Sharkie's Machine: Berto Gets New Year's Gift from the Judges
By Frank Gonzalez Jr., exclusive to Doghouse Boxing (Jan 18, 2009) Photo © Ed Mulholland, HBO  
Saturday night in Biloxi Mississippi , Welterweight titlist Andre Berto (24-0, 19 KO’s) retained his WBC title after what looked like his first loss after going 12 rounds against seasoned contender, Luis Collazo (29-4, 14 KO’s). This Saturday also marks the first major bogus decision applied in 2009.

Berto vs. Collazo felt like an easy fight to score in favor of Collazo, who landed the cleaner punches all night and was obviously the better skilled boxer. This was something of a coming out party for Berto, who faced his first ‘top ten’ caliber opponent since being appointed WBC champ after fighting Miguel Angel Rodriguez last year for the title vacated by Floyd Mayweather Jr. Hey, Rodriguez wasn’t even ranked in the top 15, so how did he qualify to fight for a vacated title? The answers are as crooked as a politician.

This was a better fight than I expected, as the 27 year old Collazo had lost three of his last five and appeared (on paper at least,) on the downside of his career. But Collazo is a very skillful boxer and Berto soon found himself in possibly the toughest fight of his career. Having watched Berto fight, albeit against limited opposition, it’s obvious he’s strong and fast handed. He can be a little wild at times and lose his composure a bit in spots and Collazo took advantage as those moments, which became the most notable feature of Berto’s performance.

In the first round, Collazo caught Berto with a big left that sent him to the other side of the ring. Afterwards, Berto held until regaining himself. He then landed a grazing right, which Collazo answered with a clean left to the body. Whenever they traded, Collazo scored the cleaner shots.

The second round saw Collazo work the body as often as Berto sought to hold. Unsure how to deal with the superior boxer, Berto kept on clinching and making the referee work hard. Berto’s offense consisted of charging in and out with shots that were often wild and off target, while leaving him open to the countering combinations coming back from Collazo. Berto rallied late in the second, with a flurry that must’ve looked potent from the cheap seats and almost stole him the round in a venue sympathetic to his cause. The HBO announcers made mountains of the molehills that were Berto’s offense.

Collazo was establishing control of the tempo, working the body and remembering to go upstairs. Berto landed a left. Berto held when Collazo moved in. Berto missed a combination and the crowd cheered. Berto landed a few shots right before Collazo turned him around and landed an uppercut that staggered Berto, who held. Collazo worked body often. Berto warned for holding. Berto looked a bit spent for so early in the fight, as he swung wildly and missed a lot. Again, Collazo landed the cleaner shots and Berto was holding too often.

Berto was holding as soon as the fourth round started. This wasn’t Miguel Angel Rodriguez, this was a serious contender he was facing and not doing so good. Collazo landed another uppercut and shoe-shined punches to the body and head whenever Berto clinched. Berto was warned again for holding. After Berto held three more times, the referee stopped the action to take a point from Berto for excessive holding. Collazo was having his way with Berto so this was a 10-8 round for Collazo.

The fifth and sixth were more of the same, with Berto getting hit more frequently by Collazo, who toyed with Berto against the ropes. A cut over the right eye of Berto appeared, possibly from a butt. By the seventh, Collazo was sporting a cut over his left eye, clearly the result of a punch. Collazo began dropping his guard, trying to lure Berto inside. Suddenly, Collazo decided not to punch and just keep his hands low and use his body to make Berto miss. It was a dumb strategy against a man favored by HBO. Suddenly Berto landed a few good shots and the tide appeared to be shifting.

I gave the seventh and eighth rounds to Berto, who worked harder and managed to score the better shots, while Collazo seemed suddenly content to play keep away. Was he tired, was he playing possum? Whatever it was, it lost Collazo those rounds.

The momentum shifted back in the ninth round, when Collazo decided to fight again, though both men looked a bit tired. Collazo forced Berto into the ropes and landed some good shots up and down. Berto held but Collazo beat him on the inside. Collazo landed a left hook just before the bell.

In the tenth, Berto was back to holding as often as possible. Collazo pressed Berto towards the ropes as the crowd began to chant, “Louie, Louie, Louie!” Collazo landed a combo, and then Berto landed a right and Collazo shoe-shined him to the body. Berto hurt? Berto falls to the canvas from fatigue; it’s rightly ruled a slip. Berto landed an uppercut but looked unsteady.

Berto came on strong to open the eleventh round, Collazo came forward and they exchanged flyswatter powered shots at center ring. Berto landed a left hook. This was a close round, where neither man dominated.

Berto rallied from the start of the twelfth, Collazo landed a right and a left during some inside action. Berto landed another left hook that shifted the momentum in the final moments. Berto outworked Collazo to win the final round.

* * *

Though this was a 147 pound fight, Berto’s actual weight on fight night was 160 and Collazo came in at 154. Maybe Official weigh-ins should be on the day of the fight, instead of the day before, that way we’d see Welterweights actually fighting at Welterweight.

I thought Collazo clearly won this fight. Andre Berto got a gift decision that begs the question of how one Official Judge saw Berto win nine of 12 rounds while the other two Judges had it as a one round deciding vote?

Bill Clancy saw Berto winning nine rounds and Collazo only three? That’s quite amazing, if you add the fact that Berto lost a point in the fourth for holding. Even the untrained eye could see that Collazo was winning most of the rounds but yet, a well traveled boxing official can’t see that? There was no controversy at the end. Collazo didn’t make a fuss over being robbed. Like the gangster Hyman Roth in The Godfather said, “This… is the business we chose.”

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