Welterweight contender Robert Guerrero is supremely confident heading into his HBO-televised clash with two-time 147-pound beltholder Andre Berto, of Winter Haven, Fla., on Nov. 24 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
“I don’t think that he’s seen anything like me in his pro career or during his amateur career like what I bring to the table. I know that the game plan that we’re going to put together is going to be very effective against Andre Berto,” said Guerrero, who will be after his 15th consecutive victory and his 10th knockout during that run.
“I come to fight. Just coming out doing my thing and working hard and breaking him down and looking him into his eyes. The last time that he had somebody in there breaking him down and putting it on him, when they looked at his eyes, they were looking up at the clock.”
A former IBF and WBC title-winner, Berto (28-1, 22 knockouts) tested positive for the banned substance norandrosterone under the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, forcing the cancelation of a remacth against Victor Ortiz that was scheduled for June.
Having blamed the positive test result on a contaminated substance, Berto, 29, was granted a one-year license by the California State Athletic Commission in July to fight in the state after having tested negative for “anabolic steroids and masking agents.”
Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KOs) initially turned down an offer to face Berto over concerns regarding his positive test, however, the fighters have contractually agreed to mandatory drug testing by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
“[The drug testing] evens the playing field to where you know that if you do anything, then you know it’s going to show up,” said Guerrero. “You know, with him having tested positive once already, it would really tarnish his career completely if he does do anything.”
Berto was decisioned and dethroned as WBC titleholder by Ortiz in April of last year during a fight that featured two knockdowns each by both boxers.
Berto rebounded with a fifth-round knockout that dethroned IBF welterweight titleholder Jan Zaveck in September, stopping the Slovenian-born fighter for the first time in his career, but gave up the belt to face Ortiz in a non-title fight.
Counting Ortiz, Guerrero, 29, represents the fifth southpaw Berto will have faced in seven fights, including unanimous decision victories over ex-beltholder Luis Collazo and Juan Urango in January and May of 2009, and an eighth-round stoppage of Carlos Quintana in April of 2010 that ended an 11-month ring absence.
“As far as me not carrying my power at 147 pounds?” said Guerrero, who was fighting in his sixth weight class against Turkish-born Selcuk Aydin in July, having started out as a junior featherweight.
“You know, Collazo don’t carry power at 147 pounds, and I saw Berto get hurt pretty badly in that fight. So, when you have a soft chin, all that it takes is a feather to put you down.”
Guerrero is coming off a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Aydin (23-1, 17 KOs) for the WBC’s interim belt, having ended a 15-month ring abscence by rising two weight divisions for his 147-pound debut at the H.P. Pavillion near Guerrero’s hometown of Gilroy, Calif.
A winner of six belts (including three interim titles) over three weight classes, Guerrero last suffered defeat by a split-decision to Gamaliel Diaz in December 2005, but won their rematch with a sixth-round knockout in June 2006.
Before facing Aydin, Guerrero had last been in the ring in April of last year, when he unanimously decisioned Michael Katsidis in a lightweight bout.
In September of last year, Guerrero had arthroscopic surgery which repaired a torn tendon in the rotator cuff of his shoulder. The injury forced him to cancel a bout that was set for August of last year against then-junior welterweight Marcos Maidana.
Guerrero shared more of his thoughts with RingTV on the Berto fight below.
Robert Guerrero: On whether he can be as dominant in terms of the rounds won, and as versatile against Berto as he has over the course of his last four, route-going victories:
“It’s nice when you can do different styles like that, and your opponent doesn’t know what you’re going to come in as. So when you watch film on me, I’m doing a bunch of different things. I’ve done that throughout my whole career.
“The one thing that you can see every fight is that I’m growing and I’m getting better and better. That’s what it’s about is getting better. You see other fighters and they max out and they top out. They can only do one thing or change to a different style.
“But it takes them forever to transition into it. Most of the time, though, it hurts them. So with me, I’m able to adapt, and to work up a game plan for each individual fighter. It’s truly a God-given talent and a God-given gift.”
On his belief that Berto has not faced a fighter with his overall skills and versatility:
“I don’t think that he’s seen anything like me in his pro career or during his amateur career like what I bring to the table. I know that the game plan that we’re going to put together is going to be very effective against Andre Berto.
