by Cliff Rold
Take two former titlists without an opponent and put them together.
It’s not a new formula. Sometimes, it’s a winning formula. Is that what we can expect Saturday night on Showtime (9 PM EST/6 PM PST)?
Two factors could loom large. One is inactivity. Shawn Porter hasn’t been in the ring since a thrilling decision defeat to Keith Thurman last June. Andre Berto has been out longer, last seen trading knockdowns and avenging his first career defeat to Victor Ortiz. If that affects the timing of either man, this might not be as sharp as it could be.
The other is time. Both men have been in some tough scraps. Berto has been in more and for longer. A pro four years longer, Berto is 4-4 in his last eight fights. Does the time off add up to restoration?
Let’s go the report card.
Previous Titles: IBF Welterweight (2013-14, 1 Defense)
Weight: 147 lbs.
Hails from: Las Vegas, Nevada
Record: 26-2-1, 16 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-2, 1 KO
Rankings: #3 (Ring), #4 (TBRB), #5 (BoxRec), #6 (BoxingScene, Boxing Monthly), #7 (ESPN)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Julio Diaz D10, UD10; Devon Alexander UD12; Paulie Malignaggi TKO4; Kell Brook L12; Adrien Broner UD12; Keith Thurman L12
Previous Titles: WBC Welterweight (2008-11, 5 Defenses); IBF Welterweight (2011-12)
Height: 5’6 ½
Weight: 146 ½
Hails from: Winter Haven, Florida
Record: 31-4, 23 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-2, 4 KO (8-3, 5 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Steve Forbes UD12; Luis Collazo UD12; Juan Urango UD12; Carlos Quintana TKO8; Victor Ortiz L12, TKO4; Jan Zaveck RTD5; Robert Guerrero L12; Floyd Mayweather L12
Pre-Fight: Speed – Porter B+; Berto B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Porter B; Berto B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Porter B; Berto C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Porter B+; Berto B
If there is one thing that works in Berto’s favor, it’s that Porter isn’t a huge puncher. Porter has scored only two stoppages in his last ten fights, both against men who couldn’t threaten him with physicality in return. Porter wins through strength, energy, and output.
Berto has a chance if he can catch Porter coming in. One thing the former Haitian Olympian has held on to is his pop. While stopping Victor Ortiz or Josesito Lopez might not raise many eyebrows, the way he did it was a reminder that, against the right foes, he can still be dangerous. In both fights, he erased early deficits on the cards quickly.
For Berto though, that means being able to plant his feet. Porter might not let him do that. Porter has a way of forcing fighters out of their comfort zone. In defeat, he was recorded as landing near half of his power shots on Thurman. Thurman, who in recent years has been most comfortable fighting a more deliberate pace, was often forced to exchange just to keep Porter off him. Thurman is in his prime and has better legs and defense than Berto ever did.
Defense has always been Berto’s problem. His lack of consistent head and upper body movement has meant taking a lot of clean, flush shots over the years. If Porter starts to wear on him, this could become the sort of trench war Berto endured with Robert Guerrero in spots. Porter isn’t great defensively either but he has a way of muffling the full impact of shots.
Porter can get sloppy. Adrien Broner almost erased an insurmountable lead in the final round against Porter. Kell Brook picked him apart at range. Berto has a much better chance at the former than the latter.
Does Berto have the endurance for a long night? His chances to have enough for a late round shocker seem limited. The more rounds this goes, the more exhausting dealing with Porter will be. There’s no question about the heart of either man. The question is whether Berto’s body can keep up.
Berto has made for more than his share of fan friendly fights. This should be no different. Win or lose, Berto has left pieces of himself in the ring over the years and fans have benefited. The same can be said of Porter. He’s not always textbook, but he gives of himself and never shows up out of shape. The difference here will be that Porter, younger and with better defense, has more to give at this point. Berto’s lack of head movement has always been a curse and Porter’s relentless pressure will steal the room he’ll need to land with leverage. A Berto knockdown early on wouldn’t be a surprise; he’s still got sudden speed even if he’s not quite as quick as he once was. A win, however, would be a surprise. Berto hasn’t defeated a foe the caliber of Porter arguably ever and it’s not going to start now. The pick is Porter by decision.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2017: 9-7
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]