John Dennen speaks exclusively to Berto’s trainer Virgil Hunter about fighting Mayweather
ANDRE BERTO is the favourite to fight Floyd Mayweather on September 12. Mayweather has begun his training camp, though not yet announced an opponent. Berto has been in the gym training diligently for the last five weeks and is ready to fight in September.
Berto would be major underdog against the pound-for-pound ruler . But, speaking exclusively to Boxing News, Berto’s trainer Virgil Hunter explained why he thought Andre could do a better job against Mayweather than Manny Pacquiao did in May.
“I think so. I always said the fight with Pacquiao was never going to be difficult because he never reinvented himself. At 35, 36 he’s still fighting a high energy style, he never reinvented himself. Yeah he’s got fast feet but they’re not educated feet. He can only bounce in and out on guys for so long. At some point you have to learn how to minimize your steps and be able to economise your style, when to pick it up and when not to pick it up. I think from the knockout [which Pacquiao suffered against Juan Manuel Marquez], when Mayweather’s right hands started landing, I think in the back of his mind he didn’t want to walk into nothing because he found out real quick, if he got careless, Mayweather can knock you out. I think that had a lot to do with it too,” Hunter said.
The trainer believes that Andre Berto has evolved. “He had no understanding of boxing. I wasn’t surprised. It was just brute force from the beginning,” said Hunter, who also trains Andre Ward. “Once you get to the top level you do have to a knowledge of what you’re doing. I imparted that to him, he’s starting to understand.”
Virgil cited Berto’s last fight, against Josesito Lopez as an example. “I was very pleased with his performance because he followed the script. You learn about what type of fighter that you have over a period of time. Berto went through a very tough training camp and the three fights that we have had I’ve learned a lot about him and his mental make up. Of course he had to get his confidence and him not really having a boxing IQ to where it should be at this level of competition. All those things were a big factor,” Hunter explained. “The Josesito fight, I knew from watching Josesito the fight was going to start after the fourth round. He was in his hometown in Riverside, Berto as I found out, he likes to take the time, he likes to feel him for a couple of rounds and get a sense of him. I think the losses that he’s had was trying to get out of the blocks real fast instead of taking his time being more defensive the first or second round, then gradually letting the fight come to him. That’s what we did in the Josesito fight. I showed him where Lopez was going to throw a lot of punches but when he finishes he’s standing right there, square in front of him. So Berto has a real strong jab that he never used and I worked on it, worked on it, worked on it, gave him some brains behind it and said every time he finishes punching you don’t have to exchange with him early on because even if you do, he’s at home, he’s at Riverside, he’s got the crowd, they’re going to give him the round anyway. So every time he finishes bang that jab right in his face and if he can’t do anything about it he’ll be weakened by the third round, snapping his head back with that powerful jab, knocking his head back like a whiplash effect, he’ll get nauseated, he’ll start weakening. He’ll keep throwing but you’ll notice a drop off in the velocity of his punches and he followed it to a script.
“I could visibly see Josesito losing wind and stamina and when told Berto to go ahead and exchange with him, finish it, that was the round he knocked him out.
“The bottom line is, [Lopez] was getting weaker. He went down from a big shot and if he was okay then how come the first punch he hit him with, he went back down… Berto can punch when he’s committed to punching. I was proud of how he excecuted.”
Of course, fighting Floyd Mayweather is a wholly different proposition. “You don’t get as far as he’s gotten at his age and still win convincingly against guys much younger and guys with reputations and guys with all different styles without being clever. It’s brains first. I always say that. You have to have brains. He uses his brain well. He’s able to throw you off. He knows how to just make you miss, because Floyd’s process is quick. He processes and that’s the difference. All the years of repetition, the same thing day in, day out, day in and day out, his body and mind and connected,” Virgil said. “So that’s an advantage.”
But Hunter argued the case for Berto. “Each fighter’s different,” Virgil said. “Once he gets your rhythm, once he’s allowed to fight at his pace, the conditioning that he has now and the knowledge, he could pretty well get you out at any moment from that point on. Because he can punch with both hands and he’s fast, and he’s a better boxer than people give him credit for.”
“Anybody on any given night can be beat. It’s just that the other fighter has to have the attributes to do it. If he doesn’t have the attributes to do it, it’s not going to be good. You’re down to a lucky punch,” he continued. “You have to be able to fight over your head because Floyd is a master of controlling range and distance and any time somebody can control range and distance, you’re going to have a problem with him, unless you know how to do the same.”