By Keith Idec
Andre Berto appreciates Jan Zaveck’s willingness to leave his comfort zone.
The IBF welterweight champion has fought mostly in Germany, where his promotional company is based, and in his native Slovenia since he made his pro debut in March 2003. Zaveck didn’t hesitate, however, to make his debut in the United States when he was offered Saturday’s optional defense against Andre Berto.
They’ll fight for Zaveck’s title in an HBO main event at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Miss.
“I know Zaveck is coming over from where he’s from, and I respect him a lot for that,” said Berto (27-1, 21 KOs), of Winter Haven, Fla. “You really don’t see too many guys from overseas come over to the States to defend their title. But he’s trying to make a mark here in the States, and it’s going to be a good one.”
Lou DiBella, Berto’s promoter, also commended the little-known Zaveck (31-1, 18 KOs, 1 NC) for boxing Berto on American soil, when he could’ve continued making good money for lower-profile defenses in Slovenia or Germany.
“I want to point out something that [Zaveck] tweeted, because I thought it was an excellent comment from a world champion,” DiBella said. “What he tweeted was, ‘A real champion doesn’t hold his title hostage.’ And that is why he’s coming to America to fight one of the very best fighters in this country and one of the very best welterweights in the world. And that’s a great tribute to the championship spirit of the champion, because in this day and age too many champions do hold their titles hostage.”
The 35-year-old Zaveck’s lone loss was a split decision defeat to a Polish fighter in Poland, but he avenged his only professional loss with a majority decision win against Rafal Jackiewicz (38-9-1, 19 KOs) in Slovenia nearly a year ago. Zaveck said he’s not worried about judging approaching the biggest fight of his career.
“It doesn’t matter where you fight,” said Zaveck, who won the IBF belt by stopping South Africa’s Isaac Hlatshwayo in the third round of their December 2009 fight in Johannesburg. “The only thing going into this that interests me is that I must give my maximum [effort]. That’s what I must do [Saturday night].”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.