Berto Busts Up Zaveck

By John Gabriel Thompson: Tonight at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, Andre Berto (28-1, 22 KO’s) showed again why he is one of the most underappreciated boxers in the sport as he did enough damage to the face of Jan Zaveck (31-2, 18 KO’s) to force a stop to the bout. Broadcast live on HBO Boxing After Dark, Berto has now won the IBF Welterweight Championship making him a two-time champion.

Berto of course was coming off his first professional loss in April after an exciting bout (and fight of the year candidate) in which “Vicious” Victor Ortiz took Berto’s WBC Welterweight Title via
unanimous decision. Ortiz put down Berto in the first round, but Berto came back and knocked Ortiz down in the second, and both fighters knocked each other down again in the sixth. From Slovenia and now living and fighting out of Germany, this was Zaveck’s first pro bout in the United States, having fought almost exclusively in Slovenia and Germany.

Berto backed the former champion into the ropes early in the first round and landed a couple hard rights. Zaveck responded, landing twice with his favorite weapon – the overhand right – and that seemed to back Berto off temporarily. Both men threw mostly power punches in the first, and though the faster Berto got the better of his opponent, Zaveck scored with a few of his own.

Berto came on strong at the start of the second, throwing monstrous power punches, though Zaveck had some success exchanging with Berto. In an article I wrote previewing this bout, I mentioned that Zaveck left his head wide open after throwing, but it was Berto who was guilty of this, and often Zaveck connected when Berto wasn’t expecting it.

Berto landed a vicious combo to the body and head in the third and continued to work the body throughout the round. The Slovenian fans in attendance made a lot of noise with some kind of rattling noisemakers, but they were silenced in the third by Berto’s work rate and chants of “USA! USA!” from the crowd.

There was more inside action by the fourth as Zaveck attempted to stay inside and negate Berto’s speed advantage. Both men landed frequently. Berto really started busting up Zaveck in the fifth. Zaveck’s chin held up fine, but his face did not. Both eyes began swelling, especially the right. A cut also opened over the right eye, pouring
blood across Zaveck’s face and completely obscuring his vision. A
large welt had also formed under Berto’s left eye.

After the end of the fifth round, Zaveck’s corner worked furiously to reduce the swelling and stop the cut from bleeding into Zaveck’s eye and blinding him, but it was apparent there was nothing they could do. They asked him repeatedly, “Do you want another round?” Zaveck stood up, obviously wanting to continue, but the referee (on advice from the ringside physician) justifiably stopped the bout.

This was a very entertaining match while it lasted, and in lieu of Berto’s gutsy, all action performance against Ortiz, it’s hard to understand why this young, talented fighter does not have more of a fan base. He had three somewhat lackluster performances against Juan Urango, Luis Collazo and Steve Forbes, but has otherwise been highly entertaining in the ring. I hope to see him in a return match with Ortiz regardless of how Ortiz fairs against Mayweather.

I mentioned in my previous article that Berto would do best to stick and move rather than exchange with Zaveck. Ringside commentator Max Kellerman asked Berto after the fight, “Is this what we’re to expect now – Andre Berto, one of the great action fighters in boxing?” To which Berto replied, “People seen tonight I had speed. I could’ve jabbed this guy if I wanted to. I could have boxed, but I wanted to come and make a statement.”

In the televised undercard, Gary Russell, Jr. (18-0, 10 KO’s) from Washington D.C. thoroughly dominated Leonilo Miranda (32-4, 30 KO’s) from Sonora, Mexico. Russell, a former Golden Gloves Champion, last fought in July earning a unanimous decision against Eric Estrada. Miranda lost his last fight in a split decision to undefeated Cuban prospect Luis Franco last February, and had only won two fights in his last five. His other two losses came in a split decision against a fighter with a record of 23-14-1, and a fifth round knockout loss to then undefeated Orlando Cruz in 2009.

Russell looked extremely sharp and much faster and stronger than Miranda. Russell stalked him from the opening bell, though with measured aggression. Russell maintained his form at all times, and
that often allowed him to counter punch with short, hard shots, demonstrating highly accurate power punching. In the fifth round he landed a seven punch combination. Russell landed another superb
combination in the sixth after he forced Miranda into the ropes again. Ringside commentator Bob Papa said, “Right now [it’s] target practice for Garry Russell, Jr.”

Miranda tried to come on strong in the eighth and final round, however, Russell did not give him many opportunities, backing away for the first time in the fight, making Miranda miss, and countering hard in the early part of the round. Regardless, Miranda definitely had his best round of the fight as Russell seemed to slow a bit, or perhaps he was just being cautious knowing he had the fight won. Two judges scored it a shutout at 80-72 and the other 79-72 all for Gary Russell, Jr.

Article posted on 04.09.2011

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