The chief executive officer of Floyd Mayweather’s promotional company defended the selection of Andre Berto as the pound-for-pound king’s Sept. 12 opponent by drawing comparisons between the Haitian-American and two other fighters present and past — Manny Pacquiao, and long-retired Bert Cooper.
The welterweight title bout that could be Mayweather’s career finale after he defeated Pacquiao in May, then suggested the final fight of his CBS/Showtime contract would be against a lesser foe.
Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, harkened back to a 1991 fight when Evander Holyfield was criticized for fighting late substitute Cooper.
Holyfield officially was knocked down for the first time in his career before coming back to stop Cooper in the seventh round.
“We know, in fights like that, that Berto isn’t going to sit back, and we know he isn’t going to be complaining about his shoulder. We’ve done seen him fight with one arm,” Ellerbe said, a reference to Pacquiao, who cited a shoulder injury for limiting him in his 12-round decision loss to Mayweather.
Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs) will follow that financial blockbuster with a pay-per-view fight against Berto (30-3, 22 KOs), who has lost three of his last six.
Though the fight was announced, it has been speculated — and soundly criticized — for weeks.
Mayweather’s opponent selection has been questioned before, from not fighting Antonio Margarito, to fighting Zab Judah despite Judah losing his previous bout, to the long-delayed Pacquiao bout.
Those criticisms never reached the crescendo they have for Berto, a native of Winter Haven, Fla.
“That’s where Floyd’s been able to be very successful — he doesn’t pay attention to the naysayers and what they say,” Ellerbe said. “Floyd’s going to prepare, and he’s going to do exactly what he needs to do to get up, and come out and put on the best performance.
“You have to remember that everybody who fights Floyd Mayweather has a different kind of motivation. A bigger stage, a different spotlight. And they know that all eyes are on them and it’s up to them to do their part.”
Berto has had a direct impact on Mayweather’s opponent selection before, and Ellerbe acknowledged the fight had been discussed multiple times in the past.
Berto almost certainly would have fought Mayweather in 2011 but lost to Victor Ortiz in a thriller. Mayweather instead faced Ortiz in his only fight that year.
Mayweather’s first fight of his three-year, six-fight CBS/Showtime contract, which concludes after his next bout, also might have been against Berto. But Robert Guerrero beat Berto in 2012 and got the Mayweather fight the following year.
Berto has won his last two fights, which might not be enough to warrant a Mayweather fight on merit, but was deemed so by circumstance — namely, that Mayweather deemed it the one he wanted.
“He’s never, ever been in a dull fight,” Ellerbe said of Berto. “He’s been in two fight-of-the-year candidates, with the Ortiz fight and the Guerrero fight. We know he’s been knocked down but he gets back up and fights his heart out.”
“We already know we’re going to get the best of the best from him, what he’s able to do. And one thing you do know is it’s guaranteed excitement. So with that, I think you’re going to see a totally different kind of Floyd, too, because Berto fights in a very aggressive, offensive manner, and it kind of forces you to do other things.”
Ellerbe predicted the mix of styles would result in a fight with little chance of lasting the 12-round distance.
“Floyd didn’t take a step back in the Pacquiao fight, so what makes anybody think he’s going to take a step back in this fight? And the other guy’s fighting the same kind of way,” Ellerbe said.
Criticisms of the Berto fight generally are two-fold: One, that it would have been an acceptable matchup for CBS or Showtime but not a pay-per-view event ($64.95, plus $10 for high-definition viewing); two, that regardless of television entity, the fight is a disappointing dud that magnifies Mayweather’s careful timing in opponent selection.
The CBS idea was raised and almost immediately dismissed as Mayweather Promotions quickly honed in on a lower-level pay-per-view fight to conclude their flagship fighter’s career.
Ellerbe said there is “no point” in Mayweather fighting again, and that their camp never has engaged internal discussions about a Pacquiao rematch in 2016.
All expectations for the last two years have centered around Mayweather retiring after his television contract expires, and Ellerbe said that’s exactly what will happen.
“Here’s a guy who’s made well over a half-billion dollars, doing it his way, and he can ride off into the sunset after this,” Ellerbe said. “That’s the way he thinks. Berto, in his mind, he’s thinking something different.”
Berto, 31, is a former Olympian and welterweight champion, and seven years younger than Mayweather, but realistically has only a puncher’s chance of winning.
The fight is a pay-per-view risk even with the king of that medium involved, and in any other setting than Mayweather’s career finale would be a near-certain flop.
Selecting an opponent whose free-flowing aggression figures to complement Mayweather’s tactical assault enhances Ellerbe’s assertion that “fans can expect a knockout,” and the promoter also acknowledged that selling the fight as a swan song is “part of” the marketing plan.
“That’s a fact. This is Floyd’s last fight,” Ellerbe said. “I’m not trying to sell it that way. This is going to be his last fight. And the fans get a chance to see Floyd in a very, very exciting fight with a guy that we know is coming to fight.”