Photo: Josesito Lopez (L) throws a punch against Andre Berto during their welterweight bout. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
In a battle for gatekeeper bragging rights, perennial Al Haymon favourite Andre Berto (30-3, 23 KO) took on the jawbreaker himself, Josesito Lopez (33-7, 19 KO), in the main event of the inaugural PBC Spike TV card. Berto, who had appeared just once in 18 months since a brutal loss to Jesus Soto Karass, was arguably fighting to stay relevant in the welterweight picture. While Lopez was doing what he always does: namely gunning for the upset and giving his feted opponent more than a few scares along the way.
Berto weighed in a full pound under the limit the day before, while Lopez continued to sport the love handles that have seemed a permanent fixture since the move up to 147. Both men began somewhat cautiously, snaking out jabs and circling one another. However, Lopez began focusing on the body early, throwing multiple combinations below Berto’s elbows, which seemed to freeze the Haitian-American whenever they landed.
Berto seemed intent on staking out the centre of the ring, standing tall as his opponent dipped low and stepped around him. He would frequently back Lopez into the ropes, yet his offense was timid and stuttering when he was presented with openings, while his opponent was reacting with force whenever presented with a chance to throw.
Following in Robert Guerrero’s footsteps, Lopez had begun to manhandle Berto by round 4, regularly flinging his opponent off balance and pounding his body while Berto clung on, waiting for the referee to intervene. In a quirky move, Berto seemed to have dispensed with his infamous shoulder roll, replacing it with a statue-like high shell which left around a foot of his torso exposed every time he adopted it. And so Lopez began landing body shots with alarming regularity, although his right eye had begun to swell noticeably by the midway point of the fight.
A brawl had broken out by the time the bell for the 6th round sounded, and Lopez was dropped heavily just one minute later. He got up at eight, seemed to be clear visioned, but was knocked down again shortly afterward by a shot on the temple. Referee Raul Caiz, Jr. decided at this point that he was in no position to continue, which was odd considering he didn’t look in his eyes or give him the chance to regain his feet. Lopez was certainly hurt and unbalanced, but the act of eschewing the count altogether seemed an overreaction.
Still, it’s a comeback win for Berto, one in which he came from behind and was able to show a few glimpses of the hand speed that impressed in the past. A title fight is unlikely to go well for him, but will definitely be on the agenda at some point.