Many fans questioned Robert Guerrero’s welterweight fight with undefeated contender Selcuk Aydin. The former featherweight and 130-pound titleholder had been out of the ring for more than a year and he’d never fought above lightweight prior to the Showtime-televised bout on July 28.
However, Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 knockouts) outboxed and outslugged the rugged Turk over 12 hard rounds, earning a unanimous decision in his 147-pound debut. The Gilroy, Calif., native immediately wanted to fight a welterweight player with a “name” to solidify his place in the 147-pound mix.
Enter: Andre Berto. The former two-time welterweight titleholder will fight Guerrero in an HBO Championship Boxing headliner on Nov. 24 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
And now Berto is the fighter many fans are questioning. He hasn’t fought since beating Jan Zaveck last September. His rematch with Victor Ortiz, who beat him in the Fight of the Year for 2011, was postponed from February to June after he suffered an injury his biceps. It was cancelled when he tested positive for a banned substance.
Berto’s management and legal team convinced the California State Athletic Commission that the positive test was the result of contamination from a nutritional supplement or food, so the Winter Haven, Fla., native was cleared to fight (just in California), but members of the media wonder if he’s ready for a fighter as difficult as Guerrero after so much drama and inactivity.
Berto isn’t worried. At least he didn’t seem worried during a recent media conference call.
“Me and Aydin are two completely different fighters,” Berto said. “Aydin just kept his hands in tight and walked forward like a punching bag all night. Robert did what he had to do and he looked good.”
Berto was asked if he was concerned about Guerrero’s southpaw stance, given that his one loss was to Ortiz, who is also left-handed. The 29-year-old veteran dismissed the notion.
“A lot of people don’t know what went on behind the scenes before (the Ortiz) fight,” he said. “I wasn’t where I needed to be at all for that fight. I’m not going to speak too much on it, but I was trying new things in training that backfired on me. It affected my body terribly. I had to go to the hospital after that fight. I wasn’t 100 percent but we still put on a great fight for the fans.”
Berto says Ortiz and Guerrero have very different styles.
“Ortiz is more of a pressure fighter, he tries to get you to the ropes and bang it out. Guerrero is more of a boxer who likes to measure his opponents, use his range and time and turn you when he can.
“He did that against Aydin but again, I don’t fight like Aydin. He’s flat footed. He puts his block up and he’s a wall, he’s a strong wall, as Guerrero said. But it’s easy to time and turn a guy who is in a shell.”
Berto assured the media that he won’t be as easy to box, which is okay with Guerrero, who believes he can adapt to any style.
“Aydin did come and take some punches but he wasn’t a punching bag,” Guerrero said. “He was strong and determined. Andre Berto is a different fighter. Styles make fights and I’m happy with my style – I can bring different styles and I can make adjustments during a fight.”
Guerrero says he’s bringing more than a multidimensional style to the fight, he’s bringing intensity.
“We’re jumping on the Autobahn for this fight,” he said. “We’re going pedal to the metal, we’re going fast and we’re going hard.”
One member of the media noted that Guerrero seemed “a little more feisty,” in terms of his comments, going into the Berto fight than he usually is.
“I’m always feeling like that,” Guerrero replied. “A lot of people are befuddled because now I’m speaking up. I used to be the guy who just did his work and laid back, but unfortunately, if you don’t open your mouth in this business nothing gets done. I’ve won titles in three weight classes, it’s time for me to step out and make things happen.”
Berto hopes Guerrero brings his new feisty attitude into the ring, believing it will play right into his heavy hands.
“My speed, definitely, my power, and explosiveness (is my advantage),” Berto said. “Robert is a tough, crafty southpaw, so we’ve been working with some tremendous sparring partners to be prepared for him.”
Berto says his preparation will take care of his inactivity.
“We’ve been having tremendous work here (at his camp in Winter haven, Fla.), working with tremendous southpaws,” he said. “I’m in great shape. If there is some (ring) rust it should shake off quickly because I’ve been working my ass off.”
Guerrero has also trained hard, and having been in the same position that Berto was prior to his last fight, he expects the former titleholder to bring it.
“You’re just as good as your last fight,” he said. “You always have to come out and impress. That’s what we’re working on, going out and getting that ‘W,’ whether it’s a short night or not.”