Andre Berto believes Floyd Mayweather is no longer the fighter he was.
Berto, who takes on the welterweight champion in Las Vegas on September 12, said on Tuesday he was blocking out the hype ahead of their title bout.
He has lost three of his last six fights and is a long-shot underdog but the 31-year-old two-time former champion believes he is in the best shape of his life.
Mayweather, who intends to retire after the fight, infuriated boxing fans in handpicking Berto when there were more than half a dozen more attractive, but more dangerous, fighters in the division.
The champion will match the 49-0 record of former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano if defeats Berto.
But Berto, who has a professional record of 30-3, including 23 knockouts, is laughing off all the talk of records and Mayweather’s propensity for showing off his wealth on social media and on television.
“I don’t get caught up in all that. I don’t get caught up in all the hoopla and all the crazy [stuff],” Berto told reporters in a conference call.
“I don’t want to get caught up and caught off guard. I’m on a mission.”
He was similarly dismissive of people eager to point out his three defeats, one of which came when he had a shoulder injury that required surgery, leaving him fearing for his career.
“I never really care too much about people hating on my situation. I’ve had haters since I was at high school; when I was stealing their girlfriends and all that,” said Berto, who was born in the United States but identifies heavily with Haiti, where his family are from.
“If you are not doing something right, they are not going to hate on you. I don’t care too much about criticism.”
FEELS THE HEAT
Berto says he has the speed, power and hunger to spring a big surprise at the MGM Grand. He believes Mayweather is starting to feel the heat at the age of 38.
Some critics say Mayweather has become slightly easier to hit, although he had more than enough defensvce skills to put Manny Pacquiao to the sword in his last bout.
Berto says he sees some chinks in Mayweather’s armour. “He’s definitely showing some slippage throughout the years. But he’s one of those guys who doesn’t abuse his body and he’s always respected the sport.
“If you respect the sport, the sport is going to respect you. But you can be as sharp as you want, it only takes one slip moment for somebody to capitalise on it.”
Asked about being a rank outsider, a relaxed-sounding Berto alluded to troubled times in his past, saying: “I don’t know the odds and I have not looked at the odds.
“I don’t take time out of my day to sit down and look at the odds and see what other people think.
“If that was the case, I should not have made it out of where I came from, because those odds were slimmer than none. If I’d looked at those odds I’d be sitting … probably trying to figure it out on the streets, smoking weed.
“Where I come from, there was a lot worse than anything in that ring. Where my people come from, there’s a lot worse than anything in that ring.”