By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – As Andre Berto reflected Thursday, he couldn’t believe how quickly the time has passed.
It seems like only yesterday Berto was a young, powerful prospect poised to make his mark in the welterweight division. Fast forward 12 years or so, and the 33-year-old former 147-pound champion is considered past his prime, probably too old and too shopworn to beat Shawn Porter on Saturday night in Brooklyn.
Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs) is 6-1 favorite in their WBC welterweight elimination match, but Berto (31-4, 24 KOs) doesn’t think there is nearly as much separating him and Porter as skeptics suspect.
The 2004 Haitian Olympian feels refreshed now that nearly a year has passed since his last fight – a fourth-round knockout of Victor Ortiz in a rematch that took place several years too late.
“It’s crazy how time passes by,” Berto told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Thursday at the Brooklyn Marriott. “But right now I feel tremendous. I feel healthy like I haven’t been in years, and I’m ready to go.
“At this age, those long training camps are really brutal on the body. [This long layoff] definitely helped me out a little bit, gave me a chance to heal. It’s not even really the fight. It’s the training camps that you basically have to really heal up from. It definitely did me some good.”
The 29-year-old Porter approaches training different than Berto. The former IBF welterweight champion is always in the gym, a workout warrior constantly committed to staying in peak condition, even when he doesn’t have a fight scheduled.
Porter’s professional approach is commendable, but Berto views all the time Porter spends in the gym as an advantage for him as their fight nears.
“I know he’s the type of kid that trains year-round, too,” Berto said. “He has a lot of miles on his body, especially for being a young kid. He doesn’t stop. Even between fights, he’s banging away at his body, he’s sparring every other day, he’s doing a lot. So as we get older, we know we’ve just gotta be smarter. This is the type of game that’ll take it out of you. This fight game isn’t a joke. Realistically, it’s a young man’s sport. But you’ve gotta play it smart after a while.”
Nevertheless, in terms of what has happened in the ring, Berto obviously has endured his fair share of damage over the years.
Ortiz dropped him twice during a physical fight Ortiz came back to win by unanimous decision to take the WBC welterweight title from Berto six years ago. Robert Guerrero also floored Berto twice on his way to winning a 12-round unanimous decision in their grueling fight in November 2012.
Berto boxed most of his next fight with a torn tendon in his right shoulder, an injury Jesus Soto Karass exploited on his way to stopping Berto in the 12th round in July 2013. The Winter Haven, Florida, native still landed a $4 million payday for facing Floyd Mayweather Jr. two years later, but wasn’t competitive in that unanimous-decision defeat.
Even a faded Ortiz dropped Berto in the second round of their rematch, before Berto bounced back to knock him out two rounds later last April 30. Berto still is just 4-4 in his past eight fights.
“I’ve seen this man get hit,” Porter said. “I’ve seen this man get put down. All right, I’ll say it – he got up. … I’ve seen him get lumped up. I’ve seen him hurt. I know he can be hurt. I know he can be stopped. I know he can bleed. I know he’s a man, just like me. I know he’s ready, but not as ready as me.”
All these doubts about Berto have motivated him to make another run at becoming a three-time welterweight champion. If he upsets Porter, he’ll become the WBC’s mandatory challenger for its 147-pound champion, Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC).
“I think it’d great for me to come back with another tremendous win, and get back on top of this game,” Berto said. “I’m ready for anything. I’ll be ready for whatever he’s trying to bring. We had a great camp. We’re in tremendous shape. And I think they’re gonna be surprised by what they see Saturday night, for sure. … I’m one of those guys, even at 33 years old, still have tremendous speed, still have tremendous power.”
Porter is looking forward to testing Berto’s endurance and exploring how he’ll react later in their scheduled 12-round fight, the first of two Showtime will televise from Barclays Center. The opener of Showtime’s doubleheader will match Houston’s Jermell Charlo (28-1, 13 KOs) in a 12-round fight against Dallas’ Charles Hatley (28-1-1, 16 KOs), the mandatory challenger for Charlo’s WBC super welterweight title.
There’s much more animosity among Charlo and Hatley than between Berto and Porter, which could lead to an exciting encounter. Whatever happens in the Charlo-Hatley fight, Porter expects that he and Berto will provide much more entertainment in the ring than the respectful foes have delivered during an utterly uneventful buildup toward their fight.
“I know myself, I’m a ‘Showtime’ fighter,” Porter said. “When the lights come on, I’m ready to go. I expect he’ll be the same, but we’re gonna push the tempo, we’re gonna test his heart and we’re gonna test his mind, you know, put him in positions he’s not used to being put in and carry it from there.
“What I mean by that is I don’t think there’s a lot of fighters out there like me and I don’t think he’s been up against a guy like me before, that possesses the conditioning that I have, the speed, quickness, power that I have. And with that combination, is he ready? Is he ready to go into those deep waters and keep pushing with me?”
Lou DiBella, the promoter of Saturday’s card, believes Berto will be more than ready for the pressure Porter applies.
“He’s had a great career,” DiBella said. “Every time he’s been knocked down, he has gotten up. And every time he’s been counted out, he has come back stronger. And, you know, this is a guy who’s seen adversity and walked through it. This is a guy who’s walked through the fire and come out the other side. This guy’s a great warrior. He’s a credit to boxing. And on Saturday night, Shawn’s got his hands full.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.