He’s never lost a professional fight, but it’s unlikely that anyone aside from members of his own camp – and probably not even them, if they’re being honest – believe that Andre Berto is really the welterweight champion. In a division that features the two best pound for pound fighters in the world, and where one of those two (Floyd Mayweather) may actually get beat by a third (Shane Mosley), it’s very hard to make a case for the guy who just happens to be holding the WBC title. Call this a fight for the welterweight title, little league version.
That doesn’t mean that Berto 25-0 (19) and Carlos Quintana 27-2 (21), who’ll be at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida this Saturday night for a fight to be shown on HBO, will bore us. Quintana has just enough credibility to be considered a test for the only slightly battle tried Berto. This seems consistent with the strategy used by the Berto camp: bring in opponents who are good enough so they can’t be brushed off as no-hopers, but not so good as to threaten Andre’s undefeated record and marketability.
I think that the suits at HBO initially had high hopes for the former Olympian (he represented Haiti in 2004), but may have had second thoughts as it’s dawned on them that they were a little too optimistic about his potential. Even Berto himself has been quick to point out that he was still relatively green, and is still learning his business.
This brings up the question of how he got to be a “champion” in the first place. He did it by fighting for a vacant title against Miguel Angel Rodriguez – an opponent with a terrific record, but not much discernable ability – who was brought in from Distrito Federal in Mexico City where’d he’d been beating guys with records like 0-1 and 1-6. It’s not always boxing; it’s always HBO.
To his credit, Berto wants to be a fighter. At this point, his strong suit is aggressiveness and a commitment to his punches. He’s way too muscled up to be a serious puncher, and he’s often noticeably lost when he’s not on offense, but at least he doesn’t try to dog it out there. But his lack of experience was evident a couple of fights ago when facing sturdy veteran Luis Collazo – a guy you’re supposed to beat clearly if you’re being groomed for stardom.
And it’s in looking at that fight where you can see how things may get interesting with Carlos Quintana. Quintana’s a sound, intelligent southpaw, and he’s been to the big time before. In 2006, he gave Miguel Cotto, then at the top of his game, a few solid rounds of work before surprisingly giving up after the fifth. He was brought back as cannon fodder for WBO welterweight champion Paul Williams – like Berto, another star in the making and wound up teaching the younger fighter a few things about boxing, taking his title in the process. Williams avenged the loss about as well as a fighter can, knocking Quintana out in the first round to regain the title about four months later.
Since then, Quintana has been largely inactive: he’s only fought twice since 2008. More tellingly, in his last fight, he was dropped by Jesse Feliciano, who is not a great puncher. Quintana was awarded the fight on a 3rd round TKO when Feliciano sustained a badly cut eye.
I assume that the combination of inactivity, the fast kayo loss to Williams, a knockdown to Feliciano, and the possible perception that he quit in the Cotto fight, along with his very good record, are the reasons why Quintana is being brought in.
But, in beating Paul Williams for the WBO title, he won a genuine championship over a legitimate title holder who is a far better fighter than Berto. And Andre does not like seeing tricky guys in front of him. Some people thought that he didn’t beat Collazo, and, at his best, Quintana is probably the superior fighter, although not the tougher guy. He throws a very sneaky left cross that has some pop to it, and he can move. Additionally, Quintana mixes up his punches very well, always throwing in combination, often unpredictably. Although Paul Williams was inexperienced at the time that Quintana beat him, there was nothing fluky about the win; the champ was frequently confused by what Carlos was doing.
HBO’s agenda is clear with this fight, but there are enough question marks to make it worth watching. I’d have liked it better if Quintana had been active during the last year or so, but he hadn’t fought in a year before he won the title from Williams. He definitely knows how to fight.
Andre Berto is in a tough spot as the WBC champion. He’d be a decided underdog against Pacquiao, Mayweather, Mosley, Williams (who says he can still make the weight), and the returning Antonio Margarito. He got where he is a little too fast, in a division that’s a little too dangerous. It’ll be interesting to see how he does on Saturday night.