No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (New International Version, Heb. 12:11)
After 20-plus years of devoting his life to boxing, voluntarily living with the year-round discipline required to compete with the game’s elite, it seemed like the two-time former 147-pound champion Andre Berto’s was presented with the perfect exit.
Flashback to April 22, 2017, despite it being a normal mid-Spring Saturday night, the outcome of a one-sided TKO9 victory by Shawn Porter appeared to signal the end for one of the Welterweight division’s mainstays. Two-time former 140-pound champion Andre Berto’s sluggish performance seemingly belied his 33 years of age – not terribly old for boxing. Berto managed a scant amount of positive moments against Porter that night at Barclays Center.
Immediately before the post fight press conference organizers announced Berto was taken to the hospital to receive medical attention. His absence may have prevented the media from asking him the obvious question, but it did very little to convince this writer that the warrior from Winter Haven, FL would not be heard from again.
Over a week ago Berto walked towards the ring for his 37th fight, confidently in pursuit of victory No. 35. The bout was a crossroads fight with either Berto, or his opponent Devon Alexander, a former two-division champion, likely being completely out of the picture with a loss. The stakes were raised considerably more for Berto in light of the loss to Porter.
Alexander entered the showdown riding a fair amount of momentum from what should have been a streak of two solid wins. A controversial 12-round majority draw with Victor Ortiz in February derailed the St. Louis native’s plans for a potential title shot but failed to spoil opportunities for meaningful bouts.
The 31-year-old southpaw appeared to have made the case for an opportunity to face IBF champion Errol Spence Jr, momentarily, after a fast start culminated with Alexander dropping Berto in the third round. Over the ensuing rounds Berto overcame an equipment malfunction and outworked Alexander, essentially sweeping the balance of the fight in the eyes of judges Julie Lederman and Don Trella. Both scored 8 of the 12 rounds in Berto’s favor.
Few fans, if any, were ever totally enthralled by the arrival of Berto-Alexander. The fight aired on FOX, in an early evening time-slot, it featured two familiar names; and in conjunction with the prelims on FS2, the matchup capped off an evening of watching a few Premier Boxing Champion fighters who had been on the sideline for an extended period. Plus, a glimpse at the future in Linden, Michigan’s 18-year-old Super Welterweight prospect Joey Spencer.
Hell, Floyd Mayweather Jr. being ringside for J’Leon Love’s fight against Peter Quillin overshadowed the fact it was Kid Chocolate’s debut at Super Middleweight. Or, that it was just his second fight in nearly three years.
After Berto’s hand was raised in victory fans were faced with pondering the impact of a second consecutive questionable decision for Alexander, or acquiescing to the fact that the decision rewarded Berto for fighting with the mettle he’s regularly exemplified. Berto’s moment was a rare happy ending in boxing.
Former Welterweight champion Miguel Cotto wasn’t so fortunate recently. Back in December, an arm injury contributed to him being unable to finish strong in hopes of retaining his WBO Super Welterweight title in his swan song versus Sadam Ali.
Boxing fans who had enjoyed Berto’s fights over the years barely had a chance to relish in the warrior being able to walk away with a favorable ending that is thousands of times better than the conclusion of the Porter fight. In a PBC Jabs clip dated Aug. 9, Berto told PBC’s Jordan Hardy his ideal farewell to the sport is to “…win a world title and go like this to ’em (holding up a sideways ‘two fingers’ expression).”
Berto must not follow retired two-division champion Marcos “Chino” Maidana (and his bottles of wine and prime cuts of beef) on Instagram.
Maybe the difference is Maidana got two cracks at a coveted PPV bout with Mayweather Jr.
Nonetheless, Berto should realize that last Saturday’s harvest is as good as it’s going to get. Let the game’s young lions take it from here and go enjoy some peace. In the Jabs clip he mentioned that he felt rejuvenated in his return from a 16-month layoff after the loss to Porter. His resilience shown facing the adversity encountered during big fights is noted. However, Berto’s gutsy, hard-fought rally Saturday, Aug. 4 failed to show enough evidence to portend either a rematch with Porter, or a showdown with Danny “Swift” Garcia would be a riveting two-way contest.
Berto’s will to fight is soundly intact, but we’re a decade beyond seeing him easily put together the beautiful, explosive combinations that won him the vacant WBC Welterweight title by a TKO7 win against Miguel Angel Rodriguez. Gone is the eye-catching athleticism and agility that enabled him to connect with 50 percent of his power punches in his TKO8 stoppage versus former title challenger Carlos Quintana.
The former champion’s had some great wins, but he was dropped early in world-class fights with Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz. In one of his most impressive performances, he valiantly battled Jesus Soto Karass with only one arm for five or six rounds before he was stopped with less than a minute remaining in a very close fight. He only won a round or two of his career-defining fight with then 38-year-old Mayweather Jr in 2015. Same as the total he’d won, through nine rounds, in the aforementioned 2017 bout with Porter.
Berto’s eagerness to pursue greatness for a final time is admirable – if not expected. But whether it’s potentially facing the Garcia-Porter winner, one of the other Welterweight champions (if even possible), or any of the division’s rising young contenders would be ill-advised at this point. He’s no longer the dynamic puncher from outside or mid-range, and the explosiveness isn’t there to quickly create the small windows of space he once did to land clean shots fighting inside.
Unfortunately, the fighter that’s spent nearly 15 years as a professional boxer convincing the world he’s the ‘Beast’ his nickname suggests he is, now has to get on or get out of the way. Safe to say, there is no word or concept for retirement in the beast lexicon. We can’t really expect a warrior like Berto to exchange the thrill of battle in front of thousands of fans for a report of the best-ever quarter in sales of his apparel brand.
Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. (New Living Translation, Eccl. 11:4)
Header photo by Stephanie Trapp