Andre Berto is a Florida native, but he has remained heavily committed to Haiti, the birth country of his parents, since an earthquake ravaged the island nation in January 2010.
Berto lost eight relatives in the disaster, after which he pulled out of his upcoming title fight against Shane Mosley and traveled to Haiti, where he spent weeks assisting with relief efforts.
The 31-year-old boxer continues to make regular visits to Haiti as well as charitable contributions through the Berto Dynasty Foundation.
"I just came back from there in November right before I started camp. I was there for about two weeks handling the foundation," Berto said. "We're rebuilding a few of the orphanages down there, we're establishing recreational programs for the kids to keep them off the streets and we've built over 15 freshwater wells in Haiti now. It's a process, so a guy like me, I'm here fighting, but I've got a lot of other things on my heart, as well."
Berto (29-3, 22 KOs) will carry the pride of Haiti into the ring Friday night, when the two-time 147-pound champion fights Josesito Lopez (33-6, 19 KOs) in the debut of the Premier Boxing Champions series on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
"I feel like I'm one of those guys who has been blessed with the talent and who has been blessed with a platform on which to do so much," Berto said. "Boxing is that platform, but there is so much more that I feel that I'm a part of.
"I feel that when you've got so much of a blessing, so much out of your talent, that you need to be able to give back. I believe that it's selfish to keep that all to yourself."
Berto said he keeps in touch with fellow fighters Jean Pascal, Adonis Stevenson and Bermane Stiverne, all of whom have Haitian roots.
"We try to stay connected to each other and support each other,” Berto said. “Everybody has been seeing what [Haiti] has been going through these past few years, so people like us, we give them hope, so all of us try to stay connected. That's just where my heart is. After this fight, I'm out. I’ll be in Haiti handling things."
To prepare for Lopez, Berto has been working with Eric Wilson, a medical massage rehabilitation therapist who is an assistant to Keith Thurman's trainer, Dan Birmingham.
"We've worked on his flexibility and his movement," Wilson said of Berto, who had surgery on his right shoulder in August 2013. "With flexibility comes speed and power, as well as agility and endurance. If the muscles move freely, the body has more endurance and won't tire as easily."
Berto, who will be fighting for the third time under trainer Virgil Hunter, said he’s adjusted his regimen to make himself quicker in the ring.
"I've been on a diet that has been more conducive to me being lean. In the past, it was just so easy for me to put on muscle," Berto said. "I want to be more of a fluid boxer instead of being so tight and so bulky. … I wanted to try not to have any unnecessary muscle on me. That's going to make me move more efficiently, and I'll be faster and slicker."