Redemption is the theme of the first Spike TV “Premier Boxing Champions” series orchestrated by powerful manager Al Haymon.
Main-event participants Josesito Lopez of Riverside and former welterweight world champion Andre Berto are each looking for a March 13 victory of significance to help them shed the stain of their high-profile losses in recent history.
Lopez (33-6, 19 knockouts) has claimed three consecutive victories over lesser foes, but he still needs to prove he can beat a high-caliber welterweight after losing by sixth-round technical knockout in 2013 against Marcos Maidana.
“I’m ready to get back on a big stage,” Lopez said. “I feel good at 147. It hasn’t been easy making the transition, but I feel good and strong and feel the best me is coming March 13.
“Instead of hurting myself getting to 140, I’m going to make myself stronger and more athletic and fight at 147. Coming out victorious would make everything possible. I’m one step behind. I’ve got to take that leap.”
The 31-year-old Berto (29-3, 22 KOs) has lost three of his past five fights, including a swollen-eyes defeat to Robert Guerrero in 2012 and a TKO loss to Jesus Soto-Karass in 2013.
“I understand the magnitude of it,” Berto said. “This is the second chapter of my career.
Lopez is “a game fighter. So am I,” Berto said.
After getting thumbed in both eyes in the Ontario bout against Guerrero and “not knowing how to react to it,” Berto suffered a career-threatening shoulder injury a year later that required surgery.
“It’s just seemed that wasn’t my time and it started playing with me mentally,” Berto said. “I don’t believe these guys [including Victor Ortiz, who took his World Boxing Council title in 2011] are on my level. I had to sit down and understand it all, reassess my situation.”
He was forced to do so by the shoulder injury, suffered in the third round of the Soto-Karass loss.
“I went through a seven-month rehab, re-learning how to use my shoulder, my hand,” Berto said. “I was in a real depressing point. I didn’t think I’d be able to fight again when they took the cast off and my shoulder was frozen. I went through three months of them pulling and yanking on me to get the mobility back. I thought it might be a done deal for me.
“Boxing was taken away from me. Now, I view it as a gift. I spent a lot of time in church because I got to a point I didn’t want to talk to anybody and nobody was reaching out to me. I feel like I’ve found the answers now.”
Berto then joined Andre Ward and Amir Khan’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, and claimed a September victory by decision over Steve Chambers. He said his jab is much better “because I could only work with my left hand for so long.
“My hunger is crazy.”
Lopez, 30, said, “I haven’t been this excited about a fight since” upsetting Ortiz in 2012 at Staples Center, “and I feel the same way.”
Berto said the potential to fight on a cable network after previously fighting on premium networks is an ideal format to rebuild his name.
“Al has told us, ‘You guys are going to be in 100 million homes, you guys perform like you’ve been performing, and we’re going to capture a whole new audience,’ ” Berto said. “It’s going to take us to a whole different level, turn us into household names.
“This is why guys like Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran became so big. They were on free television all the time.”