decision win over Luis Collazo emboldened skeptics.
Ironically, it was in rising against Rivera and enduring in the Collazo battle that the real Berto was emerging. No, he wasn’t a future great, but he was all fighter. Losses to Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero sandwiched around a win over Jan Zaveck and being busted for trying to cheat on the road to an aborted Ortiz rematch, showed that again.
Saturday he’s matched with another man who qualifies as all fighter. Jesus Soto Karass doesn’t beat them all, but he often gives a great account and can spoil anyone’s bigger plans. Berto is the story going in; desperately needing to avoid another loss, can he win to keep his career viable?
Can Soto Karass be the story coming out?
Let’s go to the report cards.
Previous Titles: WBC Welterweight (2008-11, 5 Defenses); IBF Welterweight (2011)
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 147 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 146.1 lbs.
Hails from: Winter Haven, Florida
Record: 28-2, 22 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-1, 4 KO (7-2, 4 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 7 (Steve Forbes UD12; Luis Collazo UD12; Juan Urango UD12; Carlos Quintana TKO8; Victor Ortiz L12; Jan Zaveck RTD5; Robert Guerrero L12)
Jesus Soto Karass
Title/Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’9 ½
Weight: 147 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 150.55 lbs.
Hails from: Los Angeles, California (Born in Mexico)
Record: 27-8-3, 17 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 3 (Yuri Foreman L8; Vince Phillips RTD9; Marcos Maidana TKO by 8)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Berto A-; Soto Karass C+
Pre-Fight: Power – Berto B+; Soto Karass B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Berto C; Soto Karass C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Berto B; Soto Karass B
While no title is on the line here in this Showtime main event (9 PM EST/PST), any dreams of title shots in the future could hinge on the result. Soto Karass enters with better momentum. In his last outing, he pulled the upset over Selcuk Aydin while Berto, though game, took a pasting against Robert Guerrero.
Both men have defensive liabilities. Soto Karass isn’t hard to find. Berto, based on his last outing, might just be confused. His attempt at a Mayweather-like shoulder roll was a disaster. He’s always been too square, and lacked head movement, but that wasn’t the answer.
Where Berto has an edge, barring the wear of battles past catching up to him more than the same issue for Soto Karass, remains speed and explosive pop. Berto can get to the mark faster than Soto Karass and carries enough power to make it count. While Berto earned his skeptics, he’s beaten and largely faced better foe than Soto Karass over the years to mostly good results.
What of motivation? Soto Karass has nothing to lose. If he wins, he can ride the wave from Aydin and look for bigger chances. Lose and he is still a dependable TV fighter who can expect some calls. A loss for Berto could push him into a gatekeeper position. Considering where he’s come from, it would be a steep drop.
There are plenty of folks seeing this one as a potential upset special. This corner doesn’t see it that way. Without knowing what the Guerrero fight took out of Berto, there is a feeling this is still about a different class of fighter. If Berto can avoid being hurt early, and get comfortable, he should be able to potshot and grapple enough to muzzle Soto Karass and keep to hearty a fight from breaking out. The pick is Berto to keep his career alive with a sometimes rough decision, if not a late cut stoppage, win on Saturday night.
Report Card Picks 2013: 28-16
Berto-Soto Karass isn’t the only intriguing fight on the Showtime show…Along with what looks like a bit of a showcase for Lightweight Omar Figueroa, a clash of Welterweight unbeatens could give us a true contender…The speed edge for Keith Thurman (20-0, 18 KO) should be enough to get at least a decision against Diego Chaves (22-0, 18 KO) in a fight with some firefights…Overseas in Macau, it would be no surprise if the two best fights of the day are done long before Showtime hits the air. They will be replayed on HBO2 (5:15 PM EST/PST)…IBF Featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich (16-0, 8 KO) has a tough fight on his hands in Mauricio Munoz (26-3, 12 KO) but Munoz has fallen short attempting to step up before and Gradovich is the sort who may get better with a title. The pick is for Gradovich to retain, close, in his first defense…Finally, the fight of the day will pit WBO/WBA Flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada (24-2, 18 KO) tries to follow up a career making loss and win against Roman Gonzalez and Brian Viloria. His first defense against Milan Melindo (29-0, 12 KO) shouldn’t be easy but Melindo is physically slighter and Estrada’s edge in physical strength should make the difference in a decision.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transanational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]