“I’m talking about the Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe fights, and the Meldrick Taylor-Julio Cesar Chavez fight. I watched Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard. I wanted to be a throw-back fighter in there, so, you know, I went all the way back,” said Berto, who turned 28 on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to take some to give some. That’s natural for me at times, and I wanted to come back and put on an exciting performance for the fans.”
Berto dictated a furious, physical, in-your-face bout against the 31-year-old Zaveck (31-2, 18 knockouts), whom he dethroned as IBF titleholder with a fifth-round knockout on HBO.
Their battle was stopped by Zaveck’s corner as a result of profuse bleeding from severe cuts over each of his eyes.
“I think that it was the left uppercut that caused the cut over his right eye. I caught him on the other side of the eye, and I felt it rip,” said Berto (28-1, 22 KOs), who exhibited only slight swelling below his left eye.
“Zaveck was a real tough kid with a good chin, and he had never really been in trouble. I guess that his face wasn’t cooperating and it started to fall apart on him.”
In victory, Berto rebounded from a unanimous decision loss to Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs), who dethroned him as WBC titleholder in April during a fight that featured each fighter hitting the canvas twice.
“When Sugar Ray out-boxed Roberto Duran the second time they fought, you know, I think a lot of people came away from that thinking that he was just a cute fighter,” said Berto.
“But realistically Leonard won a lot of wars by ot into a lot of wars because Leonard demonstrated the ability to bang it out. And at the end of the day, sometimes, that’s what you’ve got to do to show that you’re really there.”
Berto elaborates on his triumph in this Q&A below.
RingTV.com: Given that you are known to have speed, power and generally good boxing skills, was it a concious choice on your part not to use them more?
“I knew that he was rugged, but I wanted to try to pressure him, work those combinations, because that was something that he wasn’t used to. I feel like I have one of the strongest and best jabs out there when I use it.
“Of course, I could have used my jab more. But I came in there with a whole different type of mentality. I wanted just go nose-to-nose, first. I wanted to incorporate a lot of different things, work the head and the body up and down. I wanted to show a complete arsenal.”
RingTV.com: How about that commitment to the body punches?
“When Zaveck fights, you know, he has a tight defense. He folds his arms in close to his body and kind of leaves the outside of his body open. So we wanted to work the outside of his body.”
RingTV.com: Was your energy level better as a result of your work with Victor Conte, who discovered and treated your anemia?
“Victor helped me to get back to that hunger to be the best that I can be. My energy level was definitely a lot better. I started off a lot faster. I was feeling a lot better. But there still is a lot more improvement to be made as far as my health.
“I came out strong. When they stopped the fight, we were getting ready to push the pace and turn it up a bit. I felt great.”
RingTV.com: How does Zaveck rank among all of the opponents that you’ve faced?
“You know, he was a good fighter, but he couldn’t hurt me. He was able to catch me with some punches, but he didn’t have the power to hurt me at all. I wanted to continue to press the action.”
RingTV.com: How do you answer fans and/or future opponents who might be critical of your defense?
“They see me move around and box, they see me in the pocket and trading, and they see me trying to bulldog some guys. They’re going to get a different look every time.
“If somebody thinks that they can see me in one kind of way and have me figured out, then they had better watch some more tapes, because I can switch it up.”
RingTV.com: What’s next?
You might get the winner or the loser of those two. There’s a Miguel Cotto out there and there’s been talk. I know that the next one is going to be a big one.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com