Former world title holders Andre Berto and Shawn Porter will face each other in a world title eliminator bout that headlines a Premier Boxing Champions card Saturday, April 22 from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn live on Showtime Championship Boxing.
Q: What does this eliminator bout mean and the position it could put you in?
Berto: To Become a three-time world champion would be great. My first title was the WBC, and I want it back. I evened the score with Victor Ortiz last year but getting the green belt back will complete everything . This fight with Shawn, along with every other fight is big and a potentially career defining fight so I’m taking everything one step at a time and preparing like I need to.
Q: Does being in training camp with Virgil Hunter feel like you’re still learning and growing as a veteran fighter?
Berto: It's been a tremendous training camp out here in the Bay. I’m focused and I’m in great shape. Training with Virgil is like stepping in to a classroom. I’m always learning and growing as a fighter when I’m in the gym with him. We’ve been pushing to the limit every day and I’m just ready to go to work.
Q: What does it mean to you to be in camp with the other great fighter’s in Hunter’s stable including Andre Ward, Amir Khan, Andrzej Fonfara and Peter Quillin, along with others?
Berto: We have a tremendous atmosphere out here and we all feed off of each other. Training with all these great fighters and world champions pushes you to another level. We all support each other and it definitely adds another level of motivation during training camp for each of our fights.
Q: Are you preparing for Shawn’s strengths in the ring?
Berto: Shawn Porter’s a great fighter, but we are focused on what we need to do in the ring. My boxing IQ has is much better and now everything we’re doing has a purpose. I'm getting tremendous sparring in this camp and everyone there has been trying to push me to a whole other level so I will be ready for anything come fight night. We are going to be ready for whatever Shawn brings on April 22. We’ve seen him brawl and try to press guys out but he might try do something different in this fight and we’ll be ready for it. I’m known for my speed, my power, my explosiveness and I’m in fantastic shape so this is definitely going to be a can’t miss fight.
Q: What have you been focused on after the fight with Keith Thurman?
Porter: A lot of training, a little bit of fun. That’s basically how I live my life (laughs). After a fight I’ll do a few days of recovery, but I’m usually right back in the gym whether it’s just playing basketball or doing some small workouts I don’t take too much time away from the gym, not necessarily because I’m a gym rat, but because I like to make sure everything is maintained. I’m always worried that if I’m not training that I’ll lose something and wind up behind the times like most fighters do when they take a lot of time off. When they get back going they’re not where they were once they stopped, so I try to maintain where I’m at.
Q: When you lost the fight to Thurman did it hurt you emotionally, and how long did it take for you to recover?
Porter: That fight was very, very intense. I was definitely drained physically, mentally, emotionally, after the fight. But I would say along with the recovery that I do after a fight, deep stretching, sauna work, icing, all that stuff… it obviously gives you a lot of time to reflect. So I really can’t say it was a longer recovery unlike any other fight because I do a lot of reflecting anyway after every fight. I do still think about the fight though, even now. You learn from it and you grow from it and it never really goes away.
Q: Do you think the loss Keith helped prepare for Berto?
Porter: I think every fighter, they go through things in a fight and they should learn from those things that they go through. Early on in my career we talked about climbing the steps towards a championship, climbing the ladder and getting better after every fight. So after every fight you learn something.
I think with this fight in particular with Keith Thurman, there were two things I learned: One is to be more patient and not try to keep my foot on the gas pedal too much. When I do that, I lose track of my defense, and I think ultimately that was what cost me the fight; getting hit a few more times cleaner than I hit him. Even though I controlled the fight, sometimes I left my defense hanging and I got hit cleanly and those could have been the difference in some of the rounds.
The other thing is just learning that I can handle anything. I was in the ring with arguably one of the best fighters in my weight class, and going toe-to-toe with him allowed me to learn that I have what it takes to fight against anybody out there, so I’m definitely taking that to the ring with me against Andre Berto, who’s a fighter who won’t stop.
Q: How did you start your preparation for Andre Berto?
Porter: I would say we started training for this fight way back when. Like I said, once we got back going after the Keith Thurman fight we never really took too much time away from the gym. Even outside of that, before we announced the fight, we were working on getting this fight done with Andre Berto to the point where we were already in a camp getting ready for him, expecting that to be the next fight. So we’ve already been getting ready for him for about 10 weeks, maybe longer.
Q: What is the biggest challenge Berto presents to you?
Porter: I think the number one thing is that he’s not going to stop coming. He’s not going to sit down in the corner and not want to get up. I think that is the number one obstacle he presents. He comes into the ring with his heart, and he’s not going to want to stop.
Q: You've mentioned that Berto likes to get in your face and is an aggressive fighter. So how do you stick to your game plan and not fall into those habits where you go toe-to-toe with him?
Porter: I feel like that’s going to play into our hands. I feel like I’m faster and quicker and stronger than him, and knowing that I want to be responsible on defense, means he’ll be right there for me and I can play my hand the way I want to and I can be offensive against a guy who’s going to be right there. Then, I can be defensive when I want to be as well. I think that will play into my hands. I think the understanding that I can’t not be defensive is going to allow me to stay out of those slug fests, or slug wars with him.
Q: Did you look at his fight against Floyd? If so did you see anything you can use against him in this fight coming up?
Porter: I just recently watched his fight against Floyd and the thing I picked up from watching that was that he’ll get impatient and he’ll get to the point where he gets frustrated really easy. Again, boxing him from the outside like Floyd did and keeping the fight clean will help him play into my hands even more.
Q: How does it feel to be back in Brooklyn fighting at the Barclays Center?
Porter: I’m looking forward to it. Every fight I want to be out here in Las Vegas, but when they tell me it’s not Las Vegas, I’m always crossing my fingers that it’s Brooklyn. It’s an unbelievable venue to fight in, best fans I’ve ever been around. Not just fans of myself but fans of boxing. I love that part about going back to New York and going back to Brooklyn to the Barclays Center to fight. I love that I’m going back to a bunch of fans who know what they’re yelling; they’re not just yelling a bunch of crap just to yell. They’re yelling information that’s actually viable for you in the ring, and they’re pushing you forward as well.
Q: This fight is is a big one for both of you, but with a potential rematch against Keith looming, how do you make sure all of your energy stays focused on the task at hand and you don’t think ahead?
Porter: I think it’s easy for me knowing that this opportunity is going to present another, even greater opportunity. I know without this one, I don’t get the other, so to me it’s simple. You get this and then you move forward. If you don’t get this, you don’t move forward.
Q: Why do you think boxing fans should tune in for Porter vs Berto ?
Porter: It's going to be exciting to watch two guys exercise the sweet science, and battle for what’s on the line. I think you have that in this fight with me and Andre Berto. You’re going to get the excitement, you’re going to see two fighters who have a lot of experience, that are willing to put it on the line. And you don’t get that every day… you don’t get that every time you see a fight. That’s why everybody should tune in. You’re going to see excitement, you’re going to see some heavy punches landed, and ultimately you’re going to see two great guys get in there and duke it out and leave their hearts in the ring.