If Andre Berto has had a long year so far, the troubles of the past months now may be at least eased by his strong, if at times awkward, eighth round TKO victory over Carlos Quintana tonight at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, FL.
After landing a career opportunity last year, a fight against Shane Mosley set for Jan. 30th, 2010, a devastating earthquake rocked Berto's native Haiti. With the fight with Mosley cancelled and far from his mind, Berto found himself with his brother Cleveland in Port-a-Prince around the time he should have been gearing up for fight week. Rather than dodging punches in the ring against Mosley, Berto was helping doctors and searching for family members.
It's been a few months since looking over a country strewn with wreckage and despair and nearly a year since Berto (26-0, 20 KOs) last climbed into the ring. Questions of ring rust, tragic personal distractions and readiness--rather than eagerness--to perform certainly lingered over this fight. After all, Quintana (27-3, 21 KOs), a tricky southpaw fighter, is the only fighter to hand "most feared" Paul Williams a loss.
But it wasn't the high output fighter who beat Williams in the ring tonight. It was a much less aggressive Quintana, who in the earlier rounds wanted to bring the fight against the ropes, often tugging and holding.
"Andre was tight in the first rounds but he sucked it up. Offensively, he was better in the later rounds," said his promoter, Lou DiBella.
"I just wanted to throw. I just wanted to hit the body," Andre said of Quintana's early attempts to frustrate the fighter. "I felt rusty, letting him hold me... my legs were locking up."
But after the second round and third rounds, when Quintana had a point deducted for a punch to the back of Berto's head, Berto began to find a rhythm. Establishing himself in the center of the ring, Berto kept his distance, keeping out of the ropes, winning the next several rounds with relative ease, setting up Quintana then driving him viciously into corners with jabs and body shots. He teased out a successfully strategy: stay in the center, keep your distance and when stuck into the ropes or corners, fight your way out and back into center ring.
For Quintana, only the second round, when he was tying Berto up and flummoxing his attempts to box, proved to be a true winner. The rest of the time he inched closer to the destruction, absorbing a massive 70% of Berto's powershots in the eighth and taking 35 shots to the head in that final round. Finally, after a massive effort from Berto to close the deal, Berto drove Quintana into a neutral corner with a lengthy right hand, following up with several head shots while Quintana ducked and bobbed fruitlessly, causing referee Tommy Kimmons, to stop the action.
"I knew he was hurt and I just wanted to finish it," Berto told ringside reporters after the fight.
And for the questions that sparked media scrutiny when discussing the Mosley fight -- Berto's experience, his ability to keep the pace with a more experienced and seasoned fighter -- do these remain valid in light of his victory? Probably. Will we have a chance to find out the answers a lot sooner than a year from now? Let's hope so.
In the opening bout, a fighter on many people's pound-for-pound lists, Celestino Caballero, dished out a seriously one-sided dismantling of Daud Cino Yordan in an unanimous decision victory.
Though Yordan was game, showing tough skin and an even tougher heart, he wasn't much of a match for Caballero's right hand body shots and relentless jabs. Caballero's output was staggering, throwing 1248 punches over the 12 rounds, the third most ever in the 25 years CompuBox has been tracking fights. According to HBO's Punchzone, Yordan suffered 128 shots to the body, many of them landing on the left side, which was left as swollen and red as his face, which also took 201 shots. It was an ending that many people, including HBO's Larry Merchant and promoter Lou DiBella, thought should have come earlier and from Yordan's corner.