If you were to poll 100 boxing fans on who Floyd Mayweather’s final opponent should be, the answers would vary. The majority would probably select Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight monster who is capable of Hulk-smashing everything in front of him. Some folks would select a rematch with Manny Pacquiao, whose shoulder woes likely contributed to his less-than-spirited display back on May 2.
But one thing the polled fans would agree on is this: Andre Berto would not be on the short list of fighters. He wouldn’t be on the long list either. Or the ultra-deluxe, super-extra lengthy list. In fact, he’d probably be selected just above Steve Forbes and Henry Armstrong’s reanimated body. But nobody was polled. Mayweather did exactly what he always does, which is whatever the hell he wants. He selected Berto to be the last man (but probably not) to step into the ring with him this Saturday night, on Showtime Pay-Per-View.
And so it’s fight week, and unlike Mayweather’s last fight, the bloated, impossible-to-live-up-to-the-hype showdown with Pacquiao, the crickets are louder than anything Mayweather or anybody else has to say. The biggest commotion during fight week hasn’t come from either camp, but rather from the bombshell report that Mayweather received a WADA-banned IV solution before his fight with Pacquiao.
Mayweather himself has seemed utterly devoid of any sort of enthusiasm for the fast-approaching bout. That’s probably for a couple of reasons — first, he just defeated the one man many thought could beat him, and he earned an unfathomable amount of money for his troubles. Not to mention the fact that he gets paid by Showtime, regardless if this thing does a million or a dozen PPV buys. He remains steadfast in his insistence that this is his final fight, so he’s taking what basically amounts to a victory lap, four months after his crowning achievement. But how bumpy will the track be?
Berto started out as a red-hot prospect, a sort of poor man’s Shane Mosley. But due to his defensive shortcomings and maddening unwillingness to listen to his corner, he never made good on all the promise. It never helped that he possessed the ring I.Q. of a zucchini. Berto will need to fight the fight of his life to simply not get embarrassed.
Mayweather, for all of his greatness, is no enigma — he’ll come out of the gates flicking the jab to the head and body, occasionally firing a straight right, and he’ll clinch if Berto gets too close. He softens his man up early on, waits out, looks for angles, tries to suss out any surprises he might be unaware of. From there, it’s clinic time. He figures out his opponent’s timing, distance, and reflexes, and he goes to work. He’ll then tap the cruise control, doing enough to bank rounds while slowly sapping his now-frustrated opponent’s energy and enthusiasm. By now, the poor fella knows what’s happening — he can’t hit Mayweather, but “Money” can hit him. Easily. If by some chance his opponent has a solid round, Mayweather comes right back and steps on the gas, reasserts control and frustrates the hell out of not only the other fighter, but of the crowd as well. The crowd wants a war. Mayweather does not.
The results are always the same, a lopsided decision victory. No muss, no fuss, no drama, no matter who he’s fighting. Tough southpaws like Robert Guerrero? Cake. Young, hungry scrappers like Canelo Alvarez? Rack him. Even Pacquiao, one of the greatest offensive fighters in boxing history, was woefully inadequate, mostly connecting with nothing but air. In his case, he was frustrated by the end of the 1st round.
That’s what Berto has to try and overcome. Yes, the guy who couldn’t surmount the telegraphed, wide bombs of Jesus Soto Karass, the guy who made the normally brain-dead Victor Ortiz look like a wizard, will now try and solve the “Mayvinci Code.” Mayvinci Code is one of the dumbest fucking things you’ll ever hear by the way, but you already knew that.
So what can Berto do to not make this the horrible shit-fest we all think it will be? Hopefully, he did some homework. Maidana gave Mayweather some difficulty, especially early on in their first fight. He’s a brawler, a guy who wouldn’t let Floyd get comfortable. Berto has to emulate that. He cannot try to outbox him. If he does, he’ll end up with a bloody nose and a frozen look on his face like somebody just asked him a difficult calculus question. There’s no thinking allowed here for Berto. It’s scrapping time. Now to do this, he’ll have to be in impeccable condition. I’m not sure what the hell is going on with his muscled, dad-bod, distended stomach look, but maybe it means he’s in top, if disturbing, shape.
One thing Berto does have is the aforementioned hand speed. And while Mayweather has dealt with hand speed plenty of times, he’s been hit before too. Zab Judah hit him early. So did Mosley, who badly wobbled Mayweather in the 2nd round round of their long-overdue match-up. He just couldn’t capitalize on it. Perhaps Berto can land an overhand right and inflict some damage. If he wants to avoid a complete whitewashing, he has to connect with something and then attack.
Berto’s biggest problem is that he’s easily hit. That won’t change here. He’s dealing with a one of the most accurate punchers of all time. Josesito Lopez was able to hit him pretty regularly before Berto caught him, so we know damn well that Mayweather is smiling at the idea of target practice. He’ll have to walk through every shot and continue to press Mayweather into the ropes and corners and give the impression that he’s outworking the 38-year-old.
Obviously, we’re dealing with quite a few hypotheticals here, the most obvious of which is whether Berto is completely shot. He’s still got speed, power, and heart, but probably little else. He just hasn’t looked good in a long, long time. And really, he isn’t there to look good. He’s there to be a heavy bag for Mayweather to work over while ensuring he “retires” a perfect 49-0 record.
The oddsmakers have Berto as roughly an eleventy-million-to-one underdog for a reason. We can talk strategy all we want, but if Pacquiao, Alvarez, Guerrero, Maidana, and Mosley couldn’t hang with Mayweather, Berto won’t either. Add in the $75 charge to watch this event, and you can probably figure out why everyone is disgusted.
Unless something incredibly shocking happens –and this would rival Tyson vs. Douglas in terms of upsets –Mayweather will be victorious for perhaps the final time. Personally, I’d consider it a mild surprise if Berto wins a handful of rounds and isn’t stopped. But that’s why we watch. Sometimes, some crazy, senseless, shocking shit happens in boxing.
Maybe the heavy bag will hit back.
(Image: Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) and Andre Berto face off during a news conference at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino; Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)