By Brian Potier – Do not be alarmed at the title of this article. Before you cast judgment, let me invite you into my humble abode. Watch your step. As you can see, it’s not much, but it’s mine. The guys you see hitting those heavy bags, skipping rope, and sparring each other are my guests. But, truth be told, this is their home just as much as it is mine. Say that again? Oh, that smell is the smell of hard work and sweat mingled with pain, fear, dreams, and determination. The ropes you just climbed through have seen their share of battles first hand – nestled in a place the most expensive seat could never accommodate. To gain access to this hallowed ground takes more than a ticket – it takes a courage that few in this world possess. The blood-stained mat beneath your feet has held the weight of a million triumphs, and at the same time a million defeats. See that guy over there by the speed bag? Watch out for him. He’s going to be a champion one day.
There are few things in life that emit such joy for boxing fans as a great title fight. We view HBO’s 24/7 in-depth look into the lives of boxers and are quickly reeled into the pageantry of such a grandiose event.. Yet, I would like to shift focus from this weekend’s main event between Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley to something a bit more important. In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, there are still those that are displaced and in dire need of help. Shortly after he received news of the horrible tragedy which happened on his native soil, one Andre Berto – who would have been an opponent of Mosley’s earlier this year – took it upon himself to be of personal service to those in the earthquake-ravaged country of his people. The irony lies in the fact that if it weren’t for such an unforgiving natural disaster in January, it wouldn’t matter who we were picking to win on Saturday.
Berto, whose father is from Haiti, was compelled – obligated, even – to forego his scheduled January 30th date with Mosley in Las Vegas to offer assistance to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. He was justified in doing so. After one of the worst earthquakes in history, Andre Berto was fighting another opponent in a completely different arena. In place of the lights, cameras, and celebrities that supplement a prize fight, in its stead was death. Buildings that once stood strong were reduced to rubble. The screams being heard were not those of support for their favorite combatant, but of desperation for life. He documented one of his encounters in words that rarely fall from the lips of those whose social acquaintances include the rich and famous. Here is an excerpt from an article found on his blog at www.yardbarker.com/blog/AndreBerto :
“Back at the Medishare hospital, I see a truck pull up with a father and his daughter. His daughter has passed out. I pick her up and carry her into the hospital. When I lay her down, she opens her eyes and I tell her it’s going to be okay. I didn’t think anything was wrong with her. There were no cuts and no bruises. But not even five minutes later, she falls into cardiac arrest. Doctors rip her shirt open and start CPR. The father starts to yell and cry. I grab him and tell him to relax and he tells me she is all that he has because everybody else died in the quake. The doctors brought her back and revived her three times but the last time she didn’t come back. Her father grips my shirt in pain and sorrow and falls to his knees. Wow. It’s hard to imagine a parent losing their child and actually witnessing her death. Some other workers and I pick the young girl up and place her in a body bag.”
Boxing is nothing, yet everything. It played a great role in the lives of those who were touched by the compassion of one of its own. Boxing, coupled with the resilience required to be successful in this physically and mentally demanding sport, was instrumental in building the character of Andre Berto. This particular quality, in turn, tugged at his heart to lend more than just a helping hand. His land is a land that has been inundated by despair and whose only hope seemingly lies in the throws of hopelessness. Boxing speaks of carrying one’s opponent into deep waters and then releasing the finishing blows that catapult one to victory. In spite of the anguish-infested air that Haiti offered him, Berto ventured into an area in which he had never been. Championship rounds they were not. Indeed, they were much more. He will tell you that any champion would have done the same thing as he. Not so. I am not one for doling out accolades, but these Mr. Berto more than deserves. He lost eight family members, but gained many more with his actions. Boxing is nothing, yet everything. In the midst of the well-deserved glamour leading up to this year’s most anticipated match up to date, remember what contributed to the affair which is called Mayweather-Mosley. When all was said and done, Andre Berto had done more than said.
Yeah, let me show you. That? That’s called the WBC championship belt. Yes, that kid over there. Remember that guy by the speed bag I told you to watch out for a few months ago? Him. But he’s more than just the WBC welterweight title holder. He is a champion to his people; a champion for a cause; a champion who will never lose this unique title. Nor will he ever lose sight of the fact that boxing is nothing, yet everything at the same time.
Brian Potier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org