A key contributor to the starving corpse of boxing is an effective alternative in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Like it or not, the UFC sells fights—seven of the top 10 pay-per-view buys in 2008 were UFC fight cards—two were boxing (Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao [1.25 million] and Felix Trinidad vs. Roy Jones Jr. [500,000].)
Less than stellar pay-per-view fight sales have even caused some of boxing’s own (Joe Calzaghe) to declare the sport dead, which ruffled the feathers of many fans, writers, and other combatants.
However, it is imperative to note that his opinions, or PPV sales numbers (his fight with Roy Jones sold less than 200,000), don’t necessarily reflect those of others who leave it all in the ring.
One reason why the UFC is so successful has to be because of their huge appeal to the casual fight fan. It gives them the Fight Club-like brutality quick fix (three or five five-minute rounds) that they might crave for—minus the soap and SAG cardholders.
So where—or who—does boxing have to turn to in order to restore an enthusiastic fanbase to the likes that cannot be duplicated?
HBO and some promoters seem like they took a hint as to the type of fights that need to be made, and they scheduled some potentially exciting matchups in the near future.
All of the fights feature a young, hot prospect as well—investing in the youth leads to a successful future.
One of the prospects was featured last weekend—2004 Olympian and interim WBC beltholder Andre Berto. He fought 27-year-old southpaw veteran, Luis Collazo.
This is what the game’s been missing—non-stop action between two fighters who possess both boxing and brawling skills, but aren’t masters in either.
Two fighters who could take a punch but are also clearly beatable.
A fighter who has the sheer determination and willingness to risk it all to prove that he isn’t just a stepping stone—but a contender.
And a fighter who was out to prove that he wasn’t just an overhyped prospect—but a champion who will adjust, excel, and win no matter what the costs—no matter what you throw at him.
Is Andre Berto what the game’s been missing? Can he restore the fanbase? Does he have what it takes to remain competitive in arguably the deepest division in boxing?
But here’s what he certainly has.
Shown by his rapid fire combinations and movement as opposed to single punches.
It's hard to think of a right uppercut fiercer than his at welterweight, it doesn’t hurt the case that 19 of his 24 victories (79 percent) are by knockout, and the five who survived have either never been stopped (Steve Forbes), only stopped once in their careers (Collazo and Cosme Rivera), or it was only a scheduled four-rounder.
Decent boxing skill
Against Collazo, when he boxed effectively by sticking and moving, you could make the case that Berto won the majority of the rounds. He also generally takes his time by boxing and breaking his opponent down.
Berto’s superior physique can cause opponents to think too much and worry about his strength—it serves as a good form of intimidation.
But the 25-year-old, like every other boxer, has downsides as well.
Defense (or lack there of.)
A hot offense beats a cold defense—sure, but Berto still go hit 222 times versus Collazo, and although he might have shown that he can take a punch—the best defense is not getting hit at all. Berto needs to tighten it up.
Don’t let his physique fool you, muscles don’t always translate into great endurance. Time and time again, especially last Saturday, we have seen Berto get tired, put his guard down, and allow himself to get hit. Give kudos to Collazo for a good gameplan, but Berto won’t be able to do that against the top dogs.
Anyone who has personally met or have seen Andre Berto, they would know—5’8.5" is very generous. Luckily, he has decent reach.
Some fighters can just fight, and some can fight and execute an effective gameplan.
Andre Berto can fight, but he has trouble with using his head in the ring not for headbutts. It is often said that boxing is 75 percent mental. That’s not myth—and it means just as much in the ring as it does in your head.
Just ask undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr., he credits most of his wins because of how he executed his gameplan or how he thought about what to do.
He uses his head—he has no losses.
That established, it is safe to say that Andre Berto still has some work to do and isn’t ready for the upper-echelon of the welterweight division just yet. He’s currently in the second-tier, which isn’t bad at all in a stacked division.
This second-tier also consists of names like Joshua Clottey and Zab Judah. After Clottey’s victory over Judah last August, he called Berto out. The Ghanaian from the Bronx fights former Olympian Isaac Hlatshwayo next month.
Judah doesn’t have any plans set in stone, but he and Berto have been talking subtly taking shots at each other since early 2008.
Both matchups would heavily contribute to Berto’s development, but more importantly they could be what the game's been missing.