As he promised he would, interim WBC welterweight beltholder Robert Guerrero tested the “soft chin” of Andre Berto, flooring the two-time welterweight titlewinner in the first and second rounds of Saturday night’s HBO-televised unanimous-decision victory at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 knockouts) earned his 15th straight win during a run that includes nine stoppages against Berto (28-2, 22 KOs), who was ending a 15-month ring absence.
Guerrero, 29, was in only his second fight as a welterweight, having debuted with July’s unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Selcuk Aydin (23-1, 17 KOs) for the WBC’s interim belt, a triumph that ended his own 15-month ring absence.
Yet Guerrero has his sights on a mega-bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr., the WBC’s official titleholder for whom Guerrero became the mandatory challenger by defeating Aydin.
Guerrero also has expressed interest in facing the winner of the fourth bout between eight-division champ Manny Pacquiao and four-division titlewinner Juan Manuel Marquez, who will clash, yet again, on HBO Pay Per View on Dec. 8 at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“Tonight was not just a win. It was a statement. It was definitely a star-making performance. It was a performance that it going to reach an audience outside of the hardcore boxing fans as well. So I really think it was the total package. He’s a 24/7 star and all of these other things,” said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer during the post-fight press conference for Guerrero-Berto.
“Because if he can walk through Berto like that, tell me a 147-pounder who can beat this guy. Nobody. So tonight was a very big night for the sport, and it was a very big night, of course, for Robert and his family. This kind of excitement, this kind of performance, that’s what we have been waiting for, and I can’t wait to get on the phone and see if I can’t get that Mayweather fight done.”
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.
Guerrero pulled out of a scheduled clash with Michael Katsidis in March of 2010 to be with his wife, Casey, during her recovery from a bone marrow transplant.
Last September, Guerrero had arthroscopic surgery which repaired a torn tendon in the rotator cuff of his shoulder. The injury forced him to cancel an August bout with junior welterweight Marcos Maidana.
Guerrero then faced Aydin following the unanimous-decision victory over Katsidis for the WBO and WBA’s interim lightweight belts in April of last year.
Berto, 29, was coming off last September’s fifth-round knockout that took the IBF welterweight belt from Jan Zaveck, then tested positive for a banned substance which forced the cancelation of a rematch against Victor Ortiz that was scheduled for June.
Berto was licensed for a year by the California State Athletic Commission in July after testing negative for “anabolic steroids and masking agents,” then contractually agreed with Guerrero to undergo mandatory drug testing by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
Although dethroned as WBC titleholder by Ortiz in April of last year during a fight that featured two knockdowns by each boxer, Berto rebounded with the stoppage of Zaveck for the IBF’s belt, later relinquishing the crown for the rematch with Ortiz.
During a Q&A taken on Sunday morning, Guerrero shared about the victory over Berto:
RingTV.com: How is your swollen right eye?
Robert Guerrero: It’s okay. I’m seeing out of it fine. It happened from a punch midway through the fight. I know that he hit me with a good shot, but it was as if I got poked in the eye.
I don’t know if it was a punch or a thumb or what. But, you know, it felt like my eye got poked. You know when you’re eye gets poked, and it’s hard to see out of? That’s the way that it felt.
RingTV.com: Was it your full intention to make it a rugged, in-your-face brawl from the get-go, or did that materialize over the course of the fight?
RG: Yeah, the strategy was to get in there and to rough him up. I saw that with Victor Ortiz, he couldn’t handle the inside fighting.
So, with my kind of style, the punch output that I use, and the pressure that I put out, I thought that it would give him a lot of trouble. So the game plan was to go in there and to feel him out and to go to work.
RingTV.com: Did your damaged right eye affect your strategy?
RG: Well, the plan was to get in on the inside and to bang him out to the body and then bring it up to the top. But after I got poked in the eye, I had to really, really focus on staying on the inside.
I wanted to smother his punches, because with that right eye, I was having a little bit of trouble with him and his speed. So when he tried to come in, I really had to smother him.
So, that’s what I did a lot was to really, really smother him on the inside, extra, and I had to back him up to the ropes. But I was surprised that, with the pressure that I was putting on him, that he was still going.
