by: José A Maldonado, MFA
Andre Berto has lost twice in his past three bouts.
But he is not a loser.
Berto’s last win over a top opponent came over two years ago against Carlos Quintana.
Still, he is no loser.
He has been knocked down four times in his past two losses, both coming against his toughest opponents he has ever faced.
But – you guessed it – he is not a loser.
And that is because, even in defeat, Andre Berto has more than proven himself to be a warrior, worthy of our admiration and awe. This Saturday against Robert Guerrero in Ontario, CA was no different. The Haitian American from Winter Haven, FL came away from the brutal slugfest with one loss, two eyes closed shut, and millions of dollars lost from a possible showdown with Floyd “Money” Mayweather; yet nobody dared call him a loser.
In a fight that saw him taste the canvas in the first two rounds while suffering from a swollen eye early on, Berto dug deep and found the resolve to battle his way back into the fight, stealing the middle rounds and making the end one of the most scintillating in recent memory.
His loss to Víctor Ortiz last year was not very different. In that fight he was down and nearly out in the first round and again in the sixth, only to come roaring back and make this defeat Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year.
Andre Berto, therefore, has shown us how winners lose: they go down swinging.
Yet it is not what Berto has done between the bells that has me questioning his ability to lose in style, it’s what goes on after. In each of his defeats Berto has chosen to take a couple of extra shots at his opponents and at the circumstances surrounding his loss once the gloves have been taken off.
In his interview for HBO following the Guerrero fight, Berto expressed frustration, blaming referee Lou Moret for his poor performance. To be fair, HBO analyst Max Kellerman asked him a leading question by mentioning Moret’s work, but Berto was more than happy to take the bait, saying, “It was just ridiculous, man. The referee kept calling me for a lot of different things and it just made me real timid to do a lot of things, you know, throw punches that I wanted to throw inside because he kept warning me for things that I didn’t have no control over.” It was Moret, then, and not Guerrero, who made him change his fight plan
After implying that the referee changed the face of the fight, he described Guerrero’s fouls against him, pointing out that, “He hit me on the side of the head, back of the head. . .He was comin in, grabbing me, holdin me, and the referee was just basically – every time I tried to get off the referee kept warning me and kept saying he was gonna take points.” Berto then tried to rescind by saying the referee did his job and thanked his promoter. Of course, this was after 12 ferocious rounds, and it may have been said in the heat of the moment, but this behavior is nothing new.
Shortly following his loss to Ortiz, Berto hinted at the possibility of his opponent having used performance enhancing drugs. When asked whether Ortiz was tested for drugs, Berto responded:
“Yo this is the main question I get from fans and boxing people. Did they drug test Ortiz? Let me clear the air now!! Your right there is a reason why Ortiz had so much energy, a reason he could take my heavy shots and keep ticking. N there is a reason why he came into the ring 165 pounds. I know people close to him and his camp and I know exactly we he was taking. it wasn’t Flintstone vitamins!! But it is what it is I should of beat him anyways but it wasn’t me that night. Ortiz wasn’t him either lol. Lesson learned time to forget about the past and look forward to the future.” – Andre Berto
According to Berto, then, the reason Ortiz had so much energy and was able to take Berto’s shots was because he was “taking” something, and since it was not “Flintstone vitamins,” in today’s sports culture, the only logical conclusion is steroids (ironic since Ortiz-Berto II was canceled after Berto failed a drug test in what was later deemed a “contaminated test”).
When pressed to elaborate on his Flintstone vitamin comment, Berto again rescinded his statement, saying people had come to the wrong conclusion and that he takes his losses “like a man.”
Which is exactly the problem: Berto needs to take his losses better. In Ortiz, he was simply facing a fighter who had come into the ring a man possessed, the intent to win – not steroids – coursing through is veins. This past Saturday, meanwhile, rather than blame Moret, Berto should have acknowledged that it was Guerrero who took him out of his game plan, and it was Berto who was unable to adjust to this mauling, phone booth fight. Guerrero, furthermore, pointed out that the fouling was not one sided, as evidenced by Berto clearly landing rabbit punches and holding Guerrero’s arms on numerous occasions.
So is Andre Berto a loser? Of course not. He’s a top fighter who deserves a big fight – and soon. But, should he lose again, which is not unlikely considering that he fights in boxing’s best, toughest, most grueling division, he should review his own tapes and take notes on how to lose with style.
José A Maldonado teaches English at LA Mission College and is founder of punchrate.com.