Long Nights Waiting: Jesus Soto Karass TKO12 Andre Berto

****

Andre Berto’s career as a headliner ended at the AT&T Center last night in San Antonio, Texas, when roughneck Jesus Soto Karass sent him packing in the twelfth round.

A longtime passenger on the HBO entitlement train, Berto, Winter Haven, Florida, cashed several hefty checks for facing a murderer’s row that included Miguel Angel Rodriguez and Freddy Hernandez. With his advisor, Al Haymon, turning the thumbscrews on HBO executives, Berto was the poster child for a business beholden not to consumers but to network programmers and their bedfellows.

In boxing, christening a star supersedes developing one. Berto is the quintessential example of this phenomenon. A typical modern fighter, Berto has good power and decent hand speed, but lacks the wherewithal to exploit his limited ability. Nearly helpless on the inside, Berto goes into a catatonic state when crowded, offering more hugs than an eHarmony commercial. He experimented with a less affectionate defense against Robert Guerrero last year—and got his brakes beaten off. Despite his success—because of it?—Berto embodied much of what is wrong with boxing’s current model.

Berto’s recent performances, however, should revise his image. Will he ever atone for the lamprey-act that typified much of his career? Probably not. But Berto repays boxing with his own blood. Fights with Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero, and now Soto Karass, have been brutal, entertaining affairs. Despite absorbing scads of punishment against all three men, only Soto Karass stopped him, in a fight that went south for Berto from the start.

Soto Karass, Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, worried Berto immediately, wobbling him with a right hand in the first. Berto, 147, fought his way back into the contest by countering Soto Karass with right hands. Nevertheless, Soto Karass’ early activity had Berto flinching like a man trying to juggle chainsaws, unable to relax in the whirring orbit. This trick became even tougher when Berto injured his right shoulder in the fifth round.

Meanwhile, Soto Karass just kept punching. From beyond Berto’s reach, Soto Karass struck with jabs and a mix of straight and looping right hands. When he moved inside, he smothered Berto, lashing him body shots and uppercuts. Unable to get the space he needed, and struggling to set his feet, Berto looked like a man trying to hike up an avalanche.

Whatever the criticisms of Berto may be, there is no dog in him. In the second half of the fight he sat down on a number of vicious left hooks and uppercuts, a one-handed fighter going for broke as the fight slipped away. Soto Karass, however, his arms churning like a Japanese spinning drum, never relented. They waged an inspired battle–against each other and their labels–over the final rounds. Soto Karass, the gate keeper, slugging away at Berto and a history that said he would come up short; Berto, the maligned star, digging into reserves his critics would deny him.

A left to the gut dropped Soto Karass, 147, in the eleventh. He returned the favor in the following round, delivering the coup de grâce with a counter left hook that deboned his broken foe. Berto beat the count, but referee John Schorle immediately waved off the contest, sending the battered fighter into the arms of trainer Virgil Hunter. The stoppage came at 0:48 of the twelfth round.

In losing, Berto, 28-3 (22), proved his pound-for-pound hype was a pipe dream. He is not, and never was, an elite fighter. What he is, is tough, courageous, and—at least recently—entertaining. Neither as good as advertised, nor as bad as he is caricatured, his career suggests a line from Richard Ford: “And in any event, I know now that the whole truth of anything is an idea that stops finally existing.” Still, long nights await him. The good people at Golden Boy Promotions, after all, lose no sleep over feeding the likes of Vivian Harris—and soon Rafael Marquez—to the young lions of their pride. Expect Berto back in the ring when he heals, where he will sound out boxing’s latest idols with what remains of his guts and right hand.

Scalping Berto means Soto Karass, 28-8-3 (18), has earned another decent purse. There will undoubtedly be some romanticizing of Berto’s career in the coming hours, but Soto Karass, who took the hard route to late success, is deserving of his own idylls.

****

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Topics: ANDRE BERTO, Jesus Soto Karass, Welterweights

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  • Dennis Wise

    Great article, Carlos. Always a pleasure to hear your observations on “The Human Bermuda Triangle of Boxing.”

