When it was recently announced that Andre Berto would be defending his Quartermass welterweight title against Freddy Hernandez next month on the undercard of the Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis barnburner, it brought Berto–and his career–that much closer to Area 51. Selcuk Aydin, in the running to face Berto, was apparently whisked away by Men in Black, leaving Berto to continue his unusual, and unusually remunerative, livelihood.
The mystery here is not that Andre Berto is fighting Hernandez, but that he is being paid an outrageous sum of money for what amounts to another “showcase” fight. Once the most overpaid headliner in boxing history, Berto–following the Bimini Road to riches–is now the most overpaid undercard fighter in history. Think about it: against Hernandez, Berto will earn what Sergio Martinez got for fighting Paul Williams on short notice and for moving up a division to face the recognized middleweight champion of the world combined!
HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg has been called many things over the years, but we can now add “alien abductee” to the list of choice names. For years, Mr. Greenburg pompously spoke about HBO not being in the boxing business, but being in the ratings and entertainment business. Andre Berto drew fewer than 1 million live viewers for his last outing, against Carlos Quintana, and amassed 972 paying customers…for a fight put together partially as a charity event for Haitian earthquake relief. Little Green Men must have gotten to Greenburg at about the same time he fell head over heels for Berto, since Berto cannot fulfill either of his stated aims: entertainment or ratings. Indeed, Berto was booed with supernatural gusto during his “Pod Men” fight with Juan Urango, who went on to be knocked into oblivion in his subsequent bout (and at his proper weight) by Devon Alexander.
For a while now, some observers (certainly TCS) justifiably wondered about how Berto appeared to be a strange beneficiary of an HBO entitlement program that makes as much sense as Mothman sightings. The usual suspects in the boxing media, in their “contrariness,” denied there was anything odd about the career of this young man who has spent more time threatening football players and rappers than boxers. Now, surely, even the friendliest members of the press will find it hard to defend Berto, who has flabbergasted at every turn for the last year or so.
Memories in boxing are notoriously short, but it was little more than a year ago that Lou DiBella, who ostensibly promotes Berto, was talking up a fight with Aydin in Turkey. At the time, DiBella claimed that the Turkish government was ready to put up a hefty subsidy (apparently, Berto never fights unless a subsidy is unspooling itself, like ectoplasm, before him) and put Berto-Aydin in a soccer stadium. Of course, because Berto is less a professional fighter than an as yet unidentified paranormal phenomena, nothing ever came of it.
Now unverifiable reports have been floating around saying Aydin refused to fight in Las Vegas. Until this is confirmed publicly by Ahmet Oner or Don King, who co-promote Aydin, or Aydin himself, this is just one of those whispering campaigns usually spread by one of the interested parties involved. Under the circumstances, why not just call it disinformation? You know, the sort of thing Bob Arum is always accused of. (ESPN.com reported that Team Berto paid Aydin a step-aside fee to…not fight. Add another mystery to the list.) Arum himself reported that Berto priced himself out for a possible fight with Miguel Cotto (sure, sure, Arum is lying…Team Berto was dying to fight Cotto).
But the unusual incidents surrounding Berto did not cease there. Berto also never fought a rematch of his only compelling fight—against Luis Collazo—because, according to boxingscene.com, HBO was not interested. (All right, if you want, blame that on Collazo.) Then Berto turned down a fight with Mike Jones—an untested fighter with limited experience. (Hmmm. Is there a scapegoat around for that one?) In addition, Berto received a fee in January to waive his rescheduling clause with Shane Mosley for a fight he—Berto—canceled in the first place! Finally, Berto recently refused a 60-40 split with Mosley because Berto did not want to travel to California, where turnstiles might actually have conformed to reality and, you know, turned. After all, more people would pay to see the Patterson film run over and over again for sixteen consecutive hours than see Andre Berto fight.
The case of Andre Berto is mystifying enough to suspect something paranormal about it. Mandatory defenses simply vanish into the ether when Berto is in the vicinity. Weight classes are anally probed and then reduced to ashes. Referees fail to count knockdowns. Instances of “Lost Time” have been reported when the opening bell rings for his fights. Television ratings disintegrate in his presence. People avoid attending his bouts the way campesinos avoid reported Chupacabra feeding spots in Puerto Rico. Cable bills glow with a positively sinister aspect–like the radioactive whatsis at the end of Kiss Me Deadly–when opened by boxing fans who pay a monthly premium to see competitive prize fights, and certain websites fall under mass hypnosis when discussing Berto and HBO. Even The Cruelest Sport has noticed glitches every time Berto is the topic. It seems like—oh God, no! Wait! Please! No! The pain! A searing fire blinding me! I, I, I….No! My—
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