Since winning a vacant belt in June of 2008, only one of Berto's three defenses was against a legitimate top ten welterweight (Luis Collazo), and Berto barely escaped a loss. His other defenses were against a 33-year-old former junior lightweight and lightweight champion, Steve Forbes; and a career junior welterweight who moved up in class for the fight, Juan Urango. If Berto wants to be mentioned in the same sentence as Pacquiao, Mayweather and Mosley, he's got to do what they do: Fight the best.
On April 10, Berto will do that, taking on upper echelon welterweight Carlos Quintana, the only man to beat Paul Williams. If Berto wins, he'll finally earn the right to call himself a true welterweight champion. If he loses, the big fights he so craves will continue to elude him.
"This will be a proving ground for Berto," says Lou DiBella, his promoter. "You don't beat a Paul Williams like Quintana did unless you are a top echelon guy. Berto has got his hands full."
The fighter is also returning to the ring after an 11-month layoff. Berto lost an uncle and seven members of his household in the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in January, and he's spent considerable time in Haiti since then, trying to find relatives and help victims. It was a devastating experience for the 26-year-old, and it changed him. "Seeing what I've seen and experiencing it first hand, you understand people are in a fight that's much bigger than anything I ever fought in the ring. It makes you want to inspire nations," Berto says.
That's become the Haitian-born Berto's new mission statement in life. He burns with desire to bring honor in the ring to Haiti in much the same way Pacquiao has done for his troubled Philippines. It is a big burden to adopt.
"He feels so driven to succeed for the people of Haiti," DiBella says. "He's putting a lot of pressure on himself, and that is one of the reasons this is a high risk fight for him. But he is a young fighter and I think he is going to be able to channel all the energy from the quake to help his people."
The only time Berto has faced a fighter of Quintana's caliber was last year against Collazo, and he didn't look pretty holding on to the title by the skin of his teeth. Collazo is a strong inside fighter, and Berto made the mistake of squaring up and joining him in a phone booth. Instead, he should have kept the fight at a distance where he could fully extend his power shots and utilize his exceptionally fast hands. Berto's played right into his opponent's hands to such a degree that it makes that bout a poor point of comparison to weigh his effectiveness against other top boxers.
"The lesson Berto learned in that fight will serve him well in this one," DiBella says. "You don't counteract your own strengths by fighting the other fighter's fight. I feel sure he won that fight, but he won it on balls."
Quintana wins fights by using superior ring intelligence and polished boxing skills. Those traits were clearly on display when he handed Williams his only career loss. Quintana had a smart game plan and perfectly executed it by not letting Williams get comfortable.
Quintana wins fights by using superior ring intelligence and polished boxing skills. Those traits were clearly on display when he handed Williams his only career loss. Quintana had a smart game plan and perfectly executed it by not letting Williams get comfortable. Quintana kept moving laterally, and then would plunge in to land a few precision shots before tying Williams up. Williams was never able to utilize his long arms or launch his high-volume attack. "I didn't show up," said a befuddled Williams in the post-fight press conference. "I just couldn't find my rhythm."
In the rematch four months later Williams blew Quintana out in the first round, and the Puerto Rican fighter practically handed him his head on a silver platter. Gone was the lateral movement and the bottling-up tactics. Instead, Quintana made himself an easy target, and Williams was only too happy to oblige, pummeling his opponent around the ring until the ref stopped the fight with 45 seconds to go after a second knockdown.
"Sometimes you beat a guy and then let your guard down in the rematch," DiBella said. "You think you have superiority over the guy. Quintana's head was not where it should have been. When he beat Paul Williams the first time, the only way he was going to win was to not make mistakes. He can't make a mistake against Berto, either."
In the co-feature, former super bantamweight champion Celestino Caballero (33-2, 23 KOs) will be stepping up to featherweight to face undefeated Indonesian Daud Cino Yordan (25-0-19 KOs). Caballero is making the move up in class in an effort to try and get a fight with Juan Manuel Lopez, whom he has been calling out for over a year. Yordan will be fighting away from Asia for only the second time. Last year he came to California to challenge former featherweight champion Robert Guerrero. That fight was declared a no contest in the second round when an accidental clash of heads opened a cut over Guerrero's right eye and he was unable to continue.