Two-time welterweight titleholder Andre Berto spoke to RingTV.com regarding the controversy surrounding his positive drug test, his relationship with former BALCO founder Victor Conte, and his HBO-televised clash with contender Robert Guerrero, who told RingTV.com that plans to test Berto’s “soft chin.”
Berto-Guerrero is slated for Nov. 24 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
Berto (28-1, 22 knockouts) tested positive for the banned substance norandrosterone under the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, forcing the cancelation of a rematch against Victor Ortiz that was scheduled for June.
Having blamed the positive test result on a contaminated substance, Berto, 29, was granted a one-year license by the California State Athletic Commission in July to fight in the state after having tested negative for “anabolic steroids and masking agents.”
Berto does not blame, and, in fact, absolves Conte, who has served time in prison and claimed to have cleaned up his act, having aligned himself, most notably, with Nonito Donaire and pushed for a comprehensive, random method of drug testing boxers.
Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KOs), who will be after his 15th consecutive victory and his 10th knockout during that run, initially turned down an offer to face Berto over concerns regarding his positive test. But the fighters have contractually agreed to mandatory drug testing by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
After being decisioned and dethroned as WBC titleholder by Ortiz in April of last year during a fight that featured two knockdowns each by both boxers, Berto rebounded with a fifth-round knockout that took the IBF welterweight belt from Jan Zaveck in September.
Having vacated the IBF title to face Ortiz in a non-title fight, Berto said he is confident that he can overcome Gerrero, who represents the fifth southpaw Berto will have faced in seven fights.
Berto has also conquered left-handed fighters such as ex-beltholders Luis Collazo and Juan Urango by unanimous decision victories in January and May of 2009, and an eighth-round stoppage of Carlos Quintana in April of 2010 that ended an 11-month ring absence.
But Guerrero is coming off a unanimous decision over Turkish-born Selcuk Aydin in July, and believes that he will carry more power into his fight against Berto, despite being in his sixth division after having started out as a junior featherweight.
Guerrero’s victory over the previously unbeaten Aydin for the WBC’s interim belt ended a 15-month ring absence. In Berto, Guerrero faces a man who will have been out of action for 13 months by fight time.
Berto, of Winter Haven, Fla., shared his thoughts with RingTV.com in this Q&A.
RingTV.com: What do you want to say to your fans about the positive drug test?
Andre Berto: To all of my fans, who have been supportive, you know, everybody who knows me, they know that everything that I’ve always accomplished has just been through hard work.
And when it comes to the positive test, that was just a situation that was unfortunate. It was a situation that didn’t get properly explained to the public on what it was and what caused it.
I believe that’s what really made an uproar about everything. You know, like I’ve said, I’ve never been a cheater. Never have and never will. I’ve never injected anything in any type of situation of all.
So when it comes up as a positive test, it didn’t have anything to do with any type of drug enhancement, or any type of testosterone or EPO or none of that type of stuff that a lot of guys probably use.
It wasn’t anything like that. It was… after we got the positive test, we just needed to know what it was. Because we knew that everything that we were doing was straight forward.
And after they put the news out, that’s when we found out exactly what it was. Then I had to go through all of the right processes and the hiring of the lawyers and things like that.
So it was basically just taking my sample test and just really proving the fact that it was a contamination of something.
I’m not sure what it was, but it was just a contamination of small grains of something that caused the positive test. It wasn’t anything to do with any sort of enhancement at all.
RingTV.com: How does your relationship stand with Conte?
AB: You know, me and Conte, we’ve always been good. We’re still good right now to this point, because I know that nothing that I took on his end caused the positive test at all.
And I know that the route that he has decided to take in talking about this has been very positive and very graceful. I asked for the VADA testing because I know that it is tremendously effective.
So, in that case, and with that being said, you know, why would you call and ask for a sensitive and effective test that you know that you’re not going to beat if you’re going to try to be dirty.
I mean, that just doesn’t make sense at all. But, you know, it is what it is. You know, so we had to go through all of the steps that we had to go through and now it’s just the case of getting back into the ring and doing what I do.
RingTV.com: What are your thoughts on Guerrero’s reference to your soft chin and his own relative power at 147 pounds?
AB: That’s fine, you know, it is what it is. He can say what he wants to say. I’ve been in there with big punchers, and it doesn’t matter. When fight time comes, it’s going to be time to go, it’s as simple as that.
You know, it doesn’t matter if he has power or he doesn’t have power. I’ve been sitting for a while, so, definitely, we’re going to unleash a beast that has been caged up for a while. So it is what it is.
AB: Well, you know it’s just a fact that I’ve had a really good training camp. That’s all that it is. You know I’ve been in camp working on a game plan and we’ll get the sparring partners.
But I’m not worried about any sort of ring rust, because we’ve always been working. We’re not worried about that at all.
RingTV.com: How do you assess him as an opponent, particularly in his last fight with Aydin?
AB: I mean, let’s be realistic. In his last fight with Aydin, being realistic, I was there and I sat there and saw it. I thought that the fight was a lot closer than they scored it.
It wasn’t anything that caught my eye. Aydin is just a straight-forward puncher, and that’s it. He just comes straight forward and doesn’t throw too many punches.
But when he throws punches, he throws hard punches, and with me sitting in the front row, I saw a lot of those punches hurting Guerrero.
So, like I said, I’m a completely different fighter than Aydin. I’m a guy who can box, I can punch, and I’ve got speed and I’ve got power, and so it’s going to be a completely different situation.
I’m definitely going to be a winner. That’s the only thing that matters to me right now. I’m definitely going to go out there and be the winner.
Photo by Thorsten Roth, Naoki Fukuda, Getty Images
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org