Tony Morgan and Andre Berto training in Van Nuys, California in January 2012 (Photo: Chris Robinson – www.HustleBoss.com)
By Chris Robinson
Throughout his eight-year professional career, Winter Haven, Florida’s Andre Berto has undeniably accomplished a lot. Having twice held portions of the welterweight championship, Berto graced HBO’s airwaves on numerous occasions while earning some very healthy paydays along the way.
There’s also no questioning the importance that trainer Tony Morgan played in helping guide Berto towards becoming a top-level prizefighter. Having met Berto when he was just ten years old and still fresh into the sport, Morgan and his pupil enjoyed quite the ride and seemed to have the recipe for success under any and all situations.
However, on the heels of his upset defeat at the hands of Robert Guerrero this past November, Berto decided to make some changes with his team, as it was announced in late February that he and Morgan were parting ways.
And while Berto has since resurfaced and found his place amongst Northern California-based Virgil Hunter’s growing stable, Morgan is still left with a feeling of bemusement at how his relationship with a man he considered to be practically his son has changed.
Read below for some highlights from my one on one with Morgan, as he gives his best account of why things between his former star fighter may have gone wrong.
Being caught off guard by Berto’s decision…
“It kind of caught me by surprise, I guess. I was kind of out of the loop. I had went to his house; he lived out in California a while back. He rented a place in California and he rented a place in Atlanta at one time. I had a chat with him before he left and he’s like ‘We need to make some changes’ and I said ‘Yeah, we definitely do Bert. You need to get your head cleared and we need to get things in order. We need to go back to our roots, back to the basics like we used to and get hungry and go at it hard like we used to.’ Let’s get hungry again, get over all this Hollywood sh*t, all the people around, all the extra antics. Let’s just go back to hard work. And he said ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’”
Looking for a clear answer from his fighter…
“I pretty much figured we’d talked about it and I see online that he’s putting a new team together. And I call him up and I said ‘Hey bro, I’m going to be out at the [Adrien] Broner fight’ and I said ‘Why don’t you fly out and we’ll sit down and we’ll have a chat.’ I said ‘I saw your little video and what’s that mean?’ and he said ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ He never showed up and I was like ‘Well, maybe there’s more to this than I think.’ So, I called him up when I got back and I said ‘Bert, is there something you’re trying to tell me?’”
His last conversation with Berto…
“I mean, I [understood] where he was coming from. Bert’s never been real direct with getting his point across. Sometimes I think he thinks people just know. And I guess I kind of did feel it. But, I wanted to hear it come from his mouth. I didn’t want to hear it come from online. I asked him flat-out ‘Are we done?’ He kept trying to beat behind the bush. I asked him flat-out ‘Bert, it’s a yes or no question. Cut the BS. It’s yes or no.’ and he said ‘Well, yeah man.’ I said ‘Can I ask you a question?’ and he said ‘Yeah.’ I said ‘Have you ever lost a fight when you listened to what I ask for?’ I said, have you ever lost a fight when you listen to what I told you?’ He said ‘No.’ and I said ‘Ok, that’s all I want to know.’ That was the last time I talked to him.”
Reflecting on the loss to Victor Ortiz in April of 2011…
“It’s not the hunger. It’s something mental. I don’t know if it’s the southpaw mentality where he can’t pull the trigger. We fought [Victor] Ortiz, it was mental, but he did something very stupid before that fight. He didn’t hydrate and fuel right. When I watched the weigh-ins and I noticed he only put on five pounds. Normally he will put on 15 to 20. I was worried, but I never really said nothing, because I didn’t want him to be worried. After the fight I asked him ‘Bert, why were you so light?’ and he was like ‘Well, I thought I would be faster.’”
Bouncing back to defeat Jean Zaveck…
“I’m the type of guy, when it’s done, it’s done. And that fight was done so we moved on to the next one. And we fought Jean Zaveck and he looked like a little monster. He was getting touched, and I told him in the corner ‘Bert, I think you’re getting hit too much bro’ and he was just walking through everything. He was landing big shots, and I knew sooner or later, something was going to bust. Whether it be a glove or Zaveck’s face. It had to be Zaveck’s face. I knew people said Bert was getting touched, but he never breathed hard at all.”
A different mentality heading into the Robert Guerrero fight…
“And then, in the Guerrero fight, I always watch tape; he never watches tape, but I always watch and I put the plan together. This time he wanted to watch tape; he was worried. Like I tell everybody, ‘People can say whatever they want. Yeah, Guerrero beat Berto; no excuses. Hands down, he beat him.’ But on an average day, you bring Guerrero to my gym, I’ll put him in eights and I’ll put Berto in twenties and he’ll destroy him inside of three or four rounds. Not beat him, destroy him. But his mentality, I don’t know, something was in his head. I don’t know what it was.”
Wanting the best for Berto…
“I mean, it worries me, because I want to see the kid do well. The kid’s phenomenal. People say ‘Oh, he has no footwork.’ Berto can do it all. You ask anybody that’s fought Berto, he can do it all. Does he always? No. Sometimes he does what he does to get by. But, never in my life, would I thought I saw what I saw against Guerrero. He could just not get it together. Everything we worked on was out the window. It pretty much was just trying to get his head on track, trying to get his mind going. But if he would have just grasped it for a second, it would have been over. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if he knows what it is. But I know him probably as good or if not better than anybody. And I don’t know. It’s bad, because I want to see him do well.”
Never imagining that the relationship could be broken…
“I mean, of course I thought we’d be together forever. That’s what you always think. You never want to think that you need to worry about, for all the time you spend, that the relationship can be broken. But when you’re at this stage of the game, I guess that there are so many people in your ear. Do I blame anybody else for it? No. I don’t know who is to blame for it. When you ask ‘Is it bittersweet?’ I really don’t know how it is. I’m always the type of person that you do what you do and you carry on. If something bad happens, you just move on. The main thing is, you can’t change yesterday, you can only change tomorrow. And if that’s the choice he made, that’s the choice he made.”
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Chris Robinson can be reached at Trimond@aol.com