By Keith Idec
If there was any question as to whether 2017 will be a make-or-break year for Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, Andre Berto affirmatively answered it.
When asked by fighthype.com during a recent training session about what to expect next year, the former WBC welterweight champion was honest about the message Haymon has delivered to fighters he advises and manages that are part of the PBC organization.
“We’ve got a big 2017 coming up,” Berto told fighthype.com in a video posted Wednesday. “You know, everybody on a PBC card got that phone call, and let us know that everybody’s fighting everybody. It ain’t no cakewalks next year. And I think this last card [on Saturday night in Los Angeles] was the first installment of it.
“As you can see, [Jermall Charlo] fought and [Abner] Mares fought [Jesus Cuellar]. These are fights people wanted to see for a while, and they’re making them happen. If we wanna keep getting paid how we gettin’ paid, now they puttin’ us in the fire. So either you’re gonna get burnt, or you’re gonna rise to the occasion.”
Haymon had, according to published reports, more than $500 million with which to work when PBC launched two years ago, thanks to the Waddell & Reed hedge fund used to bankroll his boxing project. It is not known exactly how much of those funds remain, but PBC will televise fewer cards next year and its broadcasts mostly will feature competitive fights as Haymon attempts to make his product more consistently compelling and entice executives for major networks such as CBS, FOX and NBC to pay license fees for boxing content.
Thus far, Haymon has bought time to air PBC cards on free TV networks.
The early portion of PBC’s 2017 schedule reflects Berto’s disclosure.
Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) will defend his WBA world featherweight title in a rematch against Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs), of Rosemead, California, in the main event of a January 28 card in Las Vegas (Showtime). On March 4, WBC world welterweight champion Danny Garcia (32-0, 18 KOs), of Philadelphia, and WBA world welterweight champ Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs), of Clearwater, Florida, are set to meet in a 147-pound championship unification fight at a site to be determined.
Berto, meanwhile, didn’t specify who he’d like to fight next, or if he was asked to fight a specific opponent.
The 33-year-old Berto (31-4, 24 KOs) fought just once in 2016. He knocked out another former WBC welterweight champ, Victor Oritz (31-6-2, 24 KOs), in the fourth round of their April 30 rematch in Carson, California.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.