Berto ready to step up in class against Rivera

Andre Berto will face the toughest challenge of his young career on July 27.
Winter Haven, Florida's own Andre Berto is one of boxing's fastest rising stars. At 23 years of age, with an 18-0 record featuring 16 knockouts, Berto has the in-ring skills that excite fans. He's aggressive, he's very powerful, and he comes to fight. A welterweight, Berto is set to enter the upper echelon of one of boxing's best divisions sometime in the next year.

But, like all 23-year old fighters, Berto hasn't yet faced good competition. The most impressive win on Berto's record came last December against Miguel Figueroa, a sixth-round stoppage where Berto looked every bit like a 147-pound Mike Tyson. Since then, he's destroyed Noberto Bravo and Martinus Clay, neither win much to get excited about. After all, when a fighter has the raw skill that Berto does, fights against Berto and Clay should go exactly as they did.

Everyone knows that it's Berto's time to step up. With two wins on HBO, Berto has become a TV favorite, as well he should. On July 27, he'll head to ESPN2's Friday Night Fights to take on veteran Cosme Rivera, in what should prove to be the toughest test of his blossoming career.

Obviously, there's no mistaking that I am a Berto fan. The kid is flat-out exciting to watch in the ring, as you never know when the decisive power punch could come. He surely still has plenty to learn, but he wasn't going to get that education in the ring against C-level fighters. It's not to say that Rivera is terribly good, but he knows what he's doing in there. At 30 years of age with a 30-10-2 record and 21 knockouts, Rivera could have the savvy to challenge Berto to go outside of his familiar pattern, which is mostly just to look for the KO at all times.

As it stands, Cosme Rivera is the last person that Zab Judah beat, and that is also the only time Rivera has ever been knocked out. He was blasted early and often by Judah, going down twice in the opening round and again in the third round for the TKO. Chino has been in the ring with a lot of good fighters. Andre Berto has not.

Of course, any discussion of the fight is likely all for naught. Berto may not find his rhythm as early as he usually does, but chances are very likely that he knocks out Rivera the same as he's knocked out pretty much everyone else.

What the fight signals is that Andre Berto is moving toward the future, and toward bigger fights. Rivera may not be a star, but he's a definite leap forward from the fighters that Berto has been getting matched against. If he manages to hammer Rivera in his usual fashion, then it just might be time to see him across the ring from a truly good fighter.

All indications are that Andre Berto is going to be a champion and a serious force. The fight against Cosme Rivera should lend some insight as to how close he is to reaching that goal. Even though he's still very young, he could already be knocking on that door.

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