Floyd Mayweather and Andre Berto get defensive at LA press conference

August 6, 2015

Photo Credit: Esther Lin/Showtime

Los Angeles -- Floyd Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs) and Andre Berto (30-3, 23 KOs) held a closed-to-the-public press conference Thursday at L.A. Live announcing their September 12 pay-per-view showdown at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in what many believe will be the last fight of Mayweather's Hall of Fame career.  But rather than celebrating the inherent spectacle of such an event, much of the afternoon chatter instead focused on justifying Mayweather's questionable choice of opponent.

Mayweather is coming off the most lucrative win of his career over an apparently injured Manny Pacquiao, and many hoped he would make amends for that lackluster bout by going out with a bang against a younger fighter, such as Amir Khan.

Instead, Mayweather chose Berto, a talented veteran fighter with speed and athleticism, but one who had major shoulder surgery two years ago, in addition to several questionable losses in his recent bouts.

A few years ago, a matchup with Berto would have drawn much greater interest.  Now the question is: Just how much does he have left?

Still, Mayweather fights have been the premiere event in the sport for the last few years, and therefore, it was a little unusual to see parties on both sides making preemptive efforts to focus on Berto's qualifications before the media could chime in on the topic.

At one point Mayweather himself stated, "Nobody is forced to buy the fight."

Things did not begin smoothly as Leonard Ellerbe -- a nice and personable guy, but a painfully stiff emcee behind the microphone -- repeatedly butchered the name of undercard fighter Vanes Martirosyan multiple times.

Virgil Hunter, Berto's outstanding trainer and a man of normally few words at these press conferences, then got things started by uncharacteristically speaking for several minutes about Mayweather, Berto, and their critics.

“When I look at this event and I see some of the attitudes that come along . . . it usually comes from somebody that doesn't know what a fighter goes through from the very first day he sets foot in that gym," said Hunter of the bout's critics. "Anybody that has any negativity about it, who's fighting who, we can sit up here all night and go through history and contradict everything coming from the negative side."

After graciously complimenting Mayweather, Hunter then explained why Berto is a worthy opponent.

"Andre Berto has overcome a lot in his life and I’m glad to have made his acquaintance," said Hunter.   "He epitomizes what a fighter is. He’s gotten up, he's persevered, he's overcame, and he’s very much deserving of this opportunity just for that alone. When you look at that pack in that welterweight division there’s only one standing out, everybody else is in that pack. But basically people have their opinions."

Berto, who Ellerbe nearly skipped over during the conference, appeared to be in good shape -- he claimed to weigh 152 pounds already -- and had his own answers for those in the public second-guessing the quality of this bout, chalking it up to lingering bitterness over the disappointing Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.

"Everytime [Manny] Pacquiao fights, it's exciting. Everytime [Marcos] Maidana fights, it's exciting.  Everytime [Robert] Guerrero fights, it's exciting. Everytime Andre Berto fights, it's exciting.  There's only one denominator in that situation that's making it a problem," said Berto, hinting that Mayweather fights are dull because of the way Floyd fights, not his opponents.

Like all prior Mayweather opponents, Berto seemed confident of his chances, but he also seemed remarkably free of any pressure even though this will be the most important fight of his career.  Perhaps Berto's nothing-to-lose perspective evolved from the extreme highs and lows that he has experienced during his career.

“Two years ago I was in the hospital bed having surgery on my shoulder and not knowing if I could come back from that," said Berto. "At the end of the day it was a blessing."

Mayweather, a master defensive technician known for his patented shoulder rolls, also felt the need to display some defense outside of the ring, at least with regard to his choice of opponent.

"How many championships has Amir Khan won? Well, Berto won two also," said Mayweather. "Berto always gives an exciting fight. If he gets knocked down he gets back up. He always give 100 percent. Fast hands, good boxer. I can only judge a man off his last fight. He fought Josesito Lopez, and he did the same thing that Canelo did, he stopped him."

Then Mayweather, discussed the other elephant in the room -- retirement.

"I'm an old man now," said a reflective Mayweather. "Number 49, this is it. I’ve had a tremendous career. I’m older, wiser, and my health is more important than anything. September 12 is my last fight.  September 13th, I just want to sit at home and watch some football. I want my children to get the best education. I'll be with my kids everyday. These are the best days of my life."

Regardless of one's opinion of the main event -- in truth, it will probably be more competitive than expected -- the undercard bouts will certainly be interesting.

In a rematch of their world-title fight, Roman Martinez (29-2-2, 17 KOs) will defend his WBO Junior Lightweight title against four-time world champion Orlando Salido (42-13-2, 29 KOs), a bout Ellerbe blurted would be the "Fight of the Year," without realizing that such a claim, even if true, undermines the actual main event itself.

The undercard will also feature cerebral WBC Super Middleweight Champion Badou Jack (19-1-1, 12 KOs) taking on his mandatory challenger George Groves (21-2, 16 KOs).  In another undercard bout, super welterweights Ishe Smith (27-7, 12 KOs) and local Glendale fighter Vanes Martirosyan (35-2-1, 21 KOs) will also battle.

By Mike Elliott
Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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