Andre Berto (27-0, 21 KOs) is undefeated and an alphabet titleholder in the welterweight division, the same house where pound-for-pound Manny Pacquiao operates. But even with his green bling and notable opponents he had taken out as his 7-year pro boxing career progressed, he is yet to generate a significant following and stir a considerable amount of interest from the boxing world.
Berto has always been in the running as Pacquiao’s next opponent after talks with Floyd Mayweather fizzled twice. Yet somehow, he only managed to land as the other fiddle’s spot while comebacking Antonio Margarito and now aging Sugar Shane Mosley took the limelight and the opportunity to dance with the Pacman.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum pointed out that Berto’s lack of mainstream popularity in the United States and even the almost complete absence of name recognition within the boxing circle makes him a hard sell, even if he was facing Pacquiao.
But Berto might change all that today, if he manages to not only beat “Vicious” Victor Ortiz, but score a monumental win over the highly touted American-Mexican prizefighter. Ortiz is coming off from a majority draw decision in his last fight against Lamont Peterson. Ortiz has suffered from public flak after he retired against Marcos Maidana two years ago. But Ortiz scored four straight wins since then and will not be a walk in the park for Berto.
“Should be a good fight, right fight for both of them at this point,” veteran boxing sportscaster James “Smitty” Smith told this writer.
If Berto gets past Ortiz with flying colors, a match with Pacquiao just might loom over the horizon.
That is provided Pacquiao takes out Shane Mosley in a May 7 encounter and he and Mayweather will not come to terms for a showdown. If Pacquiao beats Mosley, Berto remains as the only legitimate opposition left for the Filipino aside from Mayweather, who is also facing legal problems as of this writing.
Both men are seeking to win, with Berto aiming to etch a solid name in the boxing ranks and Ortiz trying to bury the haunting of the Maidana fight. But Berto has more at stake
“The boxing public, in general, just wants an exciting, young fighter against the number 1 instead of a credible opponent,” Berto said. “They want me to fight Pacquiao.”
And what if Berto manages to knock Ortiz out?
“It would put him right in the (Pacquiao) mix,” Smith said. “But I don’t see Manny taking too many more fights. Still, a knockout win or very decisive win would be very good for Berto.”
Tonight, Berto might just prove his worth for a Pacquiao shot.