Three months ago, Andre Berto had the biggest fight of his career in front of him. On January 30, Berto was set to face Shane Mosley in an opportunity to become one of the premier stars of the welterweight division.
Then tragedy struck.
A devastating 7.0 earthquake ravaged Berto’s native Haiti, resulting in the death of 8 relatives a little over 2 weeks before fight night. Distraught and unable to focus on combat, Berto decided to withdraw from the fight, paving the way for Mosley to face Floyd Mayweather on May 1.
Today, Andre Berto’s mind is clear and back on boxing. This weekend, the WBC titlist seeks to put the division back on notice in a risky comeback bout against southpaw spoiler Carlos Quintana, who holds upset victories over previously undefeated standouts Paul Williams and Joel Julio. If he succeeds in spectacular fashion, are superstars like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao next in line?
Ismael AbduSalaam: You lost 8 family members in the January Haiti earthquake. With such a devastating emotional loss just a few months ago, what made you know this weekend was the time to make your in-ring return?
Andre Berto: Yeah, I went back to Haiti to give aid. And I had to take some time to get my mind right. I took about 6 weeks to reflect on things in Haiti. It was an intense trip and needed my mind together. Now I’m focused and it’s time to get back in there.
Ismael: When you went down to Haiti after the quake, what did you witness?
Berto: It was crazy, just completely different from my last experiences. It was like a war zone. A lot of planes were coming in trying to bring cargo and supplies. Walking through the streets you saw building after building just crushed and pancaked down to the floor. In the hospitals and streets I helped, and saw a lot of death and broken bones, man. A lot of pain. At the same time, I saw the strength of a lot of people who survived. They adapted and did the best they could under the circumstances.
Ismael: Not that Haiti isn’t front page news anymore, do you still see a lot of people as you tour the States still devoting energy to the essential rebuilding period?
Berto: I always figured that would happen news-wise. But I still see a lot of people showing the effort. There are still a lot of nurses and doctors going there to help. So the support is still there where it counts.
Ismael: Let’s move on to the fight this Saturday (April 10) against Carlos Quintana. Was he the first pick for you and your team?
Berto: They brought me a few names. But I think Quintana is a fighter with good credibility. There’s bigger name guys that I wanted to fight, but those guys in my division are already tied up with matches so I had to fall back on that. So that made Quintana the best available competitor regarding quality at this time.
Ismael: Now how are you approaching this fight? Quintana has 2 losses, and the one that stands out to me in particular is the Cotto loss where Miguel walked him down. Is that something you’re looking at being that you’re likely to be stronger than him?
Berto: That’s true, [but] there’s a lot of different ways of going about it. Cotto walked him down with power. Paul Williams caught him with a long shot. I’ll have to have different strategies. Sometimes he likes to stand there and bang it out. Everybody knows that’s my forte. And the same time, he also likes to move around and box. So I’ll be ready for anything he tries to bring to the table. I know how to box, bang, have power, so I have all the tools needed to come out with the victory.
Ismael: This will be your third consecutive fight with a southpaw, and your second fight since your 2009 Fight of the Year candidate with Luis Collazo. What have you learned since that encounter about how to handle southpaws?
Berto: The Collazo fight I didn’t take it as serious and that was almost my downfall. That’s normally what older fighters count on, and that was the first time I ever did that. I kind of got on my high horse and on fight night he came and brought it. I know how to fight southpaws, and have been doing so for years and training with guys like Winky Wright. I had to get back on the grind.
And then when I had the fight with Juan Urango I made it look easy. So I just had to get focused and with the gameplan.
Ismael: Before the fight with Shane Mosley was canceled, you had built some animosity towards him after Mosley proclaimed he’d end your career. Is there still beef there or do you know just look at it as words said just to hype the fight?
Berto: It kind of ruffled my feathers because I know how Mosley is. Before he showed good faith towards me, always at my fights and praised me. He always tried to be close to me and said I reminded him of himself when he was young. So he had some real off the wall things to say about me, and I knew that wasn’t him.
But recently he’s still doing things out of his character due to the guys around him. They’ve been pumping him up. But he has a big fight coming up with Floyd, but if he ever gets in the ring with me I’ll handle him.
Ismael: What direction is your camp looking to head in after the Quintana fight? The scene is a lot different from when you last fought: Margarito is gone, [Zab] Judah is out of the welterweight picture…
Berto: Yeah, but there’s still a lot of opportunities out there still. But right now my focus is on Quintana. We’ll have to get past this and it is a tough fight. But after that I expect a lot of big fights. The welterweight division is the hottest in boxing and the one to watch.
Ismael: Let’s get your prediction on the upcoming superfight with Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley.
Berto: It’s going to be a good fight, man. It’s tough to call. Mosley has the speed and the power. Floyd has everything else. Floyd is very technical, and if Shane lets him get in his groove and comfortable, it’s going to be a long night for Mosley. But if Mosley imposes his speed, size, and strength, it might be a tough fight for Floyd. But I’m leaning towards Floyd in this one.
Ismael: The Everlast shirt you’ve been marketing looks really good. Is that a design you came up with yourself?
Berto: Yeah, we pretty much did that as a relief fund right after the earthquake hit. All proceeds go to that. Tons of people purchased it and showed their support. It’s on Everlast and we’ve been doing our part on my site to continue that awareness.
Ismael: I remember you issued Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocino to a charity boxing match last year. Did he ever answer you?
Berto: [Laughs] I saw him out in LA recently. It’s still up to him. He’s always up to a lot of different challenges. Maybe this summer we can get something together for charity. But yeah, I still haven’t forgot!
Ismael: Has HBO or anyone else approached you about locking up with Paul Williams. You guys are both young and even though he jumps around in weight, his claims he can still make the welterweight limit if need be.
Berto: I’ve heard about it, but me and Paul have the same team when it comes to the management end [Author’s Note: Both are managed by Al Haymon, who also works with Floyd Mayweather]. So they’re trying to keep us away from each other unless there is a lot of money in the pot to grab. Right now we are in separate lanes doing our things.
Ismael: Closing thoughts for the Beats, Boxing and Mayhem readers?
Berto: Everybody make sure they tune in on April 10. It’s going to be an event! It’s a special card so don’t miss it.