Two-time welterweight titleholder Andre Berto will be ending a 15-month ring absence when he enters the squared circle for Saturday night’s HBO-televised clash of 29-year-olds with interim WBC titleholder Robert Guerrero.
Guerrero, meanwhile, will be after his 15th consecutive victory and his 10th knockout during that run, and has promised to test what he considers to be Berto’s “soft chin” at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
Berto (28-1, 22 knockouts) is not only attempting to shake off rust after having last been in the ring for a fifth-round knockout that took the IBF welterweight belt from Jan Zaveck in September of last year, but also the stigma of having 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 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, but relented after both fighters contractually agreed to mandatory drug testing by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
Berto was dethroned as WBC titleholder by Ortiz in April of last year during a fight that featured two knockdowns by each boxer, rebounded with the stoppage of Zaveck, and then relinquished that belt for a non-title return bout with Ortiz.
Guerrero represents the fifth southpaw Berto will have faced in seven fights, having also conquered left-handed rivals such as ex-beltholders Luis Collazo and Juan Urango by unanimous decision victories in January and May of 2009, as well as Carlos Quintana during an eighth-round stoppage in April of 2010 that ended an 11-month ring absence.
But Guerrero is coming off a unanimous decision over Turkish-born Selcuk Aydin in July, and believes that he will carry more power into his fight against Berto, despite being in his sixth division after having started out as a junior featherweight.
Guerrero’s victory over the previously unbeaten Aydin for the WBC’s interim belt was Guerrero’s 147-pound deubut, and it ended a 15-month ring absence.
WBA welterweight beltwinner Paulie Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KOs) knows first-hand what it means to rise a division and to overcome what are perceived to be significant disadvantages on the way to victory.
In April, Malignaggi’s ninth-round technical knockout dethroned the physically bigger, taller, harder-punching and previously unbeaten Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs) in front of Senchenko’s hometown fans at Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine.
“Hard fight to pick,” said Malignaggi, who defended his belt with last month’s split-decision over Pablo Cesar Cano. “Robert Guerrero was impressive in his first fight at welterweight over the summer, and Andre Berto has been a solid welterweight for years.”
Malignaggi is among 14 boxing insiders who took a shot at determining whom they believe will be victorious on Saturday night.
Andre Berto, TKO 11 Robert Guerrero: Pick against Robert Guerrero at your own risk. I risked it once and failed in his decision over Selcuk Aydin in his first bout at 147 pounds. I’m risking it all over again, mostly because Andre Berto is no Aydin.
Berto is faster and more powerful. It’s hard to know how Berto will react to the 15-month stretch between bouts. Berto also struggled against Victor Ortiz, who like Guerrero is a left-hander.
By the mid-rounds, however, the guess is that Berto will shake off the inactivity and figure out the southpaw puzzle for a late-round offensive, mixing power and speed in an assault that the gutsy Guerrero will not be able to counter.
Robert Guerrero W 12 Andre Berto: This is a difficult fight to pick because both fighters have their points of vulnerability.
Andre Berto’s 14-month layoff and questions about his recent performance level as well as Robert Guerrero’s leakier defense and ability to ward off a welterweight with higher skills and power than Selcuk Aydin.
I think the determining factor will be volume, because Guerrero has proved over time that he can maintain a higher work rate for a much longer time period than Berto, who has historically been in the 40s and 50s in terms of per-round volume.
Both men will get in their licks, but Guerrero’s activity will allow him to shade enough of the close rounds to win by decision.
Andre Berto clearly is a more complete fighter than Aydin, but he’ll be rusty coming off a 15-month layoff and has struggled at times in fights against southpaws such as Victor Ortiz and Luis Collazo.
It’ll be a close, highly-entertaining fight that’ll feature plenty of exciting exchanges, but Guerrero will put out a close decision.
But I think I am going with Berto, as his body of work at the weight has been much larger than Guerrero’s. Andre Berto by unanimous decision in what I expect to be a very good fight between two top guys.