Updated: April 9, 2010, 3:11 PM ET

Despite setbacks, Berto focused on task at hand

Rafael By Dan Rafael
Andre BertoJosh Barron/Fightwireimages.com The stars might seem aligned for Andre Berto, but he isn't underestimating Carlos Quintana.

WESTON, Fla. -- Andre Berto no longer fights just for himself and his family. The welterweight titleholder is also fighting for a nation: Haiti.

Although he was born in the United States, Berto's parents are Haitian immigrants and many of his family members still live there. When the Caribbean island nation was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake in late January, it hit home.


Eight members of Berto's family were among the more than 200,000 casualties. For several days, his sister Naomi and her daughter were unaccounted for, until they were able to make contact.

The tragedy occurred less than two weeks before Berto was scheduled for the biggest fight of his career, a unification bout with Shane Mosley on Jan. 30.

But as he grieved for his family and their ravaged homeland, Berto couldn't focus on the fight. Understandably, he withdrew.

"It was definitely an overwhelming situation," said Berto, a resident of Winter Haven, Fla. "I was preparing for the biggest fight of my life and then I got the phone call about what happened and saw all the devastation on TV. It was hard. I was there a couple of months before that. I went there doing charity work -- fed families, gave out thousands of pairs of shoes."

With the fight off, Mosley agreed to face Floyd Mayweather on May 1. Meanwhile, Berto and his older brother Cleveland went to Haiti to assist in relief efforts.

The week that the 26-year-old Berto spent in Haiti about two weeks after the earthquake left him a changed man.

"I don't think people can be in that type of situation and not change," Berto said. "Seeing how graphic it was, personally being there, was overwhelming. You could see the debris in the air and smell the dead bodies. We knew it was real life. We didn't want to be treated any different. We wanted to be in the trenches and do whatever we could do. We were pulling people out of the rubble, carrying people to the hospital. We were feeding the kids. We were there when the kids were being amputated.

"It's definitely something I will never forget. That week there matured me. It was a character-building process. It definitely changed me as a man and my life in general."

Although he still has a heavy heart, Berto (25-0, 19 KOs) is ready to fight for the first time in 11 months as he defends his belt against former titlist Carlos Quintana (27-2, 21 KOs) on Saturday night (HBO, 10:30 ET) at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.

In the co-feature, junior featherweight titlist Celestino Caballero (33-2, 23 KOs) of Panama moves up to featherweight to tangle with Indonesia's Daud Yordan (25-0,19 KOs). A victory could set up Caballero for a July HBO fight against featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa.

While Berto's fourth title defense is important to him, he's determined to use the big stage to bring continued awareness to Haiti's plight. It's why the card is titled "Fighting For Haiti."

"I think this has given him tremendous motivation to train hard and win because the best way he can help Haiti is to increase his own profile so he can use it to bring attention to Haiti and raise money," said Lou DiBella, who promotes Berto and Quintana. "He's very serious about his foundation, and he knows if he loses fights, his profile won't go up and it will be harder to raise money."

Ten percent of the ticket proceeds (and 20 percent from the most expensive $500 tickets) will go to Haitian relief efforts through Berto's Dynasty Foundation and Project Medishare, which is heavily involved in providing medical care in Haiti.

"I've trained for this fight just as hard as for the Mosley fight," Berto said. "There's so much more that I'm trying to accomplish when it comes to this fight. There's a purpose behind this fight. I believe everybody that is blessed with the talent, there's always a purpose. Mine I think is to inspire the kids in my neighborhood or my country, and we'll continue bringing the awareness and the eyes of the world to the victims in Haiti. I am fighting for Haiti."

Once Berto returned from Haiti, getting back to work in the gym wasn't easy, but he said he's prepared to face Puerto Rico's Quintana, 33, the only man to defeat Paul Williams (although Williams stopped him in the first round of their rematch).

"It took some time," said Berto, who plans to return to Haiti later this year for more relief work. "Being in Haiti was mentally and emotionally draining. Seeing as much as we saw, I was at a standstill for a few days. I couldn't register what we had seen. And then to be back here where it's peaceful? I had to take some time and get my mind set. I locked myself in the house for two or three days and tried to register everything that happened.

"After a couple of days of being with my family and trying to understand everything, it made me more hungry to get back in the gym. Of course, by the things I witnessed, they are so vivid you can never lose sight of it. But I have been fully focused on this fight. I'm in tremendous shape. I am just ready to go in there and put on a tremendous show."

DiBella said he was concerned about Berto when the fight was made because of everything he'd been through. However, DiBella is convinced Berto is ready to fight.

"He seems very focused to me, and I was concerned because it's been 11 months since his last fight and he's had a tough stretch," DiBella said. "Emotionally, he seems very at peace and very focused. But I also think he has a very tough fight. Quintana is a very good fighter. When he is on he can beat anyone, as he proved the first time with Williams."

Berto called Quintana a "spoiler-type" and respects him as a quality opponent.

"I'm not looking past him at all," Berto said. "But he's going to be in there dealing with a rough customer that's been having a lot of emotions, and I'm ready to get relief. If he makes mistakes, he's definitely going to pay for it."

Holyfield returns

Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesLike a typical boxer, Evander Holyfield doesn't know when to say when.

Yes, Evander Holyfield, 47, is still fighting and thinking big.

"I'm not finished, yet. I will be champion of the world again," said Holyfield, using his tireless refrain.

The former four-time heavyweight champ faces 41-year-old Francois Botha (47-4-3, 28 KOs) on Saturday night (Integrated Sports PPV, $29.95) on a Crown Boxing-promoted card at the Thomas & Mack Center. It's Holyfield's first bout in Las Vegas since James Toney stopped him at Mandalay Bay in 2003.

"Realistically, everything good happened to me in Las Vegas, starting when I made the 1984 U.S. Olympic team," Holyfield said. "I became the undisputed world cruiserweight champion there [in 1988]. The first time I won the world heavyweight title was there [in 1990]. My second [1993], third [1996] and fourth [2000] heavyweight titles were all won in Las Vegas. It's where I've done my greatest things and I'm really looking forward to fighting back in Las Vegas."

Holyfield (42-10-2, 27 KOs) has lost two in a row, both title bouts. However, his majority decision loss to then-titlist Nikolai Valuev in Switzerland in December 2008 was highly controversial. Holyfield, whose financial difficulties have been well-documented, still has aspirations to win the undisputed title, even that's highly unlikely.

"My goal has simply been to be undisputed heavyweight champion," he said. "I think my attitude is good when people tell me I can't do something. I'm driven by what people say I can't do to prove I can. I'm not disappointed by decisions. I felt I beat Valuev. I won't quit seeking to do my best, and Saturday night you'll see me give my all. If not enough, I'll make adjustments."

Botha's only losses are to Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko and Michael Moorer in title bouts and in a nontitle fight against Mike Tyson.

"We both have a lot of experience and it's going to be a good fight," Botha said. "I know he's going to be right there and he'll be in good condition. This is a chance for me to prove I still got it. Holyfield is coming to prove himself as well. If he doesn't beat me, he's done, and I'm going to make sure that this is his last fight. I'm going to retire him once and for all."

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.


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