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Will Andre Berto be able to return to the top of the welterweight division?

Create: Tom Casino / Showtime

Berto Returning to Much Different 147 lbs Landscape:

On September 6, Andre Berto will begin a major comeback against an as of yet unnamed opponent. Berto will have been sidelined for more than a year by a shoulder injury and the attendant shoulder therapy, similar to the problems suffered by Berto’s friend and gym-mate Andre Ward (Berto and Ward go to the same physical therapist).

Although Berto’s career was derailed by a bad defeat to Roberto Guerrero and an upset loss to Jesus Soto-Karass prior to his medical leave from the sport, Berto’s torn shoulder tendon was only the culmination of a string of arm injuries. Prior to injuring his shoulder in the Soto-Karass fight (and that injury goes a long way to explaining his loss in any case), Berto had suffered two separate torn biceps injuries.

Now that he has had the necessary attention and time off to heal, presumably he should be ready for another good run under new trainer Virgil Hunter. At age 30, Berto should have four to six good years left to pursue that run in.

Yet things have changed quite a bit in the welterweight division since Berto was defeated in a barn-burner by Victor Ortiz in April 2011. Just for starters, he has little need to seek a rematch with Victor Ortiz, since “Vicious” self-destructed in the ring against Floyd Mayweather and has slumped into obscurity since.

Perhaps the most obvious course for Andre Berto is to seek a rematches with Soto-Karass and #9-ranked contender Roberto Guerrero. Also, word has it that #9-ranked 140-pounder and perennial loudmouth Adrien Broner has expressed interest in a fight with Berto “if the price is right.” What makes the latter suggestion intriguing is that Broner is also on the September 6 fight card.

Even if Guerrero proves hard to get and Broner turns out to just be blowing hot air again, Berto has plenty of options once he gets tuned up. The 147-pound weight class is full of guys who came up from 140 lbs during the time when Berto was in trouble or on hiatus, and some represent good potential match-ups for the mix of speed, grace and power than the old Andre Berto was known for. I would give a 100% Berto good odds against Devon Alexander, Brandon Rios, Luis Collazo and Paulie Malignaggi, for example. On a different level, Amir Khan, Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez might both be looking for a marquee name to fight next year, and a fit and ready Berto would make an entertaining opponent for any of the three, albeit certainly not as the odds favorite.

The bottom line is that a recovered Berto can shake off his rust and become a Top 5 contender in the welterweight division by the end of 2015, if he plays his cards right. That would make him a very hot commodity, as well as a well-positioned one should Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather need an opponent. The real question is whether he has truly recovered, and having done so can stay injury free for the next few years.