WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Dieseul "Tiger" Berto, father of world champion boxer Andre Berto, has died. He was 60 years old.
- Best known for Winter Haven gym, "Tiger's World"
- Trained mixed martial arts fighters, helped thousands lose weight
- Credited with bringing mixed martial arts to Florida
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Berto died December 29 after battling an illness, according to his family.
Berto was known for his gym, Tiger’s World, in Winter Haven. It’s where he trained mixed martial arts fighters and helped thousands of others lose weight.
“He created a program called 'Tiger Vascular Cardio Boxing and Weight Loss,'" said Van Adair, one of Berto's trainers. "He was the originator of the first 12 week body transformation challenges."
Adair attended Berto's workout classes and then began working for him.
“The way I want to remember him is him next to me on the mat at Tiger's World in Winter Haven, just telling me 'don’t quit, keep going, keep going,' and I applied that to many things in my life,” Adair said.
Known to many as "Tiger," Berto was injured in a bad car accident years ago and at one point was in a coma. Doctors told him he would never walk again after that crash, but he proved them wrong.
Mixed martial arts fighter John Hosegood said he visited Berto a few days ago.
“He was really upbeat and positive, and right before I left the gravity of the situation sunk in," Hosegood told us. "He knew he didn’t have that much time left."
Berto trained Hosegood in the early 1990s. He credited Berto with helping to bring mixed martial arts to Florida.
“Nobody even knew what it was," recalled Hosegood. "But he had been fighting around the world at that point in Japan and Brazil back when the sport was in its infancy, and he brought that to Florida and started training a handful of those guys."
Hosegood remembers fondly the vigorous workouts.
“We would do conditioning for an hour to an hour-and-a-half before we even started training how to fight, because he said you didn’t have to be the best fighter — you just had to be in the best shape."
Hosegood is positive Berto's legacy will live on.
“The guy, he’s bigger than life," he said. "You just didn’t … it’s hard, it’s hard to imagine somebody like that losing to anything."