Andre Berto became the stepping-stone to previous Floyd Mayweather Jr. opponents. Now the Miami native will have his opportunity at facing the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter and basking in the high profile attention that surrounds a Mayweather fight.
Four months after his convincing win against Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather will fight Berto in a welterweight title fight Saturday night in Las Vegas. The pay-per-view bout will be the last of Mayweather’s six-fight deal with the Showtime network.
Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs) also will attempt to tie 1950s heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano as titleholders who began their careers with 49 consecutive victories. Although Mayweather has said he will retire after the Berto fight, the opportunity to surpass Marciano could prove too tempting if the heavily-favored Mayweather wins Saturday.
“Floyd, he has been an icon for some time now and now he’s on his way to try to actually match a record,” Berto said. “So, for me being the young hungry fighter coming in, taking it away from him would be huge.”
Many eyebrows were raised when Mayweather announced Berto, who lives in Winter Haven, as his next opponent. After a 27-0 career start, including a three-year run as World Boxing Council welterweight champion, Berto (30-3, 23 KOs) has lost three of his past six fights.
Two of Berto’s losses were against Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero, who benefited from the wins by landing lucrative fights with Mayweather. Jesus Soto Karras pinned the third loss on Berto’s record two years ago before Berto, 32, rebounded with two consecutive victories leading to Saturday’s bout.
“I believe right now anybody in this position would get a nice bit of criticism, especially coming off of Floyd beating Pacquiao,” Berto said of the perception he is not a worthy opponent to Mayweather. “I prepare myself for it and you can’t go into the situation thinking about the critics.”
“The critics talking that way — they’re not in the gym training with us. We’re fighters and we’re able to do things that these critics can’t do, so I don’t get affected by the critics.”
With the exception of Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, a common trend of recent Mayweather opponents is their first ventures in the pay-per-view spectacle. Berto now joins a list that includes Marcos Maidana, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Guerrero and Ortiz, all of whom earned their first PPV stripes against Mayweather.
“Yes, this is a different fight, different fighter, so it’s a completely different type of [training] camp, a very intense camp,” Berto said. “The main thing is just staying focused on the goal. Just not veering off and getting involved in anything else.”
The son of Haitian parents, Berto said he has overcome the losses against Ortiz, Guerrero and Soto Karass and is not daunted by the 20-1 odds stacked against him Saturday.
Berto will look to apply pressure against Mayweather, 38, and not allow Mayweather to dictate terms typical of the blueprint in his first 48 bouts.
“I’m over here training for a full fight to make it a war,” Berto said. “I don’t take time out of my day to sit down and look at the odds and see what people think.
“Where my people come from is a lot worse than anything in that ring. I just train hard, ride hard and I just push it to the limit.”
▪ Two local fighters will appear on a card Tuesday night in Hollywood Calif. Miami resident Joey Hernandez (24-3-1, 14 KOs) will fight former 154-pound champion Austin Trout (29-2, 16 KOs) in the show’s main event, and Aventura’s Ahmed Elbiali (11-0, 10 KOs) will face Fabiano Peña (12-2-1, 8 KOs) in a light-heavyweight match.
Tuesday (9 p.m., Fox Sports1): Austin Trout vs. Joey Hernandez, 10, junior-middleweights.
Friday (9 p.m., Spike TV): Adonis Stevenson vs. Tommy Karpency, 12, for Stevenson’s WBC light-heavyweight title.
Friday (10 p.m., TruTV): Oscar Valdez vs. Chris Avalos, 10, featherweights.
Saturday (4 p.m., NBC Sports Network): Peter Quillin vs. Michael Zerafa, 10, middleweights; Cornelius Bundrage vs. Jermall Charlo, 12, for Bundrages’ IBF junior-middleweight title.
Saturday (9 p.m., pay-per-view): Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Andre Berto, 12, for Mayweather’s WBA and WBC welterweight titles; Badou Jack vs. George Groves, 12, for Jack’s WBC super-middleweight title.