Trainer Virgil Hunter would like to see his fighter, Andre Berto, in a rematch with Jesus Soto Karass after last month’s 12th-round stoppage loss, which marked the first time in Berto’s career that the two-time titlewinner was knocked out.
Soto Karass (28-8-3, 18 KOs) rose from an 11th-round knockdown to finish Berto (28-3, 22 knockouts), who appeared to suffer an early injury to his right shoulder on the way to his second-straight loss and the third in his past four bouts.
Prior to Soto Karass, Berto had sandwiched a fifth-round knockout of Jan Zaveck between unanimous decision setbacks to Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero, with the latter ending a 15-month ring absence in November of last year.
Dropped twice during the fights against Ortiz and Guerrero, Berto, 29, had hoped for improvement after parting ways with longtime trainer Tony Morgan to team up with Hunter. The separation ended a 20-year association that had produced two title-winning efforts as well as a berth on the 2004 Haitian Olympic Team.
Hunter shared his thoughts on Berto during this Q&A.
RingTV.com: What are your general thoughts about Berto?
Virgil Hunter: First and foremost, he tore his arm out, and I think that kind of set him back a little bit. The pain and the anxiety of having to fight with one arm.
He never really used it again after injuring it in the third round and after the fourth. I think that was quite obvious. I think that going into the last round, I think that he showed courage trying to win that fight on a knockout.
I can’t say that if the referee wouldn’t have stopped it, what would have happened. But all that I know is that when you talk about a guy like Berto — he had just knocked Soto Karass down in the 11th round — his mistake was that he just jumped up too fast from the knockdown.
If he was hurt, he wouldn’t have jumped up so fast. But he jumped up too fast, and when you’re hit, and you go down, and you jump up fast, blood rushes to your head and you can have a moment of dizziness.
We’ve seen it a lot of times, where a fighter comes back from a knockdown, even in the Andre Berto-Victor Ortiz fight. He came back from being dropped. So we know that he’s capable of doing that.
It would have been nice for him to have gotten that opportunity to do that. He’s a great physical specimen, but I do have to say that his knowledge of the ring is not where it should be.
That’s what he and I hoped to accomplish an improvement on. A lot of his problem is his lack of knowledge in the ring and his boxing IQ. He knows that, and I know that, and that’s what we want to kind of address.
His understanding of what to do at given times, and what not to do haven’t been fully developed, because he gets so caught up in that fighter’s mentality.
He’s a fighter who, if you’re not careful, you can cut corners with him and not address certain issues with him. He’s had some tough, tough fights at the highest level, and that’s when those issues can show up.
RingTV.com: What can Berto learn from this fight?
VH: Well, he had a rocky first round, and that goes back to who he is. He simply took some punches and he should have moved away.
So after the first round, I think that if you look at round two, he started to land those counters and those short uppercuts. He was landing them flush.
I don’t want to take anything away from Soto Karass, he’s a tough, tough kid. But with a fight that close, you would have liked to see what would happen if he had both arms.
I’m not going to say that the outcome would have been any different, but if I did say that, I would feel safe, that the outcome could have been different if he had the use of both of his arms and not had to fight with that pain in one arm.
RingTV.com: Did you ever consider stopping the fight?
VH: I didn’t see any point in the fight where I should have stopped it because of the arm. He was able to fight with the one arm, and, going into the 12th round, it looked like that was the right decision for Berto.
If I had stopped that fight in the fourth round, it would have really done something to his career and done something to him, because he will fight you back and he always displays an enormous amount of courage.
So, knowing that, and with his adrenalin flowing, I told him, “If you can use the right hand on occasion, then use it. Use it when you can, but make sure that it’s a clear shot if you feel like you can land it on the money.”
I said, “You might not be able to use it after that until the next round, but if you use it, make sure that it’s a good shot.” But he didn’t use it much at all, because he was carrying it very gingerly.
RingTV.com: Where do you and Berto go from here in terms of your relationship?
VH: Well, he’s in a tough, tough predicament. Personally, I think that the fight should happen again. It was a heckuva fight, and there’s a lot of questions left unanswered in the fight.
With a fight that close, I think that it’s a fight that the public would want to see again. There’s no sense of him going to another situation where he needs a confidence builder. My personal feeling is that they should fight again.
That’s because it’s a darned good fight, but that’s just me. I that the understanding part of Berto’s game is easier to work on than the mechanics, because he has a lot of weapons at his disposal.
It’s just the knowledge of the ring and knowing when to use them, where to use them and how to use them and certain defensive skills that you can work with him on. With an athletic kid like that, he’s worth a try.
With him coming and working in between fights, I think that it’s worth trying him again and just talking boxing to him and taking the time and talking to him in the ring about certain things.
Looking at the film and showing him why this or that happened, and asking him about why, when he had a situation controlled with the jab, why he abandoned it.
There were a lot of times where he had a situation under control and he went to something else, for whatever reason. We need to get his identity more grounded and centered.
I think that each camp, we can make more time to get those parts done a little bit at a time. If he is able to maybe get a rematch, that would be another step.
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]