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Andre Berto: Young Lion On Deck

andreberto

It’s an exciting time in the welterweight division for boxing fans.

With the return of former boxing pound for pound #1 Floyd Mayweather,

the weight class adds his name to a list of big names which includes

Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, and Manny Pacquiao. The one name you don’t

hear as often is undefeated young gun Andre Berto, who defends his WBC

portion of the welterweight title this coming Saturday (May 30) on HBO

(9:45 ET) against hard-punching Juan Urango. At 25, Berto finds himself

not mentioned among the proposed “super fights” of division, as the

established vets look to cash out through careful matchmaking.

But time is on Andre Berto’s side. And less than four years into his

career, the Haitian star is reaching a level where even the older

superstars won’t be able to ignore him much longer.

AllHipHop.com: First champ, thanks for making time while in training

camp for the May 30 fight.

Andre Berto: Oh no problem man I appreciate it.

AllHipHop.com: This is your third defense of the WBC title. How has your

training been going?

Berto: Training camp is going real well. I’ve been trying a lot of new

things in this camp I haven’t done before. I brought some other

members to the team. This is probably the best training I’ve ever had.

It’s been hard and intense. I’m definitely in good shape.

AllHipHop.com: Juan Urango’s a pretty dangerous puncher, at least at

140 pounds. We’ll see as he’s moving up in weight now for this

fight. And you know some of your critics have been questioning your chin

because of the one knockdown last year. When you’ve been reviewing the

tape of Urango, what have you been focusing on to nullify his punching

power?

Berto: Like you said, he’s a really strong puncher at 140. We’re

gonna see whether he’s going to bring that up with him to 147. We’re

working on a lot of different things. His best punch is the right hook.

We worked on going away from that, moving when we have to. But at the

same time, I’m a big puncher too at 147. I don’t feel that he’s

ever fought another big puncher. I’m just as strong as he is. So I’m

going to test out his chin also.

AllHipHop.com: Your January fight with Luis Collazo was a Fight of the

Year candidate. You showed a lot of poise in that bout even though there

were a lot of rough patches. Was there anything new that you learned

about yourself as a fighter going through those tough 12 rounds?

Berto: Yeah, a lot of what I saw is that I have the stamina and the

heart. And that I can keep my composure in rough times. I went into that

fight for the first time in my career not really prepared like everyone

normally sees me, physically and mentally. We had a lot of things going

on through camp. I pretty much came into that fight at a 50% range.

People who really know me could tell. But at the same time it still

showed a lot that I was able to show a lot of poise and heart. I

answered a lot of questions for myself.

AllHipHop.com: Before Shane [Mosley] fought Antonio Margarito, it seemed

like HBO was trying to push him into a fight with you. Do you think

that’s going to be difficult now with Mayweather and Pacquiao back in

the mix at 147?

Berto: It’s all good, though. It’s more competition for us in

general. I’m not too much in an extreme rush. I’m the youngest guy

in the top group and I’m world champion. Eventually everything is

going to come back to me. [The fights] are going to be there for me. I

don’t look at it like a fight is being taken away from me. Its more

fights getting prepared for me in the future with a lot of big names.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve been self-critical of some of the defensive

lapses you’ve had in past fights. Where do you see yourself at now as

far as your defensive skills?

Berto: I believe in every fight, people have seen me grow and evolve as

a professional on nationwide TV and HBO. I’ve had half of my career

fights rated on a television scale. So people can see the progression

when it comes to the defense, speed, and being poised in there. I’m

being more of a professional fighter. In every camp I try to work on a

lot of new things. When you stop learning, you’re pretty much stuck.

I’m my biggest critic.

AllHipHop.com: On that note, I think a lot of people forget that 4 years

ago you were still an amateur fighter. What has been the biggest

adjustment from moving to a professional?

Berto: I pretty much always had a professional style in the amateurs.

The toughest thing is just to stay composed throughout 12 rounds. You

get used to just going 4 rounds and throwing as many punches as you can

throw and be aggressive. The main thing for a lot of amateurs turning

pro is to take your time and set up a lot of your shots. I believe with

me that has been the toughest thing to get used to. But like you said,

people do forget I’m 4 years in. There are a lot of high expectations.

But you got to keep working.

AllHipHop.com: I remember early last year, around January or February,

you had a fight on the table with Zab Judah which he ended up turning

down. Today of course you’re now a bigger name. Zab is still where

he’s been at the last few years but is still a name opponent. Do you

think that is a fight that you’d still be interested in, or do you

feel you’re past that point in your career as a champion?

Berto: Zab is always in the position he is because of his name. He can

be put in that spotlight [because] he’s a dangerous fighter even

though he’s lost a lot of big shows. He seems to fall when under the

big lights. But he’s still a dangerous fighter for anybody. It depends

what he continues to do. If he beats some more real fighters it can

definitely be a fight that’s possible for us. But we are looking at

bigger fights.

AllHipHop.com: What you had Cosme Rivera fight, everyone seemed to focus

on the knockdown. What I focused on was that even though it was your

first knockdown, you didn’t seem hurt but more disappointed that you

got caught.

Berto: Definitely!

AllHipHop.com: Was it just a matter of you getting careless because you

controlled the majority of the fight?

