Young champion Andre Berto passed his first big test, but did not do it in way that will convince his doubters that he has the stuff to be an elite fighter. Berto won a close, unanimous decision over tough Luis Collazo that could have gone the other way, but it was not the scorecards that told the true story. Two judges scored it by a razor thin 114-113 for Berto, while the other, who apparently was asleep at the wheel, had it for the champion 116-111, despite a point reduction taken from Berto in round four for holding. What Berto did demonstrate that bodes well for his future, was that when the fight was up for grabs in the last round, he went all out with the heart of champion to win the round and retain his title.
Although only two years older at 27, Collazo (27-4-1, 14 KOs) came into the fight with roughly double the ring experience as Berto, and it showed. An inside fighter with a strong chin, Collazo lured Berto into his kind of fight early, and won several rounds, including the first, when he almost put the younger fighter down. Berto, with superior hand speed and boxing skills, failed to keep the fight at a distance where his quickness could matter, and was outworked by Collazo on body work.
What probably kept Berto in the fight for the judges is that he was able to land far more power punches than Collazo. But none of those punches seemed to hurt Collazo, which undoubtedly frustrated Berto (24-0, 19 KOs) and took him out of his game plan. Going into the final two rounds, Berto's corner warned him the fight was up for grabs, especially the last round, and implored him to find another gear.
Berto's response was clearly the most promising thing about the fight. He came out for the 12th round winging, and dominated the round. Afterwards, Berto acknowledged he had been pushed to the limit at this stage of his career. "It was a close call," Berto said. "Collazo is an animal. He banged it up with me. In the last round I knew I had to win it, and I dug deep down to get it."
Although Berto opened a crack in the door to the elite welterweight's clubhouse, he might find it somewhat empty for the next several months. Antonio Margarito fights Shane Mosley next week and will likely have a rematch with Miguel Cotto in June. Besides the rematch, Cotto is fighting next month. Mosley would be free in a few months, but he might not think young Berto brings enough to the table to make a fight worthwhile. Fellow title holder Joshua Clottey is a possibility in a unification fight, and there's always Zab Judah and Carlos Quintana. So while Berto showed he might belong, he isn't likely to be embraced any time soon by the elite guard. Berto is clearly a work in progress, but demonstrated against Collazo he has the heart and the tools to overcome adversity. That was the most positive sign to come out of his first big test."