By Ryan Maquiñana
San Carlos, California, is a long way from Winter Haven, Florida. Ask Andre Berto, who uprooted himself and his team 2,905 miles west to the San Francisco Bay Area city for his latest training camp.
But while junior welterweight Jonathan Chicas and welterweight Karim Mayfield aim to provide him with some quality sparring, the reason why the former WBC welterweight champion made the move is SNAC president Victor Conte, who works with Berto’s brother Cleveland on structuring Andre’s nutrition and conditioning.
I watched Berto spar six rounds with Chicas and Mayfield, and it’s evident that so far, he hasn’t sacrificed speed for strength. His patented double left hook to the body and head was as quick as ever, and Berto had no trouble throwing it from any angle he desired.
After sparring, he went a few rounds on the heavy bag and speed bag before finishing the workout with some light jump rope outside the ring and sit-ups inside it. Following a cool-down and brief chat with trainer Tony Morgan, Berto spoke at length to me about the recent changes in his life.
Among the topics are the move to San Carlos, bouncing back from the loss to Victor Ortiz, and how he plans to take away Jan Zaveck’s IBF welterweight belt on Sept. 3 in Biloxi, Miss.
ON MATCHING UP WITH ZAVECK:
“Sparring’s going pretty good. It’s the first week of that. Zaveck is going to come with the pressure. He’s a conventional fighter, so that’s definitely going to be a plus for me. I’m just going to be in tremendous shape. My speed’s already there. My power’s already there. I’m working on everything, and it’s just a fact of just getting those rounds in.”
ON THE LOSS TO ORTIZ:
“It most definitely was, how can I say it, it was different for me, going through my first ‘L.’ I think it’s always difficult for a young fighter coming up going through your first loss. I felt like I wasn’t 100 percent going in there that night. Victor Ortiz, he definitely came to fight. Your mission in there needs to be to command and conquer. So for me, it’s up to me to get back on my feet and come for what’s mine.”
ON MEETING CONTE:
“I’ve been hearing about him through a few friends of mine who worked with him…we reached out and we spoke…we did some tests, and he’s definitely the right person to help me get back on balance and right on point.”
ON CONCERNS ABOUT PEDs DUE TO CONTE’S PAST:
“Not at all. At the end of the day, we might have a target on our back, but they can test us all day long. Victor’s right. Performance enhancing drugs is very rampant in boxing. We know that for sure, but we’re definitely probably like the cleanest athletes here. We’re taking the right things we need for our bodies, just trying to get the best out of our bodies without stepping to the dark side.”
ON STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING WITH CONTE:
“This is my second week working with Victor. It’s just a lot of technology and science involved. We try to keep track of everything, like heart rates or what not…the sprint training is different. The hypoxic training (high altitude simulation) is different. It’s opened my eyes to a lot of new things. I felt like I was way behind on a learning curve.”
ON CONTE’S METHOD TO TRAIN LESS:
“Before, we just trained until we dropped. We pretty much would just grind ourselves to the ground. It finally caught up with me. But now we try to train smarter, make sure the rest is very important as much as we work. We got to rest.”
ON HIS GLOVES:
“I usually wear the Everlast MXs, which are cool, but I’m going back to Grants for this fight. I’m feeling like I need some space in my glove for my hand in this fight.”
ON LIVING IN THE BAY AREA:
“The Bay Area is nice. It’s really nice. It’s my first time out here. The weather’s beautiful. We’re out here putting in work, getting this sparring in. It feels good getting back in the gym, getting back in shape, and getting myself back at it again.”
Ryan Maquiñana is the boxing correspondent at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. E-mail him at [email protected], contact him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rmaq28 or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.