Hungry and Dangerous

Let’s just get it out of the way. Everyone sees me as the guy Floyd Mayweather picked to keep his perfect record intact. I know what people are saying. And it means nothing to me.

I mean, yeah, it definitely provides a lot of motivation — fuel to block out the negativity and stay focused. But if I allow myself to dwell on that perception, I’ve already lost. I might as well not even step in the ring. And that’s just not about boxing. I’m talking about life, too. If you take that type of approach in anything, it’s a done deal before you start. Besides, even if Mayweather wasn’t chasing the record, you’re gonna go through some criticism fighting someone like him. That’s just reality. It doesn’t matter in the end, so I’m not worrying about what people say.

Besides, there’s way more to this fight than Mayweather’s place in history. I have a lot riding on Saturday, too. He may be the one with the most to lose, with all the pressure and his undefeated status on the line. But guess what? I’m the one with the most to gain, and that makes me hungry… and dangerous.

It took a long time to get this fight, and along the way I had to ride out a dark period in my life. It was turned upside down when the hurricane ravaged Haiti in 2010. The sadness and depression from losing family there, plus that devastation I witnessed with my own eyes, took a lot of time to move past. And I had to overcome a string of injuries, the lowest point coming when I tore a tendon in my right shoulder against Jesus Soto Karass in 2013. That surgery was one of the toughest things I ever went through. I had to sit my butt down for about nine months rehabbing. It was painful. Rough. I definitely wasn’t prepared for that.

But that time rehabbing also forced me to really put things in perspective. I needed to be honest with myself about lifestyle, a lack of dedication to my sport. I spent a lot of time abusing my body — running around partying and having a great time, eating a lot of bullshit. After weigh-ins, I would go load up on pizza or whatever garbage food that I wanted, the opposite of the type of fuel my body needed. I would eat until I was literally sick to my stomach. I had a lack of respect for boxing, and if you don’t respect the game, the game won’t respect you.

You have to understand your gift, then protect and cherish it. I wasn’t doing that at all.

That injury forced me to think about life and whether I’d be able to come back. Suddenly, I didn’t want to hang out. I didn’t want to party. I didn’t really even want to go outside. I just spent a lot of time alone at home or at church, trying to find some answers, man. But I had to endure that turmoil to prepare me for this moment. It’s God’s plan at the end of the day, and everything led to this point.

I’ve thought a lot about what it would mean to win. First, there’s my connection with Haiti. I represented them in the 2004 Olympics (after getting disqualified from the U.S. team during the trials because I supposedly threw Juan McPherson to the ground). I withdrew from my fight against Shane Mosley after the hurricane not just to grieve lost family, but help the relief effort. The Berto Dynasty Foundation has helped rebuild orphanages, provide fresh water and make a difference throughout Haiti.

One thing about Haitians, we have a lot of pride. In 1804, we established ourselves as the first independent black country. Even through turmoil and distress — hurricanes, earthquakes, disease — pride is maintained. Haiti takes pride in me, and this is the first time anyone has represented the nation at this level in sports. Growing up, you always dream of being successful, but to be able to inspire an entire country in the process is amazing. I’ve been tremendously blessed to be in this position, so I want to use it to the best of my ability.

This fight is a potential game-changer for me. I’m a 100-1 underdog. 100-1! You don’t think the world is going to see Andre Berto completely differently if I’m the one who takes out Floyd Mayweather? I’ll get more respect, and more respect equals more opportunity. Given the hell I went through getting to this point, the stakes couldn’t feel any higher. It’s a potential game-changer for my family and everyone that believes in me. Beyond the pride they’ll take in my victory, it would mean the world to me to repay that never-ending support.

It’s also a potential game-changer for boxing. To have a young kid come in here and defeat Mayweather, it can change the game. Turn it upside down. To have a new face, a new icon in the game that represents something different than just “money and hoes” and acting crazy. I’m not about flashing cash 24/7. It’s shallow, and that whole persona is played out. Boxing could use a brand new, positive face, and I’m doing everything possible to make it happen.

And here’s the thing: I absolutely think I can win.

I have that rare combination of speed and power. That’s one thing that Mayweather hasn’t seen in some time — an opponent with great hand speed, great power and the physical ability to match what he does. No doubt, Mayweather’s sharp, with a capacity to move around and hit without getting hit. Most fighters can’t do that. But I have the aerobic ability to move around like he does. Speed. Power. Combinations. A lot of things that he can do. Check out my fights against Carlos Quintana, Freddy Hernandez or Miguel Angel Rodriguez if you want a sample of what I can do at my best. My team and I have put together a great game plan and we’re ready to work.

I’m also healthier than I’ve been in a long time. I can’t remember too many fights I’ve walked into without an injury. Usually, I have to call upon that warrior mentality to move forward and go to war no matter what happens. But this fight, I’m injury-free. There’s no struggle to make weight. Now I even have a live-in organic chef cooking for me. I’m feeling great.

So take me seriously or take me lightly. I really don’t care.

I’m just focused on completing a task Saturday night, and that’s the only thing that matters.