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Andre Berto: Now or Never

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The clock is ticking on Andre Berto. It may seem strange to say that about an athlete just entering his physical and mental prime at 27 years old. But after years of being spotlighted on HBO, Berto’s talent has not quite matched up with his competition. It hasn’t all been his fault. The devastating Haiti earthquake robbed him of nine family members and a chance to face Shane Mosley in January. Other fighters, like Miguel Cotto, have declined to fight for the rest of the year. At the same time, no one wants to hear excuses in the real world, and Andre Berto has had to hear mounted criticism throughout 2010 on his opponent selections.

Tonight, Berto won’t dispel those complaints by facing a tough but unheralded Freddy Hernandez on the undercard of Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Michael Katsidis. But the WBC welterweight titlist is committed to giving fans the fights they want from him in 2011. Read up on Andre Berto’s strategy to get his career to the next level.

AllHipHop.com: Has it been difficult getting up for Freddy Hernandez?

Andre Berto: Well I don’t know too much about Freddy Hernandez. I know he’s a tough competitor, so I still need to be sharp. I have to treat it like I’m fighting one of the top guys in the division. I can’t look past this guy at all.

AllHipHop.com: I know you’re heard the media and fan criticism. What’s your take on the quality of opponents you’ve been facing lately?

Berto: I mean things have been going smooth. I had the Mosley fight set up and that couldn’t happen because of some personal issues with Haiti. We tried to get him again for this fight, and he chose another fight with Sergio Mora. We tried to get the Cotto fight done this year. He wanted to take the rest of the year off. We had to look at other options, and Freddy Hernandez was the last guy.

AllHipHop.com: About the Mosley fight, it’s been said the reason the fight didn’t happen is because you wanted a 50-50 split. Is that true?

Berto: I’m not sure, that’s a promoter thing. Everything was good on our end. I believe he felt he could beat Sergio Mora. He wanted a fight he could win. He just didn’t want to do it this time around.

AllHipHop.com: With two of your targets in Mosley and Cotto moving up, would you be willing to follow them, or does a potential fight have to be at welterweight?

Berto: Freddy Hernandez is the focus. But after that, we’ll do whatever we have to to make the fights I want happen. Those are fights the people want. So I have to go up or do a catchweight, I think we can all agree to make these fights happen.

AllHipHop.com: What’s your take on Haiti? It’s coming up on a year since the earthquake. Has the progress stalled?

Berto: There’s still a lot of work to be done. Everybody has probably heard about the e-coli virus that’s going around. I can’t take much of a break right now, but I try to go down there whenever I can to work with all the foundations to make something happen. It’s still a big struggle.

AllHipHop.com: With your last fight, you went after Carlos Quintana from the beginning. Because you’ve got so much criticism from all the holding with the Juan Urango fight, was that a conscious decision to prove everyone wrong?

Berto: Yeah, and with me the criticism is tough in general. I came in with high expectations out the amateurs. From the beginning I’ve always been that exciting fighter that tries to bang these guys out. That’s how I got my hardcore fans. But then the criticism was that I banged too much and needed to learn how to box. Now I try to think my way through fights and mix it up. It’s still a learning process for me as well.

You really can’t pay attention to that. I have to continue to be smart and aggressive to get these guys out of there.

AllHipHop.com: Did the Pacquiao-Margarito fight go like you expected?

Berto: It was a good fight. It went the way most people thought it would go. I believe Pacquiao’s speed and class was from a totally different world. Margarito was too slow, flatfooted, and stood right in front of him. Pacquiao just had a field day with him using his speed and agility. He just beat him up.

AllHipHop.com: You have any idea of your schedule? How quickly will you be back in the ring after this fight?

Berto: Right now I’m not sure. I have to focus on Freddy Hernandez, because if I don’t get past him there won’t be any fights early next year [laughs]. But if everything goes well I want to be back in there as soon as possible.

AllHipHop.com: Is there any extra motivation now that you’re opening the card instead of being the main event? Most of your HBO appearances have been as the main event.

Berto: It feels good, actually. It feels like I’m back in the old days again. Either way it goes, all eyes are going to be on the fight, no matter if I’m the main or co-main event. I just need to perform. I might try to outdo my co-main eventers. It’s going to be a good card.

AllHipHop.com: Since I know you keep up with Hip-Hop, who would you say are your Top 5 emcees of all time?

Berto: All time? Number one is Tupac. He just spoke on real life issues and wasn’t just a gangsta rapper. He was aware of just life in general. Definitely Biggie; a lot of the things he did were just legendary.  Another from the New York scene is Jay-Z. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s someone I spoke to that definitely influenced me when it comes to the street game as well as the corporate world. He has a lot to talk about.

Right now Rick Ross is heavy in the rotation. I remember him back in the day in Miami before anyone knew him. He’s taken the world by storm. My last one would be Rakim. Rakim is a just great pioneer.

AllHipHop.com: Willing to put a prediction down for your fight?

Berto: Man, on this fight you’re gonna see a lot of speed and power in both hands. I didn’t struggle at all with weight, and should weigh in around 154 or 155 on fight night. I’m ready to have fun and go to work.

Ismael AbduSalaam is a senior staff writer for AllHipHop.com, and the creator of Beats, Boxing and Mayhem, a website specializing in boxing and Hip-Hop coverage.

Andre Berto faces Freddy Hernandez tonight (November 27) at 9:45 PM ET on HBO. The other opening bout is Celestino Caballero against Jason Litzau. The main event will feature Juan Manuel Marquez defending his WBA/WBO lightweight belts against Michael Katsidis.

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