PBC on Spike TV: land of comebacks

Photo Credit: Stephanie Trapp/Showtime

Photo Credit: Stephanie Trapp/Showtime

It’s been a tough road for Andre Berto since suffering his first defeat almost four years ago. It has also been a long, winding one. At the turn of this decade, Berto was poised to be a bona fide star in boxing. With a welterweight title around his waist, all of his fights shown on HBO and his bank account growing after every menial win, Andre’s future was assured but wasn’t necessarily groomed.



He won the vacant WBC welterweight belt in 2008 when he stopped Miguel Angel Rodriguez and like many prospects beforehand, Berto’s opposition leading to his first world title shot wasn’t anything to gloat about, including his win over Hernandez. Although he now had a title to defend, Berto’s adversaries were still being carefully picked and he was still walking up to the plate with challengers set up on a tee.



Defending his title five times against an over-the-hill Steve Forbes, an apprehensive Luis Collazo, Juan Urango, a long-in-the-tooth Carlos Quintana and an overhyped Freddy Hernandez (all in that order), Berto’s stock rose to the unsuspecting eye and, with every middling win, so did his bank account. Before Al Haymon secured his vast group of fighters, Berto was one of the first careers he built and was an early indication on how much money his fighters were making regardless of whom they were fighting.



It was a sure-fire formula to make money for a fighter who took minimal risk and evidently wouldn’t mature for the long run. In 2011, Berto was slated to take on then-highly-regarded 140-pound prospect Victor Ortiz, who was ready and willing to move up in weight for the title shot. The two clashing heads turned out to be an outstanding match-up with each fighter getting sent to the canvas twice in a 12-round brawl (the fight won The Ring magazine’s “2011 Fight of the Year Award”). Berto finally found himself in a fight but unanimously suffered his first defeat and the loss of his title simultaneously in that circumstance. Ortiz was impressive and, to no surprise, his maturation also showed after having suffered a loss to Marcos Maidana and drawing against Lamont Peterson beforehand. The big win propelled Ortiz into a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. later that year.



Since that first loss, Berto has managed to step into the ring only four times, losing two bouts to well-known and respected fighters in Robert Guererro and Jesus Soto Karass and beating Google-search-required opponents in Jan Zaveck and Steven Upsher Chambers. After beating Zaveck and just being on the verge of getting a rematch with Ortiz, a positive test for a banned substance in 2012 kept Berto out of the ring for a little over a year. It was later discovered that Berto’s failed test was contaminated before he ultimately faced Guerrero. Coincidentally, the testing of his “shoulder roll” in that fight was also corrupt. That loss was followed up by facing Soto Karass, not quite an elite fighter but a consummate welterweight gatekeeper. Berto apparently injured his right shoulder early in that fight and showed great toughness in withstanding the injury. That said, he was stopped in the 12th round after referee Jon Schorle waved off the contest.



Taking responsibility for his absence, the right shoulder injury Berto suffered put a halt to any sort of comeback he had planned since losing three of his last five fights. In fact, he thought it was of the career-ending variety but luckily, he returned to the ring healthy last September. Berto looked good in his last bout against Chambers winning a wide unanimous decision but it came against a marginal opponent, something said all too often in the 31-year old’s career. It’s a notion that has been standardized with many Haymon talents. Although Berto has failed to live up to the expectations when put in the biggest fights of his career, his bank account isn’t suffering and, in turn, he’s a poster child for the positives that come with being under the wings of Haymon.



The benefits don’t stop there either. With Haymon’s new venture, “Premier Boxing Champions” (PBC) in the thick of its initiation, it follows up its successful debut on NBC last weekend with the launching of its Spike TV series tonight (9:00 p.m.ET/6:00 p.m.PT). The production for PBC’s inaugural broadcast was over the top to some but was certainly different from your standard boxing event. Chosen to call the fights will be NFL Network’s Scott Hanson as the blow-by-blow guy and analyst Antonio Tarver, who had a brief stint in the same role with Showtime years ago. Berto, 29-3 (22), has been called upon to headline the event at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA, and will face Josesito Lopez, 33-6 (19), in a match-up that exemplifies a crossroads fight.



Much like his adversary in the ring tonight, Lopez has come up short when placed in the biggest fights of his career. Once a prized contender under the Golden Boy Promotions banner, the 30-year old has had opportunities to propel himself into the next level of prizefighting with bouts against Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana within the past few years but was stopped on both occasions against the duo of heavy-handed punchers. His last loss was in June of 2013 versus Maidana and he has since won three bouts in a row against no one worth note. Fighting near his hometown of Riverside, CA, Lopez, who goes by the alias of “The Riverside Rocky,” will have a home crowd cheering him on this evening as the betting underdog.



