Two-time welterweight titleholder Andre Berto will be ending a 15-month ring absence when he challenges WBC interim beltholder Robert Guerrero, who has vowed to test Berto’s “soft chin” during Saturday night’s HBO-televised clash at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
Berto (28-1, 22 knockouts) tested positive for the banned substance norandrosterone under the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, forcing the cancelation of a rematch 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.
“Everybody’s guilty until they’re proven innocent, and he was proven innocent. Like he said, he hired the right people, he took the proper steps, and did the right things to get back licensed, and we go from there,” said Guerrero.
“But I’ve been in situations with people who’ve been on steroids and been in the ring with somebody on steroids, so we take real caution against that. Because every time we step in that ring, we’re putting our life on the line. And when somebody enhances, they’re playing with somebody’s life.”
After being 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 took the IBF welterweight belt from Jan Zaveck in September.
GUERRERO LOOKS TO CONTINUE HIS RUN
Guerrero will be after his 15th consecutive victory and his 10th knockout during that run against Berto, having scored July’s Showtime-televised unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Selcuk Aydin.
Aydin represented Guerrero’s 147-pound debut, and took place before a hometown crowd at HP Pavillion in San Jose, Calif., with his cancer-survivor wife, Casey Guerrero, and her donor, Katharina Zech, of Germany, sitting at ringside.
Berto was also ringside for Guerrero-Aydin, and offered his assessment.
“I had to actually go to do some things for the commission, so I was actually there at the fight. I think he put on a good performance. By the end of the day, like I said, me and Aydin, we’re two completely different fighters,” said Berto.
“Aydin basically kept his hand tied and just changes in his style like a punching bag all night. But like I said, Robert did what he had to do. He came in there, and I think he looked good at the weight, and he did what he had to do. He stayed busy and kept turning him all night; and fighting a guy like Aydin, that’s what you have to do.”
The Guerrero-Berto undercard will also include a contracted 152-pound bout between hard-punching welterweight Keith Thurman (18-0, 17 KOs) and former WBO 147-pound beltlholder Carlos Quintana (29-3, 23 KOs).
WILL MIGUEL COTTO’S THIRD FIGHT WITH TRAINER PEDRO DIAZ BE ANOTHER CHARM?
Miguel Cotto will be in his third fight under trainer Pedro Diaz when he faces junior middleweight contender Austin Trout in their Showtime-televised fight on Dec. 1 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Diaz replaced Steward after Cotto (37-3, 30 knockouts) had won two fights under the Hall of Famer — ninth- and 12th-round stoppage victories over Yuri Foreman and Ricardo Mayorga in June of 2010 and March of 2011, respectively.
Diaz debuted for Cotto’s 10th round knockout of Antonio Margarito in December of last year, which avenged an 11th-round knockout loss that was the first of his career in July of 2008. Cotto, who turns 32 next month, is coming off a unanimous-decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., who added Cotto’s WBA junior middleweight to his WBC welterweight title, in May.
“Pedro has been a great addition to my career and for our team. Everyone saw the results with my fights against Margarito and Mayweather,” said Cotto, whose loss to Mayweather ended a three-fight knockout and winning streak since falling by 12th-round stoppage to Manny Pacquiao in November of 2009.
“Now, we’ll see how I perform against Trout. All fights are different and every fighter is different, but I’m training hard like always and I’m ready to show that to everyone on Dec. 1.”
COTTO TARGETS YOUNG, STRONG, UNBEATEN TITLEHOLDER IN TROUT
A southpaw already brimming with confidence, Trout (25-0, 14 KOs) views himself to be the physically bigger man entering the fight, which is being overseen by Golden Boy Promotions.
Cotto, however, believes that his experiene will be the difference, particularly at The Garden, where his victory over Margarito raised his record in the venue to 7-0 with four knockouts.
Cotto is 9-0 with five stoppage wins overall in New York, and has decisioned former world titleholders Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey and Paulie Malignaggi, and knocked out Zab Judah, all at The Garden.
Rather than a rematch with Pacquiao, Cotto elected to challenge Trout, 27, who is coming off a unanimous decision over Delvin Rodriguez in June that followed a Showtime-televised sixth-round stoppage of Frank LoPorto last November.
“Trout has been a world champion [Trout holds the WBA “regular” belt] and he deserves his recognition. I know why I accepted this challenge,” said Cotto. “Trout is not the only undefeated fighter that I have faced. He is not the first champion either. With that in mind, I will climb into the ring to win.”
COTTO PREPS IN THE HIGH ALTITUDE OF THE BIG BEAR MOUNTAINS
For the first time in his career, Cotto spent the early portion of his preparation in the high elevation of the mountains of Big Bear, Calif.
“Since I started working with Miguel Cotto, we talked about the future, different training techniques and new preparations like training at high altitude. We trained for three weeks in Puerto Rico to prepare Miguel for Big Bear. Once we got there, training was excellent. The final result was exactly what we wanted, and we met our physical and mental goals for Miguel,” said Diaz.
“Miguel has been in some very tough and difficult fights, and we wanted to give his body some extra oxygen by training in Big Bear. Everyone knows the benefits of training at a high altitude and it paid off. We came back to Orlando to finish our preparations and everything has gone smoothly. He’s 100 percent ready and Miguel can feel the difference from this training camp to the others before. I know were going to win on Dec. 1.”
Cotto said he notices the results as well.
“Training in Big Bear was great, and we accomplished all the goals that Pedro had for us,” said Cotto, who has returned to Orlando, Fla., for the final few weeks of preparation. “Everything, so far, is going just as he planned. I’m feeling great.”
JAYSON VELEZ EYES SALVADOR ‘SAL II’ SANCHEZ
A native of Juncos, Puerto Rico, and a sharp puncher with either hand, Velez, 24, is coming off a sixth-round knockout over Leivi Brea in August. Velez returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time since stopping Jesus Bayron in June of 2009.
“I’m very emotional and happy about my upcoming fight. I’m fighting at a legendary venue, and to fight on the co-main event underneath Miguel is an honor,” said Velez, who is promoted by Cotto’s company.
“This is also my first time on Showtime, and an opportunity that very few people get. I’m fighting a tough Mexican fighter, and I’m expecting a war. Puerto Rico vs. Mexico. I promise everyone it will be a great show.”
Sanchez, 27, is the nephew of the late legendary featherweight champion Salvador Sanchez, and will where his uncle’s trunks, shoes and robe his relative’s final fight — a 15th-round knockout of Azumah Nelson at Madison Square Garden in July of 1982.
Sanchez has won 11 straight fights, including nine by knockout, and has stopped his past two opponents.
Photos by Gene Blevins, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Romeo Guzman, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Chris Cozzone, Fightwireimages
Photo by Tom Casino, Showtime
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com