SAVAGE: A Post Morten on Berto vs. Porter

Photo Credits: Amanda Westcott

I would recommend watching this fight in black and white on some grainy, scratchy film reminiscent of the phone booth fights of old. The ghost of Jack Dempsey and Homicide Hank was present last night in Brooklyn at the Barclay’s center.

From the outset in typical Shawn Porter fashion he rushed forward on Andre Berto like a lineman, swinging from the bleachers, leading with his head and shoulders most the time, but let’s call a spade a spade-Porter fights everyone like they owe him money.

Both fighters sustained cuts in the 2nd round with Porter seemingly on the losing end of those clashes with cuts developed over both eyes. More importantly the constant pressure completely frazzled and overwhelmed Berto and during a violent exchange Porter sent Berto down for the eighth time in his career. Berto retreated to his corner where trainer Virgil Hunter implored his fighter to “box him in the center,” sound advice to box the brawler-in practice-however the advice was difficult to employ.

For me, Hunter and Berto frankly don’t make a good team. It could all be about the approach, Hunter could be seen screaming at Berto during his fight with Floyd Mayweather in September 2015, Hunter has the magic touch with Andre “S.O.G.” Ward however, the same tactics don’t seem to as effective with a boxer like Berto. It could be that Hunter has known and trained Ward all his life and has only been with Berto sporadically, I would argue that Berto can’t be defined well stylistically and that’s a blessing and curse-he’s not a classical boxer, movement is not his bread and butter though he can counter punch effectively, his counter left hook is particularly effective-yet he’s not a ‘mugger’ either, a boxer who loves to work on the inside like Ward or Porter. Berto reminds me more of a Manny Pacquiao, he’s explosive and more ‘sudden’ than fast.

Round three began with Berto seemingly resigned to the fact that he was in a dog fight and tactics would be all but abandoned. This was a mistake; fighting his opponents fight. Porter jumped in, he’d close distance effectively with his jab and his head and shoulders and bossed Berto against the ropes and corners to unleash his barrages.

Berto improved in round four, he seemed to time Porter a bit better looking for the rear upper cut and left hook that would have been his best weapons. He still lost the round however Berto did not lose heart and battled back.

Berto’s best round was arguably the sixth and eighth, he was timing Porter better and landed what seemed to be a hard right-hook during an exchange but Berto was off balance when he landed it and slipped, when he rose to his feet referee Mark Nelson halted the action giving Porter some time to recover as he summoned the ring side doctors to look at the cuts on both fighters. The round ended with Berto unable to capitalize on whatever advantage he seemed to gain.

If Porter was hurt at the end of that round he didn’t show it, he launched at Berto like the previous eight rounds with his text book unrelenting pressure, another clash of heads stumbled Berto who recovered his balance inelegantly, in the midst of the next exchange Porter landed a thudding overhand right that caught Berto with his left down and the blow landed cleanly on the side of Berto’s head sending him down-Porter ran toward the shop worn Berto and another volley of punches sent Berto back into the same corner, Mark Nelson saw enough and jumped in to save Berto from more punishment.

Both of Berto’s eyes swollen.

Porter with blood streaming down his face.

This is the roughest, dirtiest fight I’ve seen since Ward vs. Rodriguez.

Porter won via TKO at 1:31 of the ninth round.

Afterward during the post-fight interview Porter ‘apologized’ for the ‘accidental’ head butts stating that he’s been trying to clean up his style over the years and not lead with his head so much. I’m apoplectic, Porter is just this side of being a dirty fighter, intentional or not. However, Porter has improved his footwork and angles but Porter is an inside-mauling fighter, he’s a terrific body puncher, one of the best in the division but as Showtime commentator Paulie Malignaggi opined, inside fighters are adept at using their elbows, heads and shoulders to create space and opportunities to land their best punches as well as being mentally and spiritually fatiguing.

Next for Porter ought to be a rematch with Keith “One Time” Thurman for the WBC welterweight title. Thurman joined Porter in the ring, the two were cordial, Thurman seemed coy about a quick turnaround for the rematch. The two men fought last June also at the Barclays Center in a fight of the year candidate, Porter roughed up Thurman in their fight as well, though it was a very clean bout in comparison. Thurman emerged with the narrow victory.

It’s hard to know where Andre Berto goes from here, he’s only 33, he’s fought just 4 times in the last two years and gone 2-2. In his post-fight interview, he was obviously dejected and was non-committal in how to move forward, he said he wanted to continue but stressed wanting to “be with his family to enjoy the fruits of his labor.” He congratulated Porter but acknowledged the head butts played a role. I won’t argue, but boxing is a combat sport, the first rule is ‘protect yourself at all times.’ It’s unclear why Mark Nelson did not start to deduct points from Porter, or either fighter. Fact is he did not and had the fight been stopped on a cut Porter was the boss and won every round save one or two and would have won a technical decision had it come to that.

For fans of action this fight did not disappoint in any way, it was a throwback to the grittiest days of old school boxing.

Porter’s performance was frankly terrifying.

Porter is a threshing machine, and unfortunately Andre Berto reaped a bitter harvest.




Image credit: Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME 

4 min