Andre "Iron Mike" Berto: To the Moon or Bust?
photo by Naoki Fukuda - By Coach Tim Walker - I rarely outright take the side of a fighter when it comes to public opinion but let's face it opinion is the driving force behind my beloved eastsideboxing.com. It is a forum where pugilistic enthusiasts can make their attitudes known in the form of comments and articles. For my part I make a concerted effort to be as factual and even-handed as possible when presenting an article to the public but admittedly this is that rare occasion where I feel urged to erect myself and speak up. Not in the sense of bashing critiques, or being overly anxious about a fighter, or even giving too much of my opinion. I'm speaking up because I think we are missing the boat and the boat that I am referring to is Andre Berto who I am somewhat sarcastically calling Andre "Iron Mike" Berto..
Article posted on 19.01.2009
It is fairly easy for a fighter to get a padded record. All you need is a decent promoter to line up fights, a decent manager to strategically place a few dollars here and there, and a decent amount of skill to out-box or at least out-last your competition. In my opinion such is the case of fighters like Audley Harrison, former Olympian David Reid, and the fighter formerly known as Six Heads (Andrew Lewis). A quick review of either of their records and you immediately realize that their records are more the fluff of "also-rans" rather than stuff of "champions." For this reason I understand how many of you feel. How many times have we hitched our support to a fighter's train to later watch him run out of steam, derail and never get going again? Michael Grant, Dominick Guinn and Jameel McCline are only a few examples even though they are all still active fighters. We loved them, lifted them up and watched them dwindle under the pressure of their competition. But I don't think this is the case with Mr. Berto.
Some of you may not be as familiar with Berto as I am and therefore don't know where he came from and how he got here. Being a Floridian I am probably more knowledgeable about his background than many of you. I saw him fight at least 10 times as an amateur. Here are some of his achievements; bronze medalist in the 2003 World Amateur Championships, two National Golden Gloves Championships, three United States Amateur Championships, two National PAL Championships, and over 20 state titles. In addition to all of that he had nearly 200 amateur bouts and was wrongly, in my opinion, disqualified in the Olympic Trials. I was there and was disgusted. Thus he has the pedigree to be successful as a pro.
Still, there have been stellar amateurs before Berto whose attempt to transition into the professional ranks have fallen well short of success. But I ask you lovers of the sweet science, which is the proper road to travel to get to boxing supremacy? We bash Fernando Vargas' team for moving him too fast while simultaneously bashing Jermain Taylor's team for moving him too slowly. Again I ask "Which path is the right path to the communal hearts of fight fans?" I would venture to say that there is no one path to our hearts just as there is no singular path that boxers must take. Fighters, just as lay people, learn at different speeds and therefore develop at different rates as well.
Still, and believe me when I say this, I get it and I get where you're coming from. Berto is the WBC Welterweight Champion and you feel that he doesn't deserve it. Who did he beat to even get the shot when the 140, 147 and 154 pound divisions are so rich in talent and there are other fighters seemingly more deserving of a title? It's really simple. Berto's ascension to the WBC throne began with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. After embarrassing De La Hoya and knocking out Hatton, Mayweather retired and vacated the WBC title. When he vacated the title Berto was the number contender to the title. That doesn't mean he was going to fight for the title just that he had scaled to that position. Not wanting to have a vacant major title floating around, the WBC hustled to put together a fight and the best two available talents were Berto and Miguel Angel Rodriquez. Here's the numbers to prove it: Margarito was scheduled to fight Cotto on 7/26/08, Mosely had just lost to Cotto on 11/10/07 and was taking time off, Clottey was scheduled to take on Judah on 5/8/08, Lujan was scheduled to fight Castillo on 7/30/08, Cintron was recovering from the battering he took from Margarito on 4/12/08, Delvin Rodriquez was scheduled to face Oscar Diaz on 7/16/08, and Quintana was locked into a rematch with Paul Williams on 6/7/08. Thus the best available fighters at that moment were Berto and Rodriguez. Sure there were other fighters available but none with the superstar potential of Berto.
Berto was not looking to fight for a title at the time. He was fully aware that he is a young fighter and needed more fights and experience to even begin stepping into the ring with the major players. Still, the opportunity presented itself and he went for it and won. Then firmly on the heels of winning the title faced Stevie Forbes in his first title defense, the same Stevie Forbes most of us felt beat Oscar De La Hoya. On the heels of that win and with national scrutiny in his rear view mirror and the eyes of the boxing public glaring down on him he faced the more than formidable Luis Collazo and squeaked out a close win.
I'm in agreement that maybe there are other fighters more deserving of a title shot than Berto. I'm in agreement that he has a few flaws as a fighter. I'm evenn in agreement that maybe he got a title shot too soon. But I'm also a believer in the adage that luck is the fruit of your preparation meeting up with opportunity. Berto paid his dues as an amateur and is continually paying even more dues as a pro. He has steadily stepped his competition up with every fight. He has openly acknowledged that fine tuning his defense and movement are his number priorities. Both of these things will be necessary components to continue rising in the talent rich middle divisions. In addition, he is doing his absolute best to make lemonade out of the backlash of lemons that winning the WBC title has produced. If you turn your nose to this young fighter you may be missing history in action. Only time will tell if he has the skill to stay on top of boxing's pinnacle but in the interim let's not let our disdain for the sport's past mistakes be our motivation for dismissing the sport's future. Let's give Andre "Iron Mike" Berto a chance.
Lastly, the Andre "Iron Mike" Berto comment was my attempt at ironic humor on Berto's middle name. Breath people breath.
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