THE HAUSER REPORT — The latest installment of “Brooklyn Boxing” was contested at Barclays Center on April 22. The main fight of the evening was a WBC “elimination” bout between Shawn Porter (26-2, 18 KOs) and Andre Berto (31-4, 24 KOs) to determine the mandatory challenger for Keith Thurman’s 147-pound crown.
In a co-featured bout, WBC 154-pound title-holder Jermell Charlo (28-0, 13 KOs) squared off against Charles Hatley (26-1-1, 18 KOs).
The key figure in it all was Porter.
Asked to describe himself, Porter says, “I think I’m a good guy. I believe in positive energy. I’m always positive. I’m always respectful. I work hard. I follow the rules. I hang out with the right people. I’d rather play Monopoly with my friends than hang out at a nightclub all night. I like looking good but I don’t like looking like anyone else, so there’s some of that in my style. I love the competition in boxing and being in the moment. When I’m in the ring, I love hearing the crowd scream. It’s exhilarating, an indescribable feeling. And I’m always trying to make other people happy.”
Porter is a very good fighter who hasn’t quite gotten over the hump. His signature wins were against two faded fighters (Devon Alexander and Paulie Malignaggi) and one never-quite-was (Adrien Broner). He stepped up to the elite level on two occasions (against Kell Brook and Keith Thurman) and lost a close decision each time.
Berto was a promising prospect who got rich against a string of soft touches during the Kery Davis era at HBO. What Andre didn’t do during that time was develop his ring skills to their full potential. He’s now 33 years old with his best years as a fighter behind him. Over the past 6-1/2 years, he has won four of nine fights.
“Everybody knows the boxing game,” Berto said during an April 13 media conference call. “You’re as good as your last performance. They’ll write you off quick. That’s just how the game goes. I can’t sit there and be upset at it. I knew what I was getting into.”
As for the co-feature, Charlo-Hatley was Jermell’s first fight since he claimed the vacant WBC 154-pound throne with an eighth-round knockout of John Jackson eleven months ago. His twin brother, Jermall, recently held the IBF 154-pound title but announced that he was relinquishing it to move up to 160 pounds.
Hatley was an unheralded challenger. “I’d like a little respect,” he said at the final pre-fight press conference. “Once they clean him [Charlo] up off the ground, I’ll get that respect.”
“Keep running your mouth,” Charlo told him.
Jermell was an 8-to-1 favorite.
Round one was a feeling out stanza. Then Charlo found the right range. Midway through round three, a jab-right combination put Hatley on the canvas. He rose quickly and spent the rest of the round on his bicycle. From that point on, Jermell was the clear aggressor. Thirty seconds into round six, a vicious, picture-perfect, straight right from Charlo landed flush on Hatley’s jaw and rendered him unconscious.
That set the stage for Porter-Berto.
Shawn is in his prime. Andre is past it.
Also, Porter is exactly the kind of fighter who’s wrong for Berto. A big strong guy who keeps coming forward throwing punches and can take a punch; a much better version of Jesus Soto Karass, who wore Andre down and knocked him out in the twelfth round three years ago.
At an April 5 media workout, Porter said of Berto, “I’ve seen him in fights where he goes past the fifth or sixth round and things start to fall apart for him.” One week later, Shawn added, “My mindset says, every time we get in the ring, our opponent won’t be able to keep up with the pace that I perform at. I do everything I can to be ready for a fight like that. I’m always prepared to fight at the faster pace than the guys that I box.”
Against Berto, Porter fought less aggressively than expected in round one with neither fighter doing much of note. In round two, Shawn went to work. A mauling body attack pinned Andre against the ropes and, just before the bell, a chopping right hand high on the forehead dropped Berto to the canvas.
Round two also saw Porter cut over his left eye from an accidental clash of heads. In round four, another head butt sliced open Porter’s right eyelid and a third accidental clash of heads opened an ugly gash on Berto’s left eyelid.
