By Keith Idec
Andre Berto is much more appreciative of his boxing career now that it was nearly taken away from him.
Berto (29-3, 22 KOs) admitted during a conference call Monday he believed at times that the debilitating shoulder injury that kept him out of the ring for 13½ months in 2013 and 2014 would prevent him from boxing again. That’s how taxing surgery to repair a tendon in his right shoulder following a July 2013 technical knockout loss to Jesus Soto Karass and Berto’s subsequent rehabilitation was on the former welterweight champion mentally and physically.
Berto’s battle through that adversity sharpened his focus during training camp for a 10-round fight Friday night against Josesito Lopez (33-6, 19 KOs, 1 NC) in Ontario, Calif. (9 p.m. ET; Spike TV). The 31-year-old Berto, of Winter Haven, Fla., soundly defeated Philadelphia’s Steve Upsher Chambers (24-4-1, 6 KOs, 1 NC) in his first fight following the aforementioned shoulder surgery, but Lopez represents a step up in competition from that mostly easy Sept. 6 bout in Cincinnati.
“If you have watched me and watched all the shit that I’ve been through the last year, year-and-a-half,” Berto said, “you ain’t going to have no choice but to be a different fighter, different person, different man. This whole experience I went through, being in the situation of just injuries here and there, especially after my last situation, tearing my shoulder and going through that rehab, you know, I didn’t think I would be in a position to fight anymore. To be honest, I thought my career was probably going to be over because the injury. I’ve never gone through anything like that in my life. It was just so taxing on me that I really had to learn how to use my right arm all over again. It took me a year, year-and-half.”
The surgery to repair Berto’s shoulder tendon, which he tore during the second round of a fight he lost to Mexico’s Soto Karass (28-10-3, 18 KOs, 1 NC) by 12th-round technical knockout, required his second lengthy layoff in less than two years. Berto also underwent a procedure in February 2012 to fix a ruptured left biceps, which was primarily responsible for a 14-month gap between bouts.
“When a man goes through those types of obstacles,” Berto said, “he doesn’t have any choice but to stay focused and stay prayed up and see God on a lot of different angles and areas. You don’t have no choice but to be a different man, a different animal. Before I got that opportunity to get back in the gym and get [mediacal] clearance, it was just a whole different life for me, a whole different motivation. Right after my last fight, I was in the gym three or four days after the fight. There was no vacation for me. I just wanted to be back.
"When you’re in a position where you get your gift taken away from you like that, and you get to a point where you’re going to get it back, you really are grateful. You really cherish it. You pull out all the stops to make sure that you’re as efficient as possible. I came into this camp about six pounds overweight. I came into camp in shape. My mindset, my motivation, my determination – everything is just different.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.