Berto encore on tap; Dawson goes for IBO
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Andre Berto's in conflict this week.

Though the WBC welterweight champion's January win over Luis Collazo drew the highest praise of his four-year professional career, he's determined not to earn it again this time out.

While the razor-thin unanimous verdict let him keep his 147-pound title and impress critics with toughness and resilience he'd not previously displayed, the blood-and-guts impression wasn't one he was hoping to leave.

In fact, Berto claims, the tough-man effort on fight night was the product of a sub-par work en route.

"I could tell things were different in the camp leading up to the fight. I was sidetracked and I allowed myself to be distracted. I kind of strayed away from the things I normally do and I didn't feel sharp," he said. "It's no one's fault but my own and I'm not happy about it.

"But I guess the good things that came out of it were that I got a chance to show something a little bit different, like my heart and my tenacity. People see that in me. I had to bite down and show everybody I had a beast in me."


Andre Berto is set fight Juan Urango at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
And now, with bruises faded and cuts healed, he's back to the grind.

His chance for a less-rousing encore comes Saturday night at home in Florida, where he'll fight for the first time since 2005 in a defense against rugged Colombian export Juan Urango at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Urango, a two-time IBF champion at 140 pounds, is ranked seventh by the WBC at 147 and comes in with just one loss in 23 career fights -- a wide decision against Ricky Hatton two years ago that ended his first title reign.

He regained a vacant crown with a unanimous nod over Herman Ngoudjo in his most recent fight, and, with a win Saturday, would have seven days to inform the IBF of his future reigning plans, according to Championship Chairman Lindsey Tucker Jr.

According to Tucker, Urango could keep the WBC belt at 147 or the IBF title at 140; but not both.

Not surprisingly, Berto says such a choice won't be necessary.

"He'll be a tough opponent, but when I look at him I don't see any one thing that he does magnificently well," Berto said. "He's got power and he'll try to walk people down and drag things out, which will force me to execute and use my speed."

And, according to the maturing 25-year-old, preparation isn't an issue this time.

"A lot of things have come my way in the last couple of years -- a lot of distractions and a lot of people coming out of the woodwork -- and it's my job to stay grounded and stay focused," Berto said. "So for camp this time we just got away from all that and went back to basics -- a real boot camp.

"It gets stagnant sometimes, so you have to add a few things. It gets stale if you stay with the same routine over and over. But at the same time, you have to tell yourself to work that way for seven or eight weeks. Because at the end of it you get to go out there and perform, and then you'll have the time to do whatever you want."

Online oddsmakers expect Berto to essentially do whatever he wants with Urango, prompting bet365.com to install him as a 4-to-6 choice to win by decision or technical decision and a 7-to-2 pick to win by knockout, TKO or disqualification.

Urango is 4-to-1 to win by stoppage and 9-to-1 to win on points.

"There's extra pressure when everyone expects you to win and expects you to perform well, and anything can happen in boxing if you past a guy," Berto said. "He's a big kid for 140 and I think he fits as a welterweight. My job is to go out and win."

Beyond a victory, riches may await.

Berto resides alongside a cluster of high-end rulers in the sport's premier division, sharing the 147-pound spotlight with WBA champion Shane Mosley, WBO champion Miguel Cotto and recently deposed IBF champion Joshua Clottey, who'll fight Cotto in New York on June 13.

Not to mention a handful of carpetbaggers and/or returning retirees in Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez and Floyd Mayweather Jr., who seem destined to join the belt-holders and each other in a series of potentially lucrative pay- per-view events at or around the welterweight limit.

All things considered, not a bad place to be for an upwardly mobile kingpin.

"It's an exciting division and I'm glad that I'm a part of it," Berto said. "As long as I keep winning I'll be in the mix and eventually my time will come.

"A lot of the older guys are already established so they don't think they need to come and fight a guy like me, but at some point someone's got to step up to the plate."

* * * * * * * * * *

One small step for Chad Dawson.

One pretty good-sized leap for the International Boxing Organization.

Wednesday's news that the consensus world light heavyweight champion was surrendering his IBF title over a mandatory defense dispute was music to the ears of IBO President Ed Levine.

"The IBO is proud to have the best light heavyweight in the world, Chad Dawson, as its champion," Levine said.

The abdication leaves Dawson with just one belt -- the IBO's -- and makes him the second high-profile world champion this month to be recognized by the IBO alone.

Manny Pacquiao is the other, following his thrashing of 140-pound kingpin Ricky Hatton on May 2.

Wladimir Klitschko, widely considered the world's best heavyweight, holds the IBO title in that division along with the IBF and WBO championships.

"(Dawson) joins a continuing and growing list of marquee champions who proudly wear the IBO belt," Levine said. "World champions have a short career and it is imperative that they be given the opportunity to maximize their earnings while at the same time fighting challengers the public wants to see."

According to a letter written on Dawson's behalf by promoter Gary Shaw, the move stems from the IBF's insistence he follow through with a fight against No. 1 contender Tavoris Cloud, while Dawson and Co. preferred a lucrative rematch with former champion and No. 3 contender Glen Johnson.

Dawson beat Johnson by close unanimous decision in one of 2008's best fights. A rematch was specifically mentioned during HBO's broadcast of Dawson's recent defense against Antonio Tarver.

"Inasmuch as the IBF has rejected our request for an exception from immediately defending the title against mandatory challenger Tavoris Cloud, a request made because no major television network had an interest in purchasing the rights to that fight," Shaw's letter said. "Chad must vacate the IBF light heavyweight title effective immediately."

Cloud, a 27-year-old from Tallahassee, Fla., won an IBF title eliminator against Julio Cesar Gonzalez in August to improve to 19-0 with 18 knockouts. He is ranked 12th in the division by the IBO.

Shaw, in an e-mail interview Thursday, said Dawson plans to reign at 175 pounds "for the short term. But if a big fight was at 168, we would be there."

* * * * * * * * * *

This week's title-fight schedule:

FRIDAY

WBC strawweight title -- Phuket, Thailand Oleydong Sithsamerchai (champion) vs. Muhammad Rachman (No. 19 contender) Sithsamerchai (30-0, 12 KO): Third title defense; Defended WBC Youth title 16 times Rachman (62-7-5, 31 KO): Former IBF champion (2004-07); Lost two of last three

FitzHitz says: Sithsamerchai by decision

SATURDAY

WBC welterweight title -- Hollywood, Fla. Andre Berto (champion) vs. Juan Urango (No. 7 contender) Berto (24-0, 19 KO): Third title defense; Second fight in home state Urango (21-1-1, 16 KO): IBF champion at 140 pounds; Two wins in three title fights

FitzHitz says: Berto in 10

WBA heavyweight title -- Helsinki, Finland Nikolay Valuev (champion) vs. Ruslan Chagaev (champion in recess) Valuev (50-1, 34 KO): Two-time WBA champion; Fifth overall title defense Chagaev (25-0-1, 17 KO): Won title from Valuev in 2007; Forfeited belt due to injury

FitzHitz says: Chagaev by decision

Last week's picks: 2-2 (50 percent) Overall picks record: 93-37 (71.5 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.
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