The star of the show this past Saturday night at the little arena inside Madison Square Garden was Vernon Forrest, that’s if you go by the judges of course and not the three-thousand plus fans who witnessed his fight with Ike Quartey. I’m just grateful I didn’t bet the rest of my dwindling possessions (I’ve been on a losing streak as of late) on Quartey because that just would’ve been too much to take. For all those who did bet on Quartey, there’s a lesson to be learned in your losses. Don’t ever bet on boxing again.
There was a bright spot though for the Ghanaian contingent and those who bet on Quartey who were able to see the fight in person. That’s as long as they showed up a couple hours before Quartey and Forrest entered the ring in the main event. They may have never heard of Andre Berto and they may not remember much after getting only a glimpse of him and I say that generously because his opponent, Roberto Valenzuela, was only on his feet for 2:19, but soon enough the name Berto will be a mainstay in boxing and those in the theatre at MSG Saturday night (if not completely inebriated) will recall that they saw him for a brief instance when he was 13-0.
Now he has twelve KO’s in fourteen fights and has looked dominant since beginning his professional career in 2004. Berto’s biggest test to date was when he fought Jonathan Tubbs, another young, undefeated prospect. The result was a devastating 3rd round knockout. Valenzuela (no relation to Fernando) was supposed to be “a tough veteran” as Berto said, considering his 63 fights with 33 KO’s. Despite the 24 losses on his record this was seemingly a step-up for Berto. It turned out to not even be a step or even a bump for the Winter Haven, Florida native, who continues to steamroll his opponents with a fistic artillery highlighted by a poised aggression. He is an impressive physical specimen, especially at welterweight where his solid, powerful upper-body makes him look like a man among boys. Think Shane Mosley but bigger. Forgot about how he stacks up physically because we know many fighters may have the body of a champion but the pugilistic skills of an infant. It’s Berto’s calm demeanor in the ring, his blazing hand-speed and his knockout power that’s caught my attention, as well as made him one of the top prospects in the sport. His success in the professional ranks comes at no surprise to those who saw him compete in the amateur ranks. After almost two-hundred amateur fights, Berto amassed 22 state titles in Florida and also won the National Golden Gloves title twice.
We know he’s good but how good? Watching him annihilate his latest foe in the first round didn’t answer that question, all it did was reinforce the fact that he’s a star on the rise. Now it’s time to see Berto the prospect make the transition to Berto the contender. It’s evident though that he’s in no hurry to work his way up the welterweight ranks. With the victorious Vernon Forrest and his posse milling around the hotel lobby after the fight, there was Andre Berto sitting quietly away from the action with a small group of his supporters. Content with his short day of work the easygoing Berto exudes an aura of calm that speaks to both the confidence in his abilities as well as his modest nature. It’s as if he knows he will be champion one day, but until that day comes he’ll continue to enjoy the slow ascent to the top and the great experience that goes along with that journey.
“I’m in no rush—we’re taking it easy,” said Berto.
He’s planning to stay busy and earn a fight on HBO in the coming months, a move that would give unknowing boxing fans a chance to see what Andre Berto is all about. The HBO-stage would likely put him in against a more seasoned, reputable opponent. At least let’s hope so for his sake because in order to showcase his talents he needs cooperation from a game opponent. Only then will we be truly able to chart the progress of this rising star.