Food for thought as Andre Berto enlists Victor Conte


If the stakes of the April 16 welterweight title bout between Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz were ever in question, consider not just the result of that fight but the outcomes for the two men involved.

The gutsy, thrilling 12-round decision win earned Ortiz the WBC belt and propelled him into a Sept. 17 pay-per-view payday against future hall-of-famer and current cash cow Floyd Mayweather.

But that same gutsy, thrilling 12-round shootout earned Berto two distinctly different rewards — a rebound bout against IBF champ Jan Zaveck (Sept. 3, HBO), and a trip to the office of Victor Conte.

Yes, that Victor Conte, the guy behind BALCO, “The Cream,” and “The Clear,” and the self-made chemist who oversaw the doping programs of Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and (allegedly) Barry Bonds.

Conte served four months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids, and since returning to civilian life he maintains he no longer dabbles in doping.

A growing list of pro athletes believes him.

His work with British sprinter (and former BALCO client) Dwain Chambers is well-documented, and Chambers credits Conte with inventing the training methods that helped him cover 60 metres in a Ben Johnsonesque 6.42 seconds.

And in the U.S. Conte — a former bass player for Tower of Power and good friend Lenny “Cuz I Love You” Williams — is a nutritional consultant to a growing number of pro boxers. Super-middleweight champ Andre Ward is a client, as are bantamweigh king Nonito Donaire and former 140 and 147-pound champ Zab Judah.

And now so is Berto, who learned he was anemic after losing to Ortiz and who hopes a scientifically calibrated diet and supplement regimen will solve the problems that led to his first career loss.

He might be right, especially if Conte has concocted a vitamin that will teach Berto to slip a jab or roll with a power punch.

This isn’t to downplay the importance of nutrition for elite pro athletes. Feeding a world class boxer the way you’d feed a sportswriter is like putting 87-octane gas from Olco in a Formula One race car. The engine might run on that low-grade fuel, but not very well and not for very long.

But it often takes a mature athlete to figure that out, so props to Berto for finally getting serious about supporting both his training sessions and his post-workout recovery through specialized nutrition.

Still, if a brand new diet were all a fighter needed to succeed Zab Judah would have done more against Amir Khan than back away, absorb punches and hit the ground from the first serious body shot he took.

Conte did his job in training camp.

Judah headed into that fight dense with fresh slabs of muscle, yet still made weight easily.

But Conte’s work didn’t address Judah’s three biggest deficiencies — chin, heart and skill.

Granted, Berto’s desire has never been a variable.

In January 2009 he defended his WBC crown against Luis Collazo largely by mustering the guts to mount the last-round rally that saved the fight.

Everything else, however, is a question.

Berto might possess the most dynamic combination of strength and speed in the division, but until now has been the boxing equivalent of the cornerback with legit 4.2 speed who never bothers to learn how to cover, figuring he can always outrun his mistakes.

That approach works just fine until suddenly it doesn’t. And if you don’t believe me ask Ahmad Carroll.

Berto’s explosive enough to stun opponents who aren’t prepared for his speed, powerful enough to put guys to sleep with a single shot, and determined enough to overpower his flaws.

Like his shaky chin (Cosme Rivera once dropped him).

And his indifference to defense, subtle skills and strategy (see: bouts vs Collazo, Ortiz).

That approach carried Berto to a world title and five successful defenses. It worked perfectly until the day it didn’t, when Ortiz met force with force, determination with determination, and bested Berto in a brawl that Berto could have won with just a little boxing.

I’m not disputing Berto’s assertion that poor nutrition helped him gas out against Ortiz, but I also know fighters are a lot more energy efficient when they’re not getting bashed in the body and head.

Which Berto does each time he steps up in class.

You don’t solve that problem by hiring a superstar nutritionist.

You do it by devising solid strategy in training camp and receiving sound advice on your corner on fight night.

And if Berto can’t address that issue he’ll always be what he is right now.

An world-class talent but just good enough to get beat against the division’s best.

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Comments
5 Responses to “Food for thought as Andre Berto enlists Victor Conte”
  1. Kudos for comparing Ahmad Carroll to Andre Berto, but maybe Ahmad Carroll is a “low blow” to Berto. How about Deangelo Hall? LOL

    -Ed.

    • Hahaha…yeah mebbe Ahmad Carroll was a little harsh, but I had to exaggerate to make the point.

      In other Berto news… I’m SO glad all that Body Art was temporary. If there’s one BIG sign of trouble with a fighter, it’s a post-loss tattoos designed to remind him to believe in himself…See: Mosely, Shane; Cotto, Miguel.

  2. I am so glad you mentioned both Collazo & Cosme “CHINO” Rivera who I believe should have won and could have won Berto just got lucky.

    Against Collazo I actually felt Berto should have lost and should give Luis his well deserved rematch.

    Against Rivera well Berto’s lucky the ref saved him by constantly getting in Cosme’s way as el CHINO was on the attack. Berto wasn’t just hurt bad in that fight he was EXPOSED

    I love the fact that you mentioned boxing ain’t just power & speed it’s all about skills and Berto well he got no skills which is why he is and probably will always be an average JOE nothing more.

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  1. […] Friday we examined his relationship with Victor Conte, and questioned whether hiring a nutritionist help transform him talented but flawed former champ to a pound-for-pound contender. […]

  2. […] until I figure out what makes Hernandez different from his former BALCO colleague Victor Conte, who has managed to work with several high profile fighters without arousing suspicions of […]



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