    I’m not sure a better trainer or better developmental match making would have made a difference in his career. He’s in love with his athleticism and thinks its enough to get the job done. Berto actually looked better without his right hand.

    It would be nice if he served as an example for young fighters (and HBO execs). Roy Jones and Floyd had very high boxing IQ. Without that, their hand speed and athleticism would not have been enough.

    • Dennis Wise

      My error! Great article, Tobin. enjoyed the preview piece by Carlos as well.

      • Jimmy Tobin

        Hi Dennis, thanks.

        Even though he was an Olympian, Berto never looked like a natural fighter. Better matchmaking probably could’ve improved him a bit, but also might’ve gotten him knocked off sooner.

        He’s a tough guy though, and he took his lumps in this fight while trying to turn it with his only good hand. But his body looks like it’s betraying him. His balance and footwork have always been poor, and they look worse than ever. He spends all his time falling in, or falling out. And I wonder if those injuries to his upper body aren’t the result of PED use. The guy is just breaking down.

        If you can’t get over a guy like Soto Karass in your comeback fight–if he stops you!–you’re done. Not shot or anything, but you’re an ESPN level fighter from here on out. Is he really even an interesting opponent anymore? He lost to Guerrero and Soto Karass!

      • thenonpareil

        Tobin and I even resemble each other in real life. Except I have an afro!

        • Jimmy Tobin

          And I’m bald because, well, I have no choice!

  • thenonpareil

    Hi JT,

    nice work. This Berto frenzy is interesting. Some of the usual suspects are out there, trying to solidify their rule of the boxing universe with the usual impassioned bawling. Actually, it probably has something to do with their thinking Berto was some superstar, and now they have to save face and create narratives that fit their dopey initial vision somehow.

    Anyway, plenty of fighters are exciting–but they don’t get to be on HBO or Showtime 14 times. Plenty of fighters are also courageous….in fact, we saw insane bravery on the same card that night, with Arakawa. Even the fact that Berto is exciting might be stretching it, since what he’s done lately is take horrendous beatings from beginning to end. Sure, he’s spirited during them, but these recent losses were pretty one-sided no matter what the mad judges thought. Taking a spirited thrashing is what clubfighters do…

    Ultimately, he was a decent prospect who turned out to be a mediocre pro. But at least he acknowledges the fans when he fights, which is more than can be said about guys like Dawson and Rigondeaux, who explicitly tell the fans to get lost and then fight that way. They do that because the consumer is only an afterthought in this industry sometimes. And the industry is an afterthought to much of the mediascape, which will never understand that the industry–boxing–comes before their pontificating and P-4-P lists.

    As for the fight, I was very surprised that JSK did not bleed (which may also say something about Berto and his effectiveness during this fight). I was also impressed that JSK fought within himself, a virtue many professionals don’t seem to have–Berto is the perfect example of that. It was a good win for JSK, who is a top journeyman and can now parlay that designation into a big money future. Whatever his reward may be, he’s earned it.

    • Jimmy Tobin

      Hi CA, thanks.

      Man, Arakawa slammed the door on any hyperbolic assessment of Berto’s bravery. I thought that fight could’ve been stopped in the eighth or ninth, and the guy held it together and kept coming. Maybe I’m too soft for this sport?!

      I have no doubt that Berto will find his way back onto Showtime as the next victim for a guy like Thurman, or Broner, or Matthysse (if Lucas gets by Garcia and needs a tune up at 147). But really, should Berto be back? He lost to Guerrero, who was pushed to the brink against Aydin, a guy who was outboxed by Soto Karass! He got outfought by Ortiz, who managed to keep it together against Berto, but not Lopez or Maidana, or really, even Peterson. He got stopped by Soto Karass. Those are FNF credentials.

      Wherever he ends up, I know you will miss the Human Bermuda Triangle of Boxing. He’s inspired some of your best stuff!