By Duncan Johnstone
New Zealand light-heavyweight boxer Rob Berridge has the determination to fight his way back into world title contention.
He also has a willingness to make changes to his aggressive style to try to achieve his comeback.
That's the message from the Team Butcher camp as they plot a way forward from his disastrous American debut where he was TKO'd in the fifth round by Russian champion Vasily Lepikhim, surrendering his WBO Oriental and PABA belts.
He also lost his No 9 WBO ranking, dropping out of the top 15 with Lepikhim leaping to No 10.
Berridge's team have had a serious debrief that has left manager Vasco Kovacevic admitting some shortcomings but also an eagerness to fix the problems.
Kovacevic has pin-pointed footwork as a key area requiring improvement. He also admits defence needs attention from a fighter who has made his name as a gun-slinger. And he's hinted that some Berridge stubbornness needs to change.
"There are a couple of things that have to be changed. You can have hard hands but if you don't have feet to put you into positions to deliver those hands, those hands are useless. That (fight) proved exactly that to me," Kovacevic said.
"And I've always said defence after offence - don't get hit.
"That sometimes falls on deaf ears. He has refused to do a few things. I used to take the piss out of him and say yep, I told you sop'. This is one of those ones that is simple: now you know what you have to do. There's a couple of little things we need to tidy up and that's it.
"It's not re-inventing a boxer. Getting to No 9 in the world he has achieved quite well. Now it's getting him that extra gear to achieve what we set out to do a couple of years ago. I think with those minor changes he will be the next world champion. He has got extreme power."
Kovacevic has no doubts about 29-year-old Berridge's will to push on.
"He wants it more now than ever. There's no problem with that. He believes that he has let a few people down. To me, you are only letting those people down if you let that result affect you. I believe he will come back stronger."
Kovacevic said there had been similar soul-searching after Berridge's only other loss, a controversial points decision to Australian Blake Caparello in Melbourne in 2012.
Berridge realised he had been guilty of "not emptying his tank" then and had addressed that in subsequent fights.
"Now he understands the difference between footwork, now he just has to work like a mad man to get that," Kovacevic said.
Plotting the course forward for Berridge remains the next challenge. His impending marriage casts some doubts over an appearance on the next Duco Events card, when heavyweight Joseph Parker fights Sherman Williams in west Auckland on October 16.
The Fight For Life extravaganza in December may be more likely.
But the question of who he fights rather than when he fights is the bigger puzzle.
Kovacevic believes Berridge has proven himself to be above the New Zealand market though he's not adverse to fighting one of the top four Kiwis "if that needs to be proven again to the public".
"Our goal is to be world champion, to do that you have to compete on the world stage."
But he conceded Lepikhim had exposed a worrying difference between the Australasian and eastern European styles that required attention. He felt Lepikhim deserved credit for his performance as much as the criticism that was aimed at Berridge. Kovacevic noted the growing number of Australian fighters who have also come up short in recent big fights.
Berridge is one year into a six-year deal with Duco and Kovacevic said that relationship remained strong.
Tags: Robbie Berridge