One after another, the electric matchups in the loaded welterweight division keep coming. And they keep coming to Barclays Center.
The latest is Andre Berto vs. Shawn Porter on Saturday, April 22. Two former champions, now one night away from another shot at reclaiming a belt.
Both fighters are trying to prove they deserve to be part of the championship conversations following setbacks. Porter’s was by the narrowest of margins.
Last June at Barclays Center he lost a narrow decision to Keith Thurman, 115-113 on all three scorecards in a bout that ESPN.com ranked as one of its top five fights of 2016. Thurman retained his WBC title and added the WBA belt with his win over Danny Garcia at Barclays Center on March 4.
That very same night, as the Berto vs. Porter matchup was being announced, the fighters learned their winner would be the mandatory challenger to Thurman for the WBC title that Berto once held, and that Porter was so close to claiming last June.
“I couldn’t have been more surprised,” said Porter of learning that this would be a title eliminator bout. “I don’t think there was anything in my life that I’ve been more pleased with a surprise other than that.
“My heart, it just glowed with happiness. I’m looking forward to this fight. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time.”
The 33-year-old Berto is four years older than Porter. He’s followed a longer road back to this opportunity, and a longer road period. He’s seen the boxing world from all sides and watched the narrative around him change.
Berto had his turn as the hot rising star, winning his first 27 pro fights and capturing the WBC title in 2008.
The ride came to an end with a loss to Victor Ortiz almost exactly six years ago in April 2011. That was the first of three losses in four fights for Berto, who battled shoulder problems and eventually had surgery.
He returned with wins against Steve Chambers and Josesito Lopez before dropping a decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the undefeated, unified champ’s last fight.
In April 2016 Berto got his long-awaited rematch against Victor Ortiz and made a thunderous statement with a fourth-round knockout.
“From my first loss I’ve been written off,” said Berto. “That’s just the way the fight game is. From my first loss on it’s been speculation. I’ve been through my hard times. Everything I’ve been through in this fight game has been on that TV screen.
“I love it because I love that rollercoaster ride. I’ve never seen my career as being perfect. I always wanted to feel everything this game has to offer.”
Porter expected to be back in this position, but maybe not this quickly. Berto has battled back from an unexpected detour to get back in the mix for a title shot.
“This should be a very good fight,” said Porter. “That’s why this fight is very anticipated because you know what I can do and you know what Andre can do.”
The undercards promise as much action as the Berto vs. Porter main event. Unbeaten world super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo makes his first title defense against Charles Hatley and four-division champion Amanda Serrano will be looking to make history as the first woman and first Puerto Rican fighter to win a fifth world title in five different weight classes.