With both Lopez and Berto in similar stages in their careers, neither can afford a loss and that makes for an intriguing match-up despite not being a high level fight. The similarities don’t stop there either; both have a common opponent in Ortiz. Berto lost in a decision to a prime Ortiz, while Lopez knocked out a post-Mayweather Victor. In fact, after breaking Ortiz’s jaw in that fight, Lopez earned himself a second moniker of the “Jawbreaker.” That win in 2012 was Lopez’s last big one and if he wants a shot at a world title that as eluded him his entire career, a win over Berto on a national stage would make for a great start.



As for Berto, a win over Lopez wouldn’t necessarily be a highlight on his ledger nor does it get him into immediate title contention but it’s certainly a step up in competition from his last fight since coming off an injury. Fighting in one of boxing’s deepest divisions of talent at welterweight and having the PBC as a platform, his career is anything but over. Like all of those who lace up the gloves, Berto wants to be great. He has looked just that against the right opponent and although the checks he’s cashed over those years have been great, a reality check is one he most needed. Berto has deposited that check recently and starting tonight, his road going forward won’t be as smoothly paved as it once was. Berto could have used that wisdom early on as a budding prospect, eventually realizing that everything eventually comes full circle.




Shawn Porter vs. Roberto Garcia


The co-feature of the PBC debut on Spike TV will feature former welterweight titleholder Shawn “Showtime” Porter, 24-1-1 (15), in his comeback after losing his IBF strap to Kell Brook last August. At the wrong end of a majority decision, Porter was frustrated in a rough fight with Brook at a time in which he seemed unstoppable coming off his fourth round stoppage win over Paulie Malignaggi. Known for his relentless style of punching, Porter is one of the most heralded fighters under Al Haymon and has huge television upside given his entertaining style of fighting. His quest for world title contention is imminent but that’s only pertinent as long as he is on the winning side of fights.




Porter, who has an above-average ledger of past opponents for a 27-year old, will possibly face Erick Bone, 16-1 (8), tonight as previously scheduled opponent Roberto Garcia was scratched from the card for various health concerns, one being an inability to make the 147-pound limit comfortably.





“The Nightmare” returns


The last time we saw Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola, 35-4 (31), he was partaking in his own horror last May when he was knocked out by Bermane Stiverne in a rematch, this time for the vacant WBC heavyweight title. Stiverne has been the only one haunting Arreola as of late as Bermane is the only man to hand him a loss in the past five years. Arreola may be 34 years old but his chances at another shot at a world title may be higher than most, being a part of the Haymon stable and an avilable candidate to face the current WBC heavyweight titleholder, Deontay Wilder, a fellow Haymonite. Just a stone’s throw from his hometown of Escondido, Calif., Arreola will make his return against Curtis Harper, 12-3 (8), and if time permits, the bout will make the Spike TV telecast.




The rest of the  PBC undercard


Miguel Vazquez vs. Jerry Belmontes, lightweights


Gerald Washington vs. Jason Gavern, heavyweights


Oscar Molina vs. Jose Alberto Leal, junior middleweights


Hanzel Martinez vs. German Meraz, junior featherweights


Lanell Bellows vs. TBA, super middleweights


Tugstsogt Nyambayan vs. TBA, bantamweights




Baca will be there!


I received my credential confirmation last week for this PBC event, which means I will get a closer look at the “Premier Boxing Champions” production (thanks to the Undisputed Champion Network). I laid out what I though were my pros and cons in preparation for the first PBC event in my last story, “They spared no expense,” and after the first show, I’ve already changed my stance on a few things that I thought I would originally like. The fights are the end-all/be-all and although one was a stinker (Adrien Broner-John Molina Jr.), the first PBC card wasn’t all that bad. Perhaps I’m a nostalgic person, but I don’t need all the bells and whistles and I think the inItial set-up came off as manufactured and fake. But that’s just my opinion and like I pointed out in that column, PBC isn’t going after me as its target audience, so my thoughts don’t matter! Anyways, I’ll be there, so hit me up on Twitter (@wotbboxing) if you would like to meet, and we can stroke my ego rather than the PBC’s!



You can reach Michael Baca II atmichael.baca@ucnlive.com, follow him at twitter.com/wotbboxing and visit him at his blog, writeonthebutton.squarespace.com.




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