Andre Berto: A Day In The Life Of A Champ

berto By Tony A. Gaskins Jr.: Oftentimes, we wonder what it would be like to be the best in the world or hold that title. I know I’ve had that daydream many times. But few get the opportunity to be in the presence of someone we call “The Champ.” Well, I was privileged enough to have that opportunity. I spent the day with the WBC Champion of the World, Andre Berto, 24-0, Welterweight Rising Star!

What would you expect? I expected a very serious, intense demeanor, maybe arrogance or a haughty spirit. But instead I experienced a “gentle giant” metaphorically speaking. A young man who could easily feel on top of the world, but instead he resides with the humble and meek at heart.

We began at 8 A.M for an early morning swim. The Champ, his brother and two close friends dove in the pool to swim 20 consecutive laps. As for myself, I stood on the side and watched. I’m not ready to be a Champion of the World, so I closely observed what it would take to achieve that..

After the swim, we retired to the humble abode of the Champ. We could have easily pulled up to an extravagant, grossly-sized home for a bachelor, but instead we pulled up to a 3-bed, 2-bath house in a humble and quiet neighborhood. I noticed that the Champ treated himself to a white-on-white Maseratti, but to my surprise, he doesn’t often drive it. At the home, we kicked back and relaxed. This is where I really got to see what it was like to be around “The Champ”. Wow, what a character. He was loud, funny and very entertaining, the complete opposite of other pro athletes I’ve been around. Andre Berto was at peace, no worries, comforted by the love and support of his closest friends. You’d think he would be searching for media about himself and trying to see the latest buzz on his upcoming fight with Juan Urango on May 30th, but instead, he watched reality TV like the average guy.

This was very humbling to see. Then, as we were watching a new series called “Brave New Voices”, the Champ and friends were inspired. So, they began their own poetry session. They went around the room and took turns reciting spoken-word poetry, monologues, and raps. Then finally, it was the Champs turn. I thought he would be shy and pass his turn as I did mine, but instead, he stood up, gathered himself for about 2 minutes and began to recite a spoken word piece by a living legend by the name of “Black Ice”. WOW!! That is all I could say as Andre recited this piece verbatim, he owned it! When he was finished, I had to pick my jaw up from the floor, because I had seen the side of a Super Star Athlete that I didn’t know was possible. I saw knowledge, mind power, intellect, an appreciation for the arts, and admiration of someone else’s craft. To see him recite a three- or four- minute piece was mind-boggling. I can barely remember a sentence, and to see a “pro athlete” who we often stereotype as all brawn and no brain recite this was very, very impressive to say the least.

After a long rest, we geared up and headed to the gym to see the Champ spar. It was intense! I had never been in a boxing gym before so it was a first. I was in the zone, smelling new sweat, and hearing the sounds of jump ropes, and deep breaths, and gloves popping bags. It was like sweet music to my ears. The Champ did about ten rounds of intense sparring with three different partners. One man verses three very talented opponents; it was impressive to watch. After about two hours of being in the gym, we headed to “Momma Champ’s” house. It was an indescribable feeling to see this tough man, passive enough to go and see “momma”. He loved on her, showed affection, conversed with her and prepared for his last part of training for the day. It was beautiful to see the proud look on his mother’s face. A look of joy, contentment, and fulfillment is how I would describe it. She was complete’ her son, although a champion to the world, is just a beloved son to her.

While resting before the run, the Champ and team took me to a small restaurant that serves the Island’s of Haiti and Jamaica’s best food. Being that Andre is of Haitian descent, this small restaurant reminds him of home. I was in a state that I can’t describe. Not being very culturally diverse, it was an experience that I will cherish for life. Andre and his brother introduced me to the delicacies of Haiti. I tasted a lot, and my taste buds were screaming with joy and excitement. From legume, to plantains, to watermelon soda…I’m not surprised if I’ve misspelled what I ate. It was just that new to me. I loved every bit of it, though. They also introduced me to a drink that is made from a fruit that I can’t remember the name of right now, but it was delicious. When the Champ tasted it he said, “Man, that’s it, that’s the one mommy use to make when I was like ten years old.” It was an amazing experience for me to be introduced to a culture that has always intrigued me. I’m positive I’ll be back to that little restaurant.

Lastly we returned to his mother’s home, and he, his brother, and close friend set off to run a few miles. I stayed back; again, I’m not ready to be a World Champion. So, I just ran with them in spirit and peacefully handled some business of my own while they were gone. They returned shortly, full of energy and spunk. Truthfully, I was exhausted for them after watching them undergo three intense workouts. But it did not look like they had trained at all. That showed me just what type of tip top condition a Champion must be in to wear that Belt.

After it was all said and done, I had experienced a dream. For one day, I got to see what it would be like to be Champ! Not a lifestyle I can honestly say I’d want, but I sure do respect Andre Berto for accepting that role and being a role model for the world to see. Never again will I judge a book by its cover. Each Champ is different and I can say that if I had to be Champ for a day, I’d do it the Andre Berto way.

Article posted on 12.05.2009

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