I was like, ‘Wow,’ he was in incredible shape. I think that if he had come into the fight in the shape that he was in for the Victor Ortiz or any of those other guys, I don’t think that he would have lasted.
RingTV.com: Do you think that the left cross that you hurt him with, and, eventually dropped him with, cause him to abandon that shoulder-roll style he initiated early on?
RG: Yeah, I was a bit surprised by the shoulder-roll. I don’t think anybody has really seen that before from Berto. But when he came out, he pretty much tried to come in with it and set the tone.
It was like he wanted to establish that he was the bigger, stronger guy, and he tried to deflect punches off his shoulder. So, you know, I was sticking him to the body.
But as soon as he tried to make his big move, I started firing that left hand. As soon as I fired that left hand and was able to land it solid where he was doing that shoulder-roll, he was rolling right into that left hand.
So, you know, that right there, as soon as it buzzed him and hurt him, you know he abandoned that strategy and went back to his comfort zone was at.
RingTV.com: Were you surprised he rose from both knockdowns?
RG: No. Not at all. I know that Berto is a warrior. I know that he’s been down before and gotten up. He’s the type of guy that, if he goes down, he’s going to get back up and fight his way back into the fight.
So I was expecting him to get up. I knew that he wasn’t hurt too badly when he went down. He was rocked and he was dazed, but he wasn’t hurt to where he could not get up.
So that’s why I went in there with caution and didn’t want to get caught. You know, like when Victor Ortiz dropped him, he came in wide-open and he got dropped himself, also, and I didn’t want that.
RingTV.com: Can you discuss some of the tactics you employed which may commonly fall under the heading of “gamesmanship,” which distracted Berto during the fight and drew complaints from him afterward?
RG: Yeah, you know, I think that that’s what sets true champions apart from the others. That’s what sets you apart, when you start transitioning into a true, solid professional and a true champion.
You pick up stuff like that, and you execute that stuff. Stuff like the gamesmanship where you’re going to develop and pick them up. You’re going to do different things in the ring where you’re going to have that upper hand.
It give you that edge. When you’ve got a crafty guy like me who knows how to use his head in the ring and his smarts, where it’s going to do damage and make the other guy worried about that.
That’s where you start executing different stuff because of they’re so worried about getting hit behind the head or getting hit in the hip or different little things here and there.
It’s just positioning and doing the right things. That’s what makes a great fighter is a guy that can change the game with a couple of little adjustments like that.
RingTV.com: Is truly using your boxing skills still an option in a fight, or are you enjoying being a bully in there?
RG: Oh, yeah, definitely, the boxing’s always going to be there. But so far, you know, it’s been about coming out, though, and making that statement in this 147-pound weight division.
With me, it’s always been that I’ve been underestimated as the smaller guy. I’m always the underdog and this and that, so I’ve felt like I’ve had to come into these last two fights and to set the tone.
I’ve wanted to show the world that I’m a force to be reckoned with in the welterweight division. But, for sure, my father, Ruben Guerrero, he sat me down after the fight.
With my manager, Bob Santos, and the guys, they were like, “Hey, you know what? It’s time that we get back on to the boxing and stuff.”
They said, “We have to do away from that machismo and stuff and banging away and banging guys out, because your career doesn’t last too long when you keep fighting like that.”
So, definitely, we’re just going to make the adjustments and train for every fighter according to what gives their style trouble. We go and we execute the game plan that is necessary.
With Aydin, though, I just got a little hot-headed and I wanted to go out there and bang away. I could have gone to the boxing with Aydin, but I would just put that aside and start slugging away with him once in a while.
RingTV.com: Having called out Floyd Mayweather after the fight, did any other names come up as well?
RG: Well, the only name that Richard was mentioning was Floyd Mayweather, so we’re going to push really hard for that fight, and he’s going to go to work and he’s going to push as hard as he can to make that fight.
You know, I’m excited about that, and I think that it’s well-deserved. I think that I’ve fought five Olympians in a row with Joel Casamayor, Vicente Escobedo, Michael Katsidis, Aydin, and then, Berto.
But for sure, I’m going to be looking at the fight in December between Paquiao and Marquez, because those are great opponents for me also. So