Berto successful in fight for cause
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Andre Berto's life has changed quite a bit in the 11 months since his last fight, a lopsided decision against Juan Urango.
Since then, Berto prepared to fight the biggest bout of his career against fellow welterweight titleholder Shane Mosley on Jan. 30. And then Berto endured the life-changing event that forced that fight to be called off less than two days ahead of time: the devastating 7.0 earthquake that rocked Haiti, the Caribbean island nation where his parents are from and where he has many family members.
Eight members of Berto's family were killed in the disaster that claimed more than 200,000. His sister and niece were missing for days before being located.
After Berto and his brother, Cleveland, went to Haiti on a relief mission, working among the dead and dying to do what they could, Berto vowed to do whatever he could to keep attention on his ravaged homeland.
That brings us to Saturday night, when Berto knocked out former titleholder Carlos Quintana in the eighth round to retain his title in the main event of a card dubbed "Fighting for Haiti."
"I was looking forward to getting back in there and getting this fight out of the way," Berto said. "I know I was rusty. But I was ready to get in there."
Berto did what he could to focus attention on the island, which many have forgotten in the months since the disaster. Berto and promoter Lou DiBella promised to donate a percentage of the gate receipts to Berto's Dynasty Foundation to help the earthquake relief effort.
It is a noble cause. Unfortunately, there probably won't be a lot of money because the crowd was sparse. The attendance was not announced, for obvious reasons, but there couldn't have been more than 3,000 or so in the cavernous BankAtlantic Center.
But those who showed up were into the fight and watched Berto (26-0, 20 KOs), albeit rusty, do his thing in retaining his 147-pound title for the fourth time.
"The kid went through hell with what happened," DiBella said. "You gotta give the kid some credit. He really sucked it up. He was fully trained to fight Shane and then he went through a personal tragedy and then came back for this fight. I thought he showed a lot of character.
"Now we want Manny Pacquiao. Whenever Manny wants to fight us, we are ready."
Although Berto, 26, was rusty and took a few rounds to get rolling, he did so under tough circumstances. He said in the first or second round he injured his left biceps.
"I think I tore it or pulled it," said Berto, who wrapped himself in the Haitian flag. "I really wanted to throw the left hooks to the body and I could feel it. I think he knew my biceps was hurt and he tried to take advantage of it."
Puerto Rico's Quintana (27-3, 21 KOs), 33, however, couldn't take advantage. Although he rocked Berto in the second round with a left hand, Berto was clearly the physically stronger man.
It was only a matter of time until that strength took over.
In the third round, Berto righted himself and unloaded a flurry on Quintana, who was laying on the ropes. Adding to Berto's advantage in the round was when referee Tommy Kimmons docked a point from Quintana for hitting Berto behind the head after having previously warning him for the foul.
Round after round, Berto was slowly breaking Quintana down. A right hand here, a left hook there. Quintana felt them.
In the eighth round, Berto, injury be damned, took it to Quintana. He was teeing off on Quintana and Kimmons was looking closely, ready to stop it at any moment as Quintana was being rocked.
Berto hammered a stumbling Quintana around the ring. He was trying to hold Berto but he would have none of it. He separated himself and unleashed a straight right hand that snapped Quintana's head back, forcing Kimmons to step in and stop it at 2 minutes, 16 seconds.
"He took some savage shots at the end," said DiBella, who also promotes Quintana. "But he's a man's man. He did the best he could. He has nothing to be ashamed of."
"I knew he was hurt and as soon as I hurt him I wanted to finish him as soon as possible," Berto said. "He didn't hurt me at all and that knockout was pretty vicious. And you have to look at it like I've been off a long time. I'll get better from here."
DiBella has promoted Berto for his entire career and was proud of him.
"He hasn't fought in 11 months and he put a lot of pressure on himself for this fight," DiBella said. "It took him a few rounds before he loosened up and he came into his own in the last couple of rounds. He can't stay out 11 months again. He's a young welterweight and he needs to fight.
"I thought he was tight for a couple of rounds and I was a little worried after he grabbed the biceps. Despite the injury, Andre sucked it up and did what he had to do."
Berto was happy with the win, relieved to get back in the ring and still focused on Haiti.
"I went through a lot," Berto said. "The people of Haiti did too. They are strong and I was glad to do what I could. I'm holding up this [Haitian] flag and giving any type of support I could."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.