By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Andre Berto wasn’t all that familiar with Miguel Cruz when he accepted their fight recently.
It still got personal pretty quickly Tuesday for the former WBC welterweight champion. Berto and Cruz traded words during a press conference at Barclays Center, where they’ll go at it August 3 as part of a “PBC On FOX” tripleheader.
As their verbal battle escalated, Cruz indicated that he feels the 35-year-old Berto’s time as a top welterweight is over.
“You’re f***ing washed, bro!,” Cruz told Berto. “This is my time! This is my time! This is my time! This is my time! Josesito was whupping your ass, and you hit him with a lucky shot. This is my time! Done!”
Cruz referred to Berto’s sixth-round knockout of Josesito Lopez in March 2015. Lopez was beating Berto on two of three scorecards before Berto dropped Lopez twice in the sixth round and stopped him.
Berto faced Floyd Mayweather in his following fight. The Winter Haven, Florida, native has boxed just three times since Mayweather out-pointed him nearly four years ago.
His fight versus Cruz will mark Berto’s return from almost exactly a one-year layoff. Berto (32-5, 24 KOs) hasn’t fought since August 4, when he edged Devon Alexander by split decision in a 12-rounder in Uniondale, New York.
“I’m coming for Andre Berto,” Cruz said. “I’m going straight through him before I go straight to Keith Thurman. That’s exactly what I’m gonna do.”
Cruz told Berto that he’s no longer hungry because of all the success he has achieved during a pro career that began in December 2004, when Cruz was 14.
“Listen, at the end of the day, you’ve got all this money, you’ve got all this stuff, you’ve got all these things,” Cruz said. “This is different, bro. This is different. I ain’t got nothing to lose. I ain’t got no family. I ain’t got no kids. I ain’t got no wife. I ain’t got no sh*t, bro. I’m ready to motherf*ckin’ die. Nah, man. Nah, man. You got all this stuff. You got all these things to lose. I ain’t got nothing to lose, which makes me a very, very, very, very, very, very dangerous man. I promise! I promise!”
The 28-year-old Cruz (18-1, 12 KOs), of Lake Mary, Florida, will fight for the second time since suffering a one-sided, 10-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Lopez (36-8, 19 KOs) in April 2018.
Berto will box for the first time since the death of his father, Dieuseul Berto, who succumbed to cancer December 29 at the age of 60.
“I don’t care what Miguel Cruz wants to do, what his plans are,” Berto said. “And I’ve been through a lot of sh*t these last few months. You know, this will be my first fight without my dad in my corner. So, I’ve got a lot to fight for. This is my first fight [since] bringing my little baby girl into this world as well, so I have a lot to fight for.
“And I take on these type of responsibilities in life, and I hold ‘em with pride. So, this is gonna be a whole other animal coming August 3rd – I promise you! So hopefully he’s ready. I know what’s going on in his camp. I already know guys he’s been sparring. I already know what the sparring with him has been like. So, like I said, stay down there, stay focused. I’m just telling you, stay focused. You better tighten all your sh*t up. That’s all I’m sayin’. This sh*t can get ugly real quick.”
A 12-round bout between heavyweights Adam Kownacki (19-0, 15 KOs) and Chris Arreola (38-5-1, 33 KOs, 2 NC) will be the main event August 3. In the opener of this three-bout broadcast, Marcus Browne (23-0, 16 KOs), of Staten Island, New York, will defend his WBA world light heavyweight title versus ex-WBC champ Jean Pascal (33-6-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC), of Laval, Quebec, in another 12-rounder.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.