Neither fighter came out a loser in this one
The Andre Berto-Luis Collazo fight Saturday in Biloxi, Miss., was one you wish neither fighter had to lose.
Berto and Collazo both turned in inspiring performances in an early fight-of-the-year candidate on HBO's “Boxing After Dark”, each finding a rare level of courage and determination that fans crave and admire so much.
Berto came out the winner by a close, unanimous decision but that wasn’t his greatest accomplishment.
Things looked bad for the WBC welterweight titleholder midway through the fight. Collazo, the more experienced fighter, was outworking him inside and taking his best punches, leaving the champion at least somewhat battered and bewildered. And Berto lost a point for holding in the fourth round.
A lesser competitor might’ve folded under that kind of pressure at that point.
And then Berto just refused to lose. He adjusted by fighting his fight, from the outside, yet continuing to throw those quick, punishing combinations, thus climbing back into contention.
In the decisive 12th and final round, which Berto had to win to retain his belt, the supremely conditioned former Haitian Olympian summoned more energy than his equally determined opponent did and remained unbeaten as result.
“I know I had to win the last round,” Berto said in the ring immediately after the fight. “My corner was telling me, my dad, my cut man, that I had to bite down and show everybody that I had a beast in me.
“I had to dig down and go get it.”
In other words, he not only passed this long-awaited test – a very serious test against a top-level fighter – he went beyond that. He faced adversity under heavy fire and overcame it, one of the many tests fighters must pass to be considered great.
It’s far too early to suggest that the 25-year-old Berto (24-0, 19 knockouts) is or will ever be a great fighter. He must pass more demanding tests against the best fighters in the world even to become a star.
That said, this was a huge night for him: He not only retained his title and perfect record but undoubtedly won countless fans on national television with his fighting spirit.
The same goes for Collazo, the victim once again of bad luck.
The well-liked New Yorker (29-4, 14 KOs) lost a close decision to Ricky Hatton in 2006 that most observers thought should’ve gone his way. He injured his hand in the second round of a one-sided loss to Shane Mosley the following year.
And now this.
This decision, too, will be disputed. Judges Larry Ingle and Gary Ritter each scored it 114-113 for Berto, which seemed reasonable. Either fighter could’ve won by a point, maybe two.
Judge Bill Clancy, who will go back to judging school or leave the field if there is any justice, somehow scored it 116-111. That means he gave an absurd nine rounds to Berto.
“No way in hell the fight was so one sided,” Collazo said.
Indeed. Also at ringside, HBO’s Harold Lederman had Collazo winning 115-112.
So let the debates begin. Just don’t let another disappointing result for Collazo cloud your perception of him.
Going into the fight, many believed this might be his last chance at the big time. He earned a different fate on Saturday night. Clearly, he proved that he remains a skillful warrior who deserves yet another shot at world title in the very near future.
“Luis Collazo is an animal. Don’t get it twisted, baby,” Berto said.
Would he give him a rematch?
“I’d love to give him a rematch,” Berto said. “I’m a boxing fan. This is what boxing fans want to see, two tough guys going at it in the toughest weight class in boxing.”
Let’s hope it happens again. The first time around was unforgettable.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]
Andre Berto photo taken by Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos.com