Trainer Virgil Hunter says that “confidence is crucial” for Andre Berto as the Florida welterweight heads into his July 27 comeback clash with rugged Jesus Soto Karass at The AT&T Center in San Antonio, his first fight under Hunter.
“I want to see that he can adjust at the right time and that he can make the right calls and respond accordingly to what I might ask him to do in the ring. I’d like to see him fight with the confidence of knowing that he has a lot to offer and that he has what it takes to adjust to a guy with Soto Karass’s style,” said Hunter.
“He just needs to go in there with confidence. If his confidence is up, then he’ll do some things that we’ve never even worked on that I know that he’s capable of doing, so I think that his confidence is first and foremost in this fight. If he fights with confidence, then we can go to another level in the next training camp, and so on and so on. So I think confidence is crucial in this fight. He and I both have that in each other.”
A former two-time 147-pound beltholder, Berto (28-2, 22 knockouts) is attempting to bounce back from November’s unanimous-decision loss to Robert Guerrero, having also fallen to to ex-titleholder Victor Ortiz in April of 2011 before stopping Jan Zaveck in September of that year.
“The main thing that I stressed is to make sure that he had his own identity, and that was crucial. For instance, when he came out with the shoulder roll and things like that against Guerrero, I had never seen him do it. So I just stressed to him that it was important to him to have his own identity, and let’s find out who Andre Berto is, and find out who he wants to be and aspires to be and let’s build on that,” said Hunter.
“Let’s stay solid with it without deviating from it or going off of the track. So I just tried to make it as simple as possible. I’ve been knowing him since he was 13, and I’ve seen him when he’s been in some grooves, so he can do a number of things, and it’s just a matter of him finding his identity and knowing when do do them. I’m happy with his effort, his commitment and his determination and his drive. As far as where he can go, he has an upside, and make no mistake about it.”
A resident of Winter Haven, Fla., Berto, 29, has been preparing in Oakland, Calif., under Hunter, who has replaced long-time trainer Tony Morgan.
“I just think that he felt that it was time for a change,” said Hunter, who also trains RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward, and who has also helped to resurrect the careers of Amir Khan and Alfredo Angulo.
“I consider Tony Morgan a friend of mine, and I haven’t spoken with Tony yet. I plan to. But sometimes, it’s just time for a change, but that’s left up to the fighters. Tony did a heckuva job with him, so it’s not like you’ve got to tear down and rebuild. I think it’s just about him finding his own identity. They haven’t seen the best of him, so he definitely has an upside.”
Hunter said his initial conversation with Berto was as much about what Berto wanted to improve on as what he saw in the fighter from a training perspective.
“I don’t know if there were expectations, but it was more of what he was looking for. When we sat down to talk I was just all ears. I was just trying to stay in tune to what he was looking for,” said Hunter.
“He was looking to make some subtle changes, which is understandable, coming off of two tough fights like he did. He felt like he had more to offer, if it could be brought into perspective for him, and we just decided to take it a day at a time and grow together, which is all that you really can do the first time that you connect. I’m happy with the camp, that’s for sure.”
Although Berto called Morgan “a tremendous coach,” and, “one of the best in the game” in his own right, he said, “I just needed a change.”
“Definitely, this is a tough training camp. These guys are really precise on what they’re doing and on the things that they want you to work on, and it’s not just, you know, going into camp and just working on the same routine. Here, they definitely work on more strategy and a lot of repetition. They definitely pound that into you to make sure that you’re getting the game plan right, so the training is definitely a little different. Here, the scheduling situation is kind of more up and down. Back home, in Florida, we always had the same routine and the same schedule every day,” said Berto.
“You know, here, things maneuver and things change, and they definitely go by how you feel. They definitely work a lot smarter than just a lot harder. I mean, of course, they work hard, but they definitely work a lot smarter. I come from my dad and Tony and everybody back home just working hard as hell, and that’s it. You know, pound that out every day and just try to get in the best shape possible. Once you reach a level, like this right here, you want to work a lot more smarter and not just work your body as hard as possible and tire it out…I used to get a lot more comfortable in training camp and I picked up a lot of bad habits because of that…Virgil doesn’t let me get lazy. He doesn’t let me get comfortable in there…This camp, I’ve definitely been able to blossom and to try to work on my technique like I need to.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]