Berto: That’s exactly what it was. I was just getting too comfortable

in there, and thinking after a few rounds he couldn’t do anything to

hurt me. I walked into a punch I didn’t see that shot me back down to

reality. I can’t get mad at it. Everybody talked about it, although I

made every other round. I kind of took it to heart but I had to sit back

and realize the scale that I’m on, the high expectations everyone has

for me. So I can’t be upset about it. This is the plateau that I’m

on. So I have to be thought of that way. Every mistake I do is going to

be pinpointed and blown out of proportion. But it’s either that or

people not caring about your performance at all. It keeps me sharp and

motivated.

AllHipHop.com: I know you’re a big boxing fan as well and try to catch

a lot of the fights. Were you able to catch the Miranda-Ward bout?

Berto: Yeah, I talked to Dre Ward the night of that fight.

AllHipHop.com: What did you think of his performance?

Berto: I think he did well. He came out of the same class as me, 2004.

He showed a lot of poise, versatility, and he showed it against a

dangerous opponent. He got cut in the first round and still had that dog

in him. A lot of the young guys nowadays, once that test comes in a

knockdown or cut, they’re not able to come back from that. I believe

he showed a lot of characteristics of a true champion.

AllHipHop.com: I wanted to get your take on an upcoming big fight from

your division in Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto next month. How do you

see that fight turning out?

Berto: It’s going to be a tougher fight than a lot of people expect. A

lot of people think Cotto will win and beat him easily, [but] Joshua

Clottey is a tough kid. He has a pretty good defense, and he knows how

to work off his defense. It’ll be interesting to see who shows up as

the better man that night.

AllHipHop.com: Of course everyone has been talking about what happened

with Pacquiao and Hatton earlier this month. I do remember when

Margarito beat Cotto last year, you were one of the few people that said

‘yeah he looked good, but he’s still beatable.” I wanted to get

your take on Pacquiao because now everyone is looking at him the same

way. Are there any holes you see in his game after observing his last

couple of fights?

Berto: Pacquiao is one of my favorite fighters right now. He’s

tremendously exciting. But it takes a certain type of fighter to get to

him. He has good skills. He has tremendous feet placement and accuracy

with his punches. The guy that gave him the best fight was [Juan Manuel]

Marquez, who’s very good fundamentally. A lot guys who think they’re

going to bully Pacquiao are the guys who end up getting knocked out and

seeing the lights after few punches. It’s going to take a smart, fast

fighter, and somebody good fundamentally to handle Pacquiao.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve fought as much as 7 times in one year. As you

know when you become more elite you’re lucky to get in 2 fights a

year. This is your second fight this year on May 30 with Urango. Are you

planning to fit in at least one more fight for 2009?

Berto: Definitely! If everything goes well on the 30th, I’ll be right

back towards the end of the year. I’ve been hearing rumors that HBO

wants another title bout this year. But we have to pick one fighter at a

time. We’ll continue to get back in there and have exciting fights.

AllHipHop.com: I heard a rumor that you’re a really good spoken word

poet…

Berto: [Laughs]

AllHipHop.com: I was interested in hearing that because a couple decades

ago that was Muhammad Ali’s thing going into fights. Was that

something you ever thought about incorporating into your press

conferences?

Berto: I’m not really sure. I like spoken word; it’s pretty much

something I really love and am a fan of. I’m a fan of the power of

words and the way poets put together their words. I’ve done some

spoken word situations in my off time or in training camp. I usually

keep it to myself or for friends. It would definitely be something

different to incorporate into today’s boxing world. Most fighters have

a little niche or something while in training camp to keep them calm and

level headed. Spoken word is definitely one for me.

AllHipHop.com: You have several family members who are professional MMA

fighters. Do you see any attributes that both sports can learn from each

other, at least in the realm of promotion?

Berto: Yeah, my thing with MMA right now is they’re out there with

marketing and promotion. With boxing it has been around for so long. We

have die hard fans. I believe we’ve eased off of marketing and

promotion unless it’s a really huge fight like De La Hoya, Mayweather,

or Pacquiao. But all in all, both sports are good. Boxing has a lot of

traditional history, and boxing will always be the #1 combat sport no

matter what other sports come around.

AllHipHop.com: I know you’re really good friends with T.I. What other

Hip-Hop artists are you feeling in today’s game?

Berto: I like my man Yo Gotti. Definitely my man Tip. Gucci Mane is

definitely doing his thing on the streets. My man young Drake is the new

sensation right now. I’ve been listening to a lot of his stuff and

he’s going to be a problem. I had a conversation with my man Jay-Z

after my last fight. I’ve always been a huge fan of his and he showed

a lot of love and stated he was a big fan of me. I’m into a lot of

real artists that really get that love not just from fans but from the

streets. Those are the guys I’m really feeling right now.

AllHipHop.com: Mexican and Puerto Rican fighters have strong legacies in

boxing. I’ve gotten the impression you really want to establish that

for your native Haiti with building boxing gyms. With the visits

you’ve made out there, do you feel the country has a lot of national

untapped potential?

Berto: Definitely, the first trip out there we got a huge response. Our

hotel had a huge gang of fighters just out there to show us that they

just needed that help to get out there. It was an inspiration that

they’ll hopefully be able to follow in my footsteps. It’s a huge

untapped market when it comes to everything, not just boxing. In the

next year or two I’ll be able to establish something out there. And

when 2012 comes around we can have a real efficient boxing team from

Haiti. That’s the plan.

AllHipHop.com: Thanks for your time champ and best of luck this

Saturday.

Berto: I appreciate it my man, anytime.

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