“It’s going to be hard for him to put a pin-point on what I’m going to do in the ring, because of the versatility that I have in the ring.
“Because I can change things up and become an entirely different fighter the next fight. So he’s going to be like, ‘whoa, where did this come from?,’ and, ‘I didn’t see this [coming.]'”
On why he decided to take the fight, given that he turned it down earlier because of his concern with Berto’s positive drug test:
“The way everything has been going down, you know, with the VADA testing, it’s bringing all of that darkness to light. Everybody that is on something is testing positive. That’s the way that I think about the boxing game.
“Now they’re re-enforcing the drug and steroid issue, and, especially, that’s why we pushed hard for it to be in California, too.
“Because the California State Commission has really upped their game on dealing with the drug testing. You know, working with UCLA and doing their drug testing.
“It really is strong now. Having a lot of faith in the California Commission, and USADA testing, it evens the playing field to where you know that if you do anything, then you know it’s going to show up.
“You know, with him having tested positive once already, it would really tarnish his career completely if he does do anything.”
On Berto’s potential rust coming off the 13-month layoff versus the 15-month one he overcame in defeating Aydin:
“For one thing, fighting that off, it was about staying mentally strong and maintaining that mental stability. From everything that I’ve been through, in and out of the ring, it prepares you for that. It is going to be tough for him, but I can’t take somebody like him lightly.
“I know he’s been training for a while already and that he’s been staying in shape and itching to get back into the ring. I know how that feels to be itching to get back in. So I know that he has that itch, and he wants to get back out there and he wants to prove himself again, so I have to be prepared for him.
“That being said, also, everybody says that it’s like riding a bike and it comes back easily. But when you do get back on that bike, and you haven’t been on it for a while, then you are going to wobble a little bit before you get it going. But with a guy like me, you know, if you wobble, then you’re going to get knocked down.”
On his view that Berto’s has not improved since the loss to Ortiz, and Berto’s perception that Guerrero doesn’t carry power into the welterweight division:
“As far as being a better fighter, I didn’t see it against Zaveck. I just saw the same old Berto. He was just a little stronger. As far as me not carrying my power at 147 pounds? You know, Collazo don’t carry power don’t carry power at 147 pounds, and I saw Berto get hurt pretty badly in that fight.
“So, when you have a soft chin, all that it takes is a feather to put you down. Just put it this way: Aydin has never been down, ever, in his entire career. That’s 300-some amateur fights, the Olympics, and as a professional, he was undefeated and he’s never touched the canvas.
“But when I did hit him, he was seeing double. So, you know, having a guy that can take a shot, and you’re hitting him, and a guy that can also give a shot, there’s some guys that you just ain’t going to knock out. There are some guys that you just aren’t going to put down.
“And the one thing about Aydin, not having a big name, not having very people knowing too much about him, you don’t find out until you get in with him and you feel the shots. So, all that I know is that he was the mandatory at 147 for the past three years, and somebody always stepped around him and didn’t fight him.”
On how much he can improve from his fight with Aydin to that with Berto:
“I’m going to be a thousand times better. Coming out of that long, and having had to have shoulder surgery, you know, I may have said that ‘the shoulder’s great, and it feels good, and it feels strong.’
“But always in the back of your mind, going into your first fight coming back, you’re kind of hesitant. You’re kind of hesitant on tearing it or doing anything on it.
“So the one thing about surgery, people say, ‘oh, it will just accept the surgery.’ But you just never know until you use it full blast, and with Aydin, you see me standing and trading with him with power shots.
“You didn’t see me boxing him on the outside. But now, I know that I can go a full blown 12 rounds with somebody who is super strong, body-wise, and who is a hard puncher and that I can take a shot.
“I hit him with some hard shots. Some power shots, and that was the ultimate test for my shoulder, where, during camp, I was kind of being hesitant on my shoulder and not doing the heavy, heavy work.
“But now, I know that I can really go to work, because I know that I’ve tested it full throttle, and with full power. So, now I can really work on building it up and throwing it like a fastball, man.”
“Well, I’m going to come out strong. Everybody knows that I’m going to come out strong. I come to fight. Just coming out doing my thing and working hard and breaking him down and looking him into his eyes.
“The last time that he had somebody in there breaking him down and putting it on him, when they looked at his eyes, they were looking up at the clock.”
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Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com