Welterweight titleholder Andre Berto returns to the ring on Saturday night when he faces well-traveled Carlos Quintana over 12 rounds at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida.
Berto will be making his start since returning from aiding earthquake-ravaged Haiti in January and February. After his humdrum performance against Juan Urango last May, Berto spent the rest of the year feuding via cyberspace with NFL star Chad Ochocinco and haggling about his purse for a possible Shane Mosley fight. When Berto withdrew from the Mosely bout to help those suffering in Port-Au Prince, it put the kibosh on his first step up to the big-time.
Besides Luis Collazo, Berto, 25-0 (19), has faced nothing but an assortment of journeymen and outright set-ups. An exception, if you are feeling particularly benevolent, is Juan Urango, who moved up in weight as a super longshot strictly for the payday. Despite a resume short on accomplishments, Berto became a millionaire long ago, with HBO even going so far as to import mediocrities–Michael Trabant–from Europe for his benefit, as if America suffered from a dearth of hamfisted welterweights. Against Collazo, Berto proved that he had heart and determination to go along with his fast hands and explosive combinations, but questions remain because of the relatively low level of his opposition.
In a strange twist, Dan Rafael at ESPN reported that Berto received a step-aside fee for the Mosley bout, possibly for Team Berto to waive a rescheduling clause in the contract. Thus far Berto has made a fine living being paid to fight nobody and nobodies, but tomorrow night Carlos Quintana will represent only his second or third live opponent in a 25-bout career stretching back to 2004. Because Quintana never qualified for the puzzling HBO star treatment program, he has faced far superior competition than Berto has. One of the quixotic aspects of contemporary boxing is how many of the “best” fighters, as crowned by HBO and some of the fog making media outlets, fight undemanding competition, while good fighters on the fringes regularly lace up against terrors as short-end propositions.
Whether or not Quintana, 27-2 (21), benefits from his edge in experience remains to be seen. Still, a tricky southpaw with decent pop is not exactly what a fighter wants to see in the opposite corner after a long layoff, but Quintana, now 33, might have reached the point where the sidewalk ends. Circumstances have also forced Quintana to the sidelines recently –fights against Ermosele Albert and Joshua Clottey both fell through–and he has fought only twice since his disastrous loss to Williams. In addition, Quintana initially seemed hesitant to drop back down to welterweight when the fight with Berto was proposed. Boiling down to 147 pounds will not help his cause against a talented fighter. These factors, along with the small detail that both fighters are promoted by Lou DiBella, have intersected to give Quintana his third part as fall guy on HBO in four years. As he proved against Julio and Williams, he does not always appreciate the role.
Either Berto is sick of southpaws or he has gotten used to them by now. Quintana will be his third lefty in a row, and it was a southpaw, Luis Collazo, who nearly capsized his applecart last year. Although he is not a flashy as Collazo, Quintana hits harder than his Puerto Rican counterpart, and has managed to win some of the big fights he was brought in to lose. But Andre Berto is not as one-dimensional as Joel Julio or Paul Williams are, and it is hard to imagine Quintana doing more than troubling Berto for a few rounds with his counterpunching style. If Berto, Miami, leaves his left extended, as he often did against Collazo, he will be setting himself up for some distress. Quintana is too smart not to take advantage of this tic and will look to come over the top with right hooks. For his part, Quintana has a habit of leaning in, chin dangling, to throw odd roundhouse lefts to the body. Berto is quick enough to counter this flaw with uppercuts and
Quintana should probably leave that quirky move in his Acme Bag of Boxing Tricks.
In addition to lapses in defense, Quintana, Moca, Puerto Rico, appears to possess a cold chin and has been knocked down early in fights by Joel Julio, Paul Williams, and Jesse Feliciano. Paul Williams floored him three times in their rematch en route to a first round KO, and getting dropped by weather-beaten Jesse Feliciano has to be considered a red flag. If Berto decides to be aggressive early, Quintana might be in straits within minutes of the opening bell. He will have to be careful during the first few rounds and hope to offset disadvantages in speed, youth, and athleticism with timing and execution.
Despite the emotional turmoil he has gone through recently, Berto is the type to remain focused in the gym. In fact, Berto, 26, trains so hard he could probably win the Iditarod without a team of huskies. So a letdown seems unlikely; if Quintana upsets the dope, he will have to earn it the hard way. In the end, the gap in natural talent may be too far for Quintana to bridge at this point in his career. Berto ought to be able to catch up with him in the middle rounds or force a late stoppage.
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