Andre Berto (28-1 22KO) is a champion yet again, and he's on the prowl for the big money fights and high profile opponents in the welterweight division.
This win didn't come as easy as many people thought it would. Many people wrote the champion, Dejan Zavec (32-2-1 18KO), off as a bum opponent from Europe who was holding his title hostage. This was not the case in any way though.
If anything, Zavec would have won the fight had he gone the full twelve rounds with Berto. He was landing more punches and blocking most of Berto's. This can be seen from the compubox stats here.
Both men gave a spectacular performance that was full of traded blows and thundering uppercuts.
Here is a look into the fight and the future of both fighters.
This fight was incredible and I hope that everybody who wrote Zavec off as a bum opponent is eating their words right now. If you truly believe that Zavec is still a bum European champion, you need to open your eyes and watch the fight again.
Zavec came into the fight as the underdog despite being the champion, and he fought like one for five rounds. The fight was mostly an inside battle with both men landing uppercuts on one another and Zavec sneaking in his right hook occasionally and landing it beautifully.
Berto was sending in thunderous punches which, when landed, forced Zavec back. These were without a doubt the hardest punches the Slovenian has ever received in his career, eventually leading to his first loss from knockout.
The fight was a lot closer than predicted despite the TKO loss. I had Berto up 3-2 rounds, but I could see Zavec mounting a comeback in the later rounds had the fight gone the distance.
If the fight had gone the distance between these two men, Zavec could have won the match. He was clearly landing his shots on Berto and could have worked his way back into the fight had he not been cut.
If you saw during the fifth round of the fight, Zavec was furious that the fight was going to be stopped due to the cut. He was cursing and yelling that he wouldn't get a chance to go out like a warrior or finish defending his title.
I don't have the official compubox stats yet, but from what I heard during the end results, Zavec landed 109 punches to Berto's 89. He also stated in his post-fight interview that he was saving his energy for the second half of the fight. He conditioned himself so that he could save his energy for the later half and take Berto out.
These two should definitely have a rematch in the future so Zavec can have chance to win his title back and finish the fight that his face denied him. If Berto can't get a big money match against Mayweather, Pacquiao or a rematch with Ortiz, he should definitely look Zavec up again.
"A real champion doesn’t hold his title hostage." - Dejan Zavec
I applaud Zavec for his efforts Saturday night against Berto. Even though he was the champion, he took the challenge of going into foreign territory for the first time to fight against his toughest opponent.
Although Zavec traveled more than 10 hours on a plane to Mississippi to lose his fight and his chance for a fight against Pacquiao or Mayweather, he did get one of the things he was looking for: recognition.
One of Zavec's goals in this fight was to let his presence be known to the American fans in his American debut. Personally, I think that Zavec left us with a great first impression and I want more of him.
Since this was shown on HBO, millions more people saw Zavec's performance than if he fought in Slovenia. His stock in the boxing world has without a doubt risen and if he's still willing to fight, he can probably land another fight against a top 10 Ring Magazine welterweight in the US.
He has done more than WBA champion Vyacheslav Senchenko (who has defended the title in Ukraine against sub-par opponents) and I don't expect Zavec to fall out of the top 5 Ring rankings.
Compared to his past performance against Ortiz, Berto looked stellar. He had a lot more energy than in his last fight and threw a lot more combinations in the opening rounds too. Also, not to mention he did look a little bit thinner in his weight in photos compared to what he usually looked like.
Could this have been because of his new alliance with controversial ex-BALCO figure Victor Conte? Or could this have been because of the different opponent he was facing? When he was fighting Ortiz, Ortiz blitzed him every chance he could and had Berto against the ropes in the opening rounds looking gassed.
Whatever the case may be, Berto's back and he's a world champion yet again.
Since Berto won the IBF title, his next fight is already set. His next opponent is Randall Bailey, who fought on the undercard of his fight. Bailey was the mandatory challenger for Zavec, but stepped down to fight the winner of this fight.
Seeing as Berto is now one of the world champions again, he's probably hoping that he was able to throw his name into the Pacquiao/Mayweather sweepstakes. He came so close earlier this year, but missed out on a Mayweather fight due to his loss to Ortiz.
If that doesn't work out, he should backtrack to Ortiz and look to avenge his loss from earlier this year. I can see this as a possibility for early next year, as both men are fighting in September. If Ortiz loses his title to Mayweather, no doubt he'd want to get another one back by fighting Berto. If Ortiz is to win though and can't get a match with Pacquiao, Berto would be his next best option to gain another world title and make some money at the same time.
Finally, a rematch with Zavec would be fantastic if none of the above work out. The two had a great match and after a good showing from each of them, people would be interested in watching a rematch. I mean, who else could Berto fight that people would want to watch? He could fight Shane Mosley to add another name to his resume and do what he couldn't finish because of the Haiti disaster.
After that Pacquiao beatdown he received, I think people would be more interested in a Zavec rematch than seeing Berto fight a faded Mosley.
Like I said before, Zavec's stock in the American boxing fan's eyes have without a doubt risen and he can expect more recognition from boxing fans around the world after his fight with Berto.
From here I don't know what will happen with Zavec's future. He's 35 years old and just lost his world title. He also received a nasty cut on his eye from Berto and could be realizing that his body can't take this kind of punishment anymore and could be considering retirement.
Hopefully he doesn't, as he has proven he can still hang with the best in his division.
Here are possible options I can see Zavec pursuing:
Fighting Rafael Jackiewicz if he loses his WBA title eliminator against Kell Brook. I'm not going to say the winner of the bout because Kell Brook wants to eventually take on Amir Khan with a belt in welterweight. I say this because, why not? These two men have met twice before and have always put up a good and close fight with the series split 1-1. Why not have a rubber match in the US to see who's the winner between the two once and for all?
Another option is the winner of the Sebastian Lujan and Mike Jones match. Without a doubt, Arum is trying to raise Jones's stock for a future Pacquiao bout. A past champion like Zavec would look good on Jones's resume and make him seem that much better. For Zavec, both are quality opponents and would be more challenging than most of his opponents in the past.
Andre Berto is another option as a rematch. Zavec deserves another chance to get his belt back and prove he has what it takes to win. Like I said before, he was saving his energy for the later half of the fight. He was close on the scorecards too, so it's not out of the question that he could have won the fight on a decision.
My final prediction as a possible opponent: Shane Mosley. Both men are old and Shane is on the downside of his career after losing two of his last three and drawing in one. This would give Zavec more exposure in the US and also add a name fighter to his resume if he were to win. His chances are good seeing how Mosley is nothing like he was years ago, and is seemingly demoralized from his two losses.