Both Andre Berto and Jesus Soto-Karass know what it's like to get off to fast starts in terms of a career. Berto won his first 27 fights, capturing a welterweight title belt and notching five defenses before suffering his first loss while Soto-Karass won his first nine fights -- all by KO -- before a draw blemished his perfect record.
Another part of a boxer's experience is picking oneself off the floor -- literally and in terms of career path -- and marching onward. Berto's record is mixed here; he's 1-2 in his last three fights and in each of the two losses he suffered two knockdowns, but he got up and gave his tormentors -- Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero -- plenty of hell before dropping the decision. As for Soto-Karass he has incurred eight defeats and three draws yet still keeps coming with full force, win or lose.
Ironically it is Soto-Karass, often placed on the B-side of cards, that is coming into this fight off a big win, a 10-round decision over Selcuk Aydin, while it is Berto, the perennial A-side, who looks to rebound. The styles suggest an excellent scrap but will the action live up to the hype? And who will end up victorious? The final result literally lays in each man's hands but there are statistical factors that may determine the outcome:
Accuracy Over Activity: When faced with aggressors like Ortiz and Guerrero, Berto is forced to be reactive more than proactive in terms of output (40 per round vs. "Vicious Victor" and 34.2 per round vs. "The Ghost," far below the 58.2 welterweight average). That allowed Ortiz and Guerrero to accumulate big connect advantages (281-147 overall and 266-115 power vs. Ortiz and 258-182 overall and 234-162 power vs. Guerrero) and come away with decision victories. That's good news for Soto-Karass, who remains one of the sport's most aggressive volume-punchers 12 years into a punch-soaked career.
Berto uses excellent accuracy to compensate for his sparse activity. He landed 31% of his total punches and 46% of his power shots against Ortiz, scoring a sixth round knockdown in the process, while against Guerrero he connected on 44% of his total punches and 50% of his power shots, the latter of which is usually an indicator of victory. But like Mikkel Kessler, who landed 55% of his power shots against Carl Froch, one must also accompany extreme accuracy with enough volume along the way to win rounds and counterbalance his opponent's less precise volume punching and neither "The Viking Warrior" nor Berto fulfilled that part of the equation. If Berto wants to beat Soto-Karass by using his standard formula, he must lift his per-round output into the 50s -- at least -- to give himself his best chance. Guerrero, Zaveck & Ortiz combined to land 42% of their power shots vs. Berto
Bringing the Heat: Soto-Karass may win and Soto-Karass may lose but one element always remains the same -- he comes at his opponents with never-ending pressure. In 10 CompuBox-tracked fights since 2008-2012, Soto-Karass averaged 88.2 punches per round, of which 52.3 -- or 59.3% -- were power punches. The typical welterweight throws 58.2 per round, of which 33.7 (57.9%) are power shots. Soto-Karass is not an accurate puncher, for he lands 27% overall, 18% jabs and 33% power, well below the divisional norms of 32%, 23% and 39%. However, when it works well, the Jason Pollack splatter-art approach works very well indeed.
Against Aydin, Soto-Karass fired 95 punches per round and his attack was impressively balanced as he mixed in 452 jabs with his 498 power shots. In all, Soto-Karass out-landed Aydin 215-157 (total), 73-34 (jabs) and 142-123 (power). He didn't land a high percentage (23% overall, 16% jabs, 29% power) but Aydin's relative lack of activity (52.3 per round) wasn't enough to compensate for his superior precision.
Speaking of an opponent's precision, Soto-Karass' main problem is defense -- it's sieve-like. In the 10 CompuBox-tracked fights previously mentioned, Soto-Karass dished out a lot but took a lot in return: Of his opponents' 65.4 punches per round, 37% of their total shots connected, as did 28% of their jabs and 44% of their power shots. One CompuBox rule of thumb is that if a fighter absorbs 40% or more of their opponents' hardest punches, that should raise a red flag defensively and the farther north of 40% a fighter takes, the worse it gets. Maidana landed 40% overall and 48% of his power shots while Gabriel Rosado scored with 44% overall and 53% power. Even in beating Aydin, Soto-Karass absorbed more than his fair share -- 30% overall and 46% power. That trend also unfolded in other victories against Edvan Dos Santos Barros (43% overall, 34% jabs, 46% power) and common opponent David Estrada (35% overall, 43% power) That can't be ignored and given Berto's sharp-shooting it may well be decisive.
Prediction: This is a difficult fight to call because each man's strengths dovetails into his opponent's weaknesses. Berto is vulnerable against volume-punchers who never stop coming while Soto-Karass' sub-par defense will accentuate Berto's precision attack. One would think Berto would be a solid favorite given these facts but another variable throws that into question -- Berto's inactivity. This is only his second fight since September 2011 and Berto's effectiveness is reliant on his timing. Plus, he's on a career-worse slide in terms of record so how confident will he be walking into the ring?
The guess here is that this will be a tough, compelling match but Berto's superior class and technique will eventually rise to the top. Berto by decision.