October in Review: Berto an undeserving victim of fan backlash
Are we really supposed to be mad at Andre Berto?
Seriously, I'm asking. Because there is a lot of anger directed at Berto in Internet columns, blogs and chat rooms these days.
The source of the anger, you ask?
Andre Berto makes too much money.
Really? This is why we are upset with the WBC welterweight champion? For accepting more than $1 million from HBO to fight Carlos Quintana last April and taking the larger cut of the reported $1.25 million the network is paying out for Berto to fight Freddy Hernandez later this month? Who wouldn't agree to that kind of payday?
The beef should be with HBO, which has disavowed the Klitschkos because their opponents are too weak but is willing to deliver cash in cases to Berto to face fighters even the most ardent fans have to Google.
It's not like Berto hasn't tried to earn the money. Last January, he was scheduled to face Shane Mosley, an old lion-vs.-young lion showdown that had a heavyweight-sized approval rating. But the earthquake in Haiti, where the Haitian-American Berto lost eight family members, scuttled that fight and sent Berto back to the drawing board.
What he came up with was Quintana, a cagey southpaw with an awkward style. Compounding matters was what Berto described as an "excruciatingly painful" torn biceps injury that he sustained in the second round. That setback turned an already ugly fight even uglier, right up until the moment the 147-pound Berto ended it in the eighth.
An eight-week rehab followed. When Berto was ready to return, the well of opponents had dried up. Mosley signed on to face Golden Boy stable mate Sergio Mora. Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto weren't interested.
Of course, there were better opponents than Hernandez, an underwhelming puncher who has never even sniffed a world title shot before. Mike Jones. Randall Bailey. Juan Urango. Breidis Prescott. You get the idea.
But before we squawk too much about how Berto is set to have a short night's work against Hernandez, remember two things. First, this is, in a way, a comeback fight. The biceps injury relegated him to half-speed training until early September. Second, Berto-Hernandez is a lousy headliner -- only it's not a headliner. It's on the undercard of the Nov. 27 show fronted by Juan Manuel Marquez and Michael Katsidis.
It's a little early to lump Berto into the same category as Mayweather or David Haye, titleholders who slip and duck dangerous fights like they do power punches. Now if Berto's 2011 schedule resembles that of 2010, then we have an issue. But Berto knows this. He knows his spotless record (26-0) means little if it isn't lined with wins over a few name opponents.
"If I was a boxing fan, I'd probably say the same things," Berto said in a telephone interview. "It's not the fans' fault. They don't know the business of boxing. I've been frustrated, too. If I can fight Mayweather, Cotto and Pacquiao back to back to back next year, I will."
Indeed, Berto is anticipating a big 2011. He said he ran into Cotto at a recent Everlast photo shoot in New York and that Cotto told him he was one of his top options for early next year. And Berto said his team has already contacted Mosley's representatives about a possible fight.
"I've got unfinished business with him," Berto said.
Unfinished business. That might as well be Berto's new handle. For years, analysts have drooled over his potential, the same way they salivated over younger versions of Mayweather, Mosley and Cotto. But they have lauded young power punchers like Jeff Lacy and Samuel Peter, too. Next year it will be on Berto to prove he belongs on that first list. --
• November kicks off with a bang on Nov. 6 when former three-division champ Zab Judah (39-6, 27 KOs) takes on hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse (27-0, 25 KOs) of Argentina at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., which is fast becoming one of the NYC area's most active venues for shows. The fight is the co-feature on
• The rib injury that prompted Kelly Pavlik's withdrawal from his Nov. 13 fight with Brian Vera at Cowboys Stadium is just the latest in a long line of setbacks that have dogged the former middleweight champion dating back to a one-sided loss to Bernard Hopkins in 2008. But the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito undercard is still impressive even without Pavlik: Two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux (6-0, 5 KOs) and highly regarded welterweight prospect Mike Jones (22-0, 18 KOs) fill out the televised portion of the card.
• Pacquiao is making a tradition out of pre-fight appearances on
• Evander Holyfield, who turned 48 last month, is still toiling in the heavyweight division with quixotic designs on a title shot. The ex-champ's fight with Sherman "Tank" Williams at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena -- first slated for Nov. 5, then moved to Nov. 12, then moved yet again due to contractual issues -- will finally take place on Dec. 9. We think.
• Antonio Tarver's heavyweight debut was successful on paper: a unanimous 10-round decision victory over the compliant Nagy Aguilera on Oct. 15 in Miami, Okla. Not terrible for a 42-year-old coming off a 17-month layoff. Problem is, Tarver too often showed signs of the mileage and rust against an opponent who appeared awed just to be in the same ring as him. As a commentator for Showtime, Tarver has been nothing short of a revalation: He's funny, observant and insightful. He'd stand no chance against the Klitschkos or David Haye, so why not make a home behind the mic?
• What's not to love about Sergio Martinez vs. Paul Williams, a clash between two of the top five boxers in SI.com's pound-for-pound ratings (see sidebar)? The first installment was a popular Fight of the Year choice in 2009, and the rematch gives us no reason to expect anything less.
• Just finished
• Lots of boxing junkies are looking forward to
Hyped middleweight prospect David Lemieux (24-0, 23 KOs) needed less than three minutes to destroy Hector Camacho Jr. (52-4-1, 28 KOs), on Oct. 29 at Montreal's Bell Center, finishing the task with a jackhammer of a straight right. Look for the Quebec native to get a title shot in 2011.
"I am going to do him a favor -- I am going to beat him up but I am doing it out of love and compassion for him because I know he needs it. I know all the people around him want him to lose too because he has become such a jerk, they just can't tell him that. But I can."
Shannon Briggs absorbs a punishing left hand from Vitali Klitschko during their title fight in Hamburg on Oct. 16. Klitschko retained the WBC world heavyweight championship on a unanimous decision. (AP)