By Arvin Nundloll
Photos: Stephanie Trapp
Former two-time welterweight champion Andre Berto takes on Shawn Porter in a WBC final eliminator with the victor rewarded with a shot against Keith Thurman. Berto spoke to FightNews to tell us more about his plans for the fight, how he believes he’s now back in championship form and what going 12 rounds with Mayweather Jr. does to a fighter.
When asked about challenging Porter in the ring, Berto didn’t play down the threat faced on Saturday night.
“Shawn Porter is the type of kid that a touch, scrappy fighter. He doesn’t mind fighting the best and puts on great shows and a great fight every time and everybody knows he’s one of the top welterweight fighters in the world.”
Coming off a PPV fight against Mayweather, Berto remains hungry and focused on winning another world title.
“Staying sharp. We had a tremendous training camp with great sparring partners to come in and replicate what Shawn Porter does. I’m just staying hungry, I’m in incredible shape and staying healthy, being able to do what I do is bring that speed, power and agility to the table. I believe that it’s going to carry me to a victory.
“It’s my competitive spirit that keep me going. I think it’s me going through that slowdown period that I went through a few years back that keeps me hungry. The motivation to be healthy and sharp keeps me hungry, of me coming back to beat Victor Ortiz and finally knocking that monkey off my back from a few years ago. That is the type of stuff that makes me hungry, just the fact that it’s an eliminator I want to come in here and unify the division then I can walk away happy and these young guys can have it from there.”
Overcoming back to back defeats took its toll on Berto, a moment in his career that has made him stronger and a better fighter.
“It was a tough situation for me but I knew a lot of the reasons for it. Within that time, I went through some really tough physical issues but I still try to push through. My liver and kidneys were really severely damaged, getting ready for the Ortiz fight the effects really stay with me. Getting ready for the Mayweather fight I really took care of myself, got some doctors to help me out and got back up. But I knew what the reasons were and it caused me a few injuries. I had to go through it and coming out happier, it lets me know who I am and where I’m at as an athlete and a person.”
Going 12 rounds with Floyd is a rare achievement considering there are very few who are picked for the Mayweather sweepstakes, Berto explained on how that bout has made me a more complete boxer as well as admiring how great Mayweather Jr. is.
“That whole Floyd situation has made me a lot more confident knowing that I can handle that whole circus that comes with Floyd, a lot of people that have fought Floyd and once they get into that atmosphere it becomes a real circus when fighting Floyd and once they get into that ring they freeze up, they don’t want to punch and just in a daze while Floyd bounces around and does what he wants to do. In that fight, I mentally prepared myself and the atmosphere didn’t faze me at all and I was just on it, I wanted to be at his chest every second of every round. With Floyd, he’s the master at knowing where he is every second, he’s very slippery and at his age to be as sharp is very surprising.”
Avenging his defeat against Ortiz was a gratifying moment for Berto,
“That fight was so much more personal to me, it was 5 years coming! It was the beginning of a lot of things going south for me. He pretty much said he (Ortiz) was the reason for that but that fight has been chipping away at me for 5 years and is a tremendous feeling to get that monkey off my back.”
Porter has experienced his own failures with defeats against Brook and Thurman, Berto offered some insight into how Porter fell through the cracks and came up short.
“They talk a lot. Him and his father they talk a lot. They always make a lot of promises and it’s a tough situation when you can’t hold up your end of the bargain. But it is what it is, that’s his type of fighter and that’s who is he and the camp they run.”
Andre Berto is fighting at the Barclays Center for the first time and can’t wait to show NYC all of his hard work on fight night.
“This is the first one over in Brooklyn although I started my career in New York. I’m excited to be back on the east coast as I’m an east coast boy anyway being from Florida. I can’t wait to get back on the east coast as I know the energy at the Barclays is going to be tremendous. I’ve been there a few times for fights and the energy in general is clearly visible.”
As Berto was the fighter to share a ring with Floyd, Berto seemed excited at the prospect of a Mayweather Jr. vs McGregor fight
“Of course (it’s exciting). Both guys are showmen at the end of the day. You’re talking about competition and just fightwise, you’re taking a guy like Conner McGregor all the way out of his element but right now when it comes to Team Mayweather and Conner’s team if it makes money it makes sense. That fight right there will make a lot of money, you’ve got two guys who are the best in their sports and they’re the most entertaining guys in their sport so people will want to tune in and watch that circus. It will be a circus of entertainment and that’s what people like to watch.”
After Berto’s fight, another welterweight showdown erupts in Sheffield, England with Kell Brook taking on Errol Spence Jr. Andre Berto thinks that is an underestimated fight that could provide fireworks.
“A lot of people here are looking past Kell Brook. I believe Errol Spence Jr. is Brook’s toughest competition to date, and I believe that Kell Brook is going to put on a show in front of all his fans and his people in his hometown. It’s hard to say (who will win), it’s going to be Errol Spence’s first real test against a top-notch guy, we’ll see but he is going in Kell Brook’s back yard so we’ll see.”
Aside from competing in the ring, Berto also does a lot of work in his native Haiti, helping rebuild communities and bringing boxing back to the country. Berto touched on his initiatives and what his plans are for the year.
“I’ve been doing that in Haiti for a couple of years now and I have a few schools that I take care off, recreational centers. We plan on opening our first boxing gym there this year (in Port Au Prince). It’s something that’s been dear to me heart for a long time, I’ve built 8/9 water wells there as well and I’m going to continue the process, we’re going to continue to make trips out there and continue bringing people out there and make people aware. We want to get the people back on their feet.”
“Becoming a three-time world champion is great motivation. The WBC belt was the first belt that I won and I want it back. I avenged my loss to Victor Ortiz last year but getting the green belt back would bring everything full circle. At this point in my career, every fight is big and a potentially career defining fight so I’m taking everything one step at a time and preparing like I need to.”