Soon, there was enough blood on the ring canvas that it looked like the beginning stages of a painting by Jackson Pollack.
Meanwhile, Porter was relentlessly forcing the pace, doing his best work when he trapped Berto against the ropes and pounded away with a non-stop body attack. On occasion, Berto responded effectively with uppercuts. More often, he tried to tie Porter up.
It was here that referee Mark Nelson mishandled the fight. There were times when Porter accepted the clinch and breaking the fighters was appropriate. But on more than twenty occasions, Nelson broke the fighters when there was no need to break them.
Sometimes, simply instructing the fighters to “punch out” is the right thing to do.
More troubling, there were many times when Porter pinned Berto against the ropes and, despite Andre’s efforts to tie him up, was doing damage with his free hand. Separating the fighters as Nelson did, interrupted Shawn’s momentum and forced him to work his way in all over again.
Nelson also lost control of the fight to the extent that he was unable to put an end to the repeated clash of heads that caused multiple cuts and seemed to leave Berto a bit shaken on several occasions.
Porter took round seven off after dominating the first half of the fight. He resumed his assault in round eight. In round nine, he was teeing off against Berto, who was trapped against the ropes, when Nelson correctly halted the fight.
Porter outlanded Berto in every round but the seventh en route to a 175-to-81 advantage in punches landed with a 138-to-60 superiority in power punches. Fifty-one of his 138 power shots were to the body. His late dominance was reflected in the fact that he outlanded Berto 40-to-11 in round eight and 20-to-1 in the abbreviated ninth round.
Porter can now look to the future. His next fight is expected to be a rematch against Keith Thurman in what has been likened to a de facto 147-pound tournament.
A real tournament would be better than a de facto one.
As for the Charlo brothers; they’re good fighters. It would be nice if they were matched tougher so we can find out how good.
* * *
At one point, boxing fans had expected to see Luis Ortiz vs. Derric Rossy on the undercard of Porter-Berto.
Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs) came out of the Cuban amateur system and turned pro seven years ago. Now 38 (or older depending on who one believes), he’s a big puncher with a seventh-round knockout victory over Bryant Jennings on his resume.
Rossy (31-12, 15 KOs), age 36, is an honest workman and all-around good guy who has lost ten of his last 16 fights and been knocked out five times. He has been on the short end of some bad decisions and is willing to go in tough. The problem is that, when Derric goes in tough, he usually loses, although he does have a majority decision over Joe Hanks on his resume.
Ortiz was a prohibitive favorite. Then Ortiz-Rossy was called off. What happened?
A bit of history is in order.
In 2014, a urine sample taken from Ortiz after a knockout victory over Lateef Kayode in Las Vegas tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone. Otriz was fined $8,000 and suspended for eight months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and the result of the fight was changed to no contest.
On Tuesday, April 11, the New York State Athletic Commission advised DiBella Entertainment (the promoter of record for the April 22 fight card at Barclays Center) that it wanted to test Ortiz for performance enhancing drugs on short notice. This information was forwarded immediately to Ortiz’s management team. The following day, April 12, Tom Brown (the promoter who was representing Ortiz and had contracted with Rossy) notified Sal Musumeci (Rossy’s promoter) that Ortiz had injured his thumb and would be unable to fight. Thereafter, a photograph of Ortiz with his thumb in a cast was circulated on the Internet.
The cancellation cost Team Rossy a $75,000 pay-day and, in Derric’s mind, the opportunity to turn his career around. Acting on Rossy’s behalf, attorney Jim Thomas sent a letter to Brown, demanding that Rossy be paid fifty percent of his $75,000 purse (which, Thomas says, Derric was guaranteed if he was ready and willing to fight and the bout was called off).
Thomas also asked for a doctor’s report and all other proof that Ortiz had, in fact, been injured.
As of this writing, Brown is refusing to pay the $37,500 and Thomas has yet to receive proof of injury.
Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / Showtime
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Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at email@example.com. His most recent book – A Hard World: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.