Andre Berto says hard road gives him a shot to beat Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The way Andre Berto figures it, he’s been tested for a deeper purpose.
The layoff because of a positive drug test that was overturned. The shoulder injury that caused a loss, fear that his career was over and humbling time away to discover resolve.
Now, two years after being vulnerable to placement on boxing’s high scrap heap, Berto, 31, has a Sept. 12 date with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (48-0) at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
It’s a puncher’s chance to spoil the welterweight champion’s plans to match late heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record at retirement. Mayweather says this will be his final fight.
“It’s a wild and crazy situation,” Berto told the Los Angeles Times in a Tuesday night telephone conversation.
Former welterweight world champion Berto (30-3, 23 knockouts) last fought in March, knocking out Riverside’s Josesito Lopez in the sixth round in Ontario.
It was a redemption of sorts from his loss at the same arena in 2012 to Robert Guerrero, in which he was left with two badly swollen eyes -- a loss that cost Berto a shot then at Mayweather.
Berto knows there needs to be more to sell his Mayweather bout than the interest in the unbeaten fighter’s bid for history.
“Everybody knows what I bring to the table. They know I have speed and power, and they know I’ll fight until my last [arm] isn’t attached,” Berto said. “They’ve seen me get knocked down to get up and fight harder.
“I’ve fought with a torn shoulder for 12 rounds (in a 2013 loss to Jesus Soto Karass). Would Floyd endure that kind of pain? You already know how I’ll respond -- that I’ll push the pace and make the fight as exciting as possible. Floyd hasn’t fought this kind of speed since Zab Judah. It’s an exciting fight, for sure.”
Mayweather, 38, said in a prepared statement when the Showtime pay-per-view bout was announced Tuesday that Berto is “a young, strong fighter who is hungry to take down the best.”
There is tangible public disinterest for the bout given Mayweather’s May defeat of Manny Pacquiao in the richest bout in boxing history. Choosing Berto is seen by many as an anti-climactic ending.
“The guys who have failed ... they couldn’t keep up with [Mayweather],” Berto said. “I’ve got certain tools -- speed, explosiveness -- that other guys haven’t had. I’m very confident and will bring something to the table we haven’t seen. They can doubt it if they want, but I can tell you, you don’t want to miss it.”
Berto said a vivid understanding of the path it took him to get here is a factor that shouldn’t be overlooked.
He said before beating Lopez, “I didn’t think I was going to be able to be in this position to fight anymore, to be honest. I thought my career was probably going to be over because the injury ... I’ve never been through anything like that in my life and it was just so taxing on me, and I really had to learn how to use my right hand, my right arm all over again.
“When a man goes through that, when he goes through those type of obstacles and he doesn’t have any choice but to stay focused and stay prayed up and seek God on a lot of different angles and areas, you have no choice but to be a different man, a different animal. Do you know what I’m saying?”
Berto said he continues taking stock of the lessons of his journey.
“I’m here for a reason. These situations don’t just happen,” Berto said. “I was right there in line to fight Floyd before the  drug situation. ... It just forced me to sit ... down for months, to go through that pain and let it register.
“It forced me to get things straight in my life after all of those things. A lot was coming at me early when I was young and wild, spending a lot of money. I went through a process that let me know my gift can be taken away at any time.”
Berto and Mayweather will appear in Los Angeles on Thursday at a private news conference to further discuss the bout.
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire
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