Two-time welterweight titleholder Andre Berto has parted ways with trainer Tony Morgan, ending an association with the man who coached him through the amateurs and who first met him when the fighter was 9.
“Tony and I had a great ride together from the amateurs to two professional world championships,” said Berto, a Winter Haven, Fla., native whose 20-year partnership with Morgan produced two titlewinning efforts as well as a berth on the 2004 Haitian Olympic Team.
“He will always be a very important person in my life. He taught me a lot and I am grateful to him for that, but this is a decision I had to make at this point in my career.”
Berto (28-1, 22 knockouts) is 1-2 in his past three bouts, and ended a 15-month ring absence when he lost by unanimous decision in an HBO-televised clash with Robert Guerrero in November.
According to a press release issued on Wednesday, Berto is in the process of selecting a new trainer, having moved to Los Angeles.
“I’m still in the gym on a regular basis and getting my body in great shape,” said Berto. “Boxing is the sport that I love and I can’t wait to get back in the ring and perform again soon. I want to remind everyone why they love to see me fight. You will see a new and improved Andre Berto here soon.”
Morgan said he had not spoken to Berto for around a month or so, and that he was surprised by the move.
“It was kind of news to me. I had heard online that he was organizing a new team. But before he recently moved to California, I went over to his house. It was maybe a month ago, maybe a month and a half ago. He was like, ‘Man, we need to make some changes.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I agree with you. You’ve got to get your head clear,’” said Morgan.
“So, I don’t know what it is with the kid. The kid is incredible. He can box. Nobody has seen what I’ve seen in Andre Berto except for the people around here in our gym, and people that come to spar. He’s got great defense, he’s got greatt footwork, he’s got great speed, he’s got great inside fighting. But for some reason, he gets to the dance and — I don’t know — he has a hard time putting all of that into play.”
Berto, 29, was attempting to shake off rust after having last been in the ring for a fifth-round knockout that took the IBF welterweight belt from Jan Zaveck in September of 2011, having 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 of 2011.
Berto blamed the positive test result on a contaminated substance, and was granted a one-year license by the California State Athletic Commission in July to fight in the state after testing negative for “anabolic steroids and masking agents.”
Berto was dethroned as WBC titleholder by Ortiz in April of 2011 during a fight that featured two knockdowns by each boxer, rebounded with the stoppage of Zaveck, and then relinquished that belt for a non-title return bout with Ortiz.
Guerrero represented the fifth southpaw Berto had faced in seven fights, having conquered left-handed rivals such as Luis Collazo and Juan Urango by unanimous-decision victories in January and May of 2009, as well as Carlos Quintana during an eighth-round stoppage in April of 2010 that ended an 11-month ring absence.
“I honestly and truthfully thought Berto was going to knock out Guerrero inside of two or three rounds. I could bring Robert Guerrero to my gym, where Berto is comfortable, and put 20 ounce gloves on Berto, and put eight ounce gloves on Robert Guerrero, and Berto knocks him out in two or three rounds. No problem at all. But I don’t know if there is something in his head that worries him or what. I don’t know what it is,” said Morgan.
“It’s something. Bert’s like family to me. I’ve been training him for 20 years. He was 9 when I met him in the gym, and took over training him when he was 10. At the end of the day, I’m a real guy. What you see is what you get. Does it hurt? Of course it hurts. Is it going to kill me? No. I just want people to see what this kid can really do. The kid is phenomenal, and no one beats him when he’s comfortable. It’s just that something has been eating at him the last few years.”
Photo by Craig Bennett
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Photo by Gene Blevins, Hoganphotos,/ Golden Boy Promotions