Andre Berto: “I’m the new talent in the division”
Interview by Gabriel Montoya, Doghouse Boxing (July 4, 2008) (Photo © German Villasenor)  
This past Tuesday, at a luncheon honoring Chris Arreola, I had the opportunity to catch up with new WBC welterweight titleholder Andre Berto and get his thoughts on his successful title fight against Miguel Angel Rodriguez. Coming into the bout, Berto was the clear favorite despite Rodriguez’ #2 ranking with the WBC. Rodriguez main claim to fame was a loss to former linear champ Carlos Baldomir while Berto is a young talent being groomed for stardom. Still and all, Berto prepared himself like he does for all his opponents, taking nothing for granted and leaving nothing to chance.

“I had a real good training camp,” Berto said with a laid back grin. “I knew if I went in and focused on and executed my gameplan that I was going to be victorious. But I was surprised I was able to handle him so easily considering the kind of opponents he had faced like Carlos Baldomir. But I put that pressure on myself so I can try and perform on a whole other level.”

Three fights back, Berto had a bit of scare when he was dropped hard and hurt by Cosme Rivera in the sixth round of a step-up bout. With skill, tenacity, a little luck (and some crafty corner work) Berto survived the test and has since looked better with each outing. The Rodriguez fight was no exception.

In his first shot at a title, Berto was masterful, taking apart Rodriguez by utilizing his main advantage: speed. “The main thing was the speed,” said Berto. “We knew he was strong but kind of mechanical. I believe that basically my speed took over the fight once I knew I could hit him whenever I wanted to hit him. In the end, I felt I was too slippery for him. I hit him solid throughout and was able to get in that groove.”

While it was no surprise that his fast hands were able to confuse and tag his opponent at will, Rodriguez ability to take punishment surprised Berto and made him measure his pace while waiting for the opportunity to strike and ending blow.

“Yeah, actually I was [surprised]. I knew he was tough. He took a lot, a lot of shots. I hit him solid and hurt him in the first few rounds. I knew I had the power to continue to hurt him throughout the fight. So I laid in wait, basically.”

For some fighters, winning a title is the end all be all. Not Berto. It wasn’t enough for him to simply take the title; he had to show he deserved it. The fact that it was a belt vacated by retired linear champ Floyd Mayweather, jr. made showing that, all the more important.

“I wanted to make a statement,” he said emphatically. “Like pretty much everyone I have fought that has never been stopped, I’ve always been their first. So I wanted to make a statement going into that fight. Not just winning the vacated WBC belt but by putting on a good performance and showing people that I really, really deserved it.”

Now a titleholder in one of boxing’s deepest and most dangerous divisions, Berto is relishing his newly earned title as well as the recognition he gets from being a champion.

“It’s awesome,” a smile spreading across his face. “I get a lot of love from it. I give a lot of love back. I really just enjoy it just for that moment. I got that feeling of being a champion and I enjoyed it. Now I just want more of it. I am just really excited about getting back in the gym.”

Despite the adulation that is being showered on him and the opportunities that are no doubt being offered, Berto remains the same levelheaded, thoughtful young man I met in December. Rather than letting the belt go to his head and making crazy demands or trash talking the other titleholders, Berto understands that getting his belt is simply the beginning of what he hopes is a long and fruitful journey.

“I’m almost in the same position I was in. I’m not really the type to call them out. I don’t feel I need to call them out. They watch me fight. They know within themselves so I don’t feel like I need to call anybody out. In time, everybody is going to have to come see to unify the belts.”

As for whom the next step will be taken against, Berto is open-minded.

“Pretty much anybody. The welterweight division is stacked. We have a lot of talent in there and I am the new talent in the division. A lot of people love to see me fight and hopefully we can put together some exciting fights”

He paused for a moment and then added simply: “I just want to stay focused and handle my business.”

Gabriel at: .

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