Photo Credit: Ed Diller/DiBella Entertainment
BROOKLYN, NY — When you’re the one taking punches, there’s only so many years you get in this fight game. Every jab to the face rattles the hourglass, the sand hastened with every left hook to the body. If we could see former title-holder Andre Berto’s hourglass, it’d be shattered in a thousand pieces following last night’s ninth-round stoppage defeat at the hands of bulldozer Shawn Porter.
At 33 years old and 13 years of professional fighting on his ledger, Berto is closer to retirement than his prime. He looked like it Saturday night. Porter had him grimacing in pain from every body shot, and looking to the ref for help every time Porter roughed him up instead of taking matters into his own hands.
At one point in the later rounds, Berto’s trainer Virgil Hunter asked him why he kept going to the ropes and allowing Porter to maul him without mercy.
“I don’t know,” said Berto, his speech heavy with resignation and despair.
Round nine was marked the end of the fight and Berto’s career as a top contender. A clash of heads, one of numerous during the fight, dazed Berto had him careening into the ropes. The ref didn’t break the action, so Porter, which both eyes bleeding from previous butts, pounced with brutal haymakers. We’ve seen Berto get battered before on the ropes. Luis Collazo had him reeling several times in their 2009 classic. Victor Ortiz almost stopped him early in their consensus 2011 Fight of Year. Robert Guerrero brutalized him so bad that both eyes were grotesquely swollen. And Jesus Soto Karass capitalized on an injured, one-armed Berto to stop him in 2013.
But unlike those fights, the Andre Berto from last night was missing the will power from year’s past. In every one of the aftermentioned fights, Berto was highly competitive, either by scoring his own knockdowns or stinging his opponent with big shots. Last night looked like a high school senior bullying a freshman. The Andre Berto of year’s past fearlessly went out on his shield. The Berto of 2017, inactive for a year while seeking a lucrative fight (and getting it with over $1million for this bout), reached out to the ref with desperate eyes for salvation. He received it with a merciful stoppage.
Years from now, there won’t be any Hall of Fame debates about Berto. No tearful Jim Lampley reflections on HBO. And frankly, not much goodwill from fans who, perhaps unfairly, have come to view him as the poster boy for overpaid, protected fighters post-2000. But the less cynical will see a man who overachieved in the ring with classic fights, and in his pocketbook with multiple million-plus paydays, including the pinnacle by facing Floyd Mayweather in 2015.
Berto mentioned in his post-fight interview that he needs time to reflect with family before deciding his future in boxing. Maybe our final memory of Andre Berto will be the best one we can hope for any fighter — that he knew the right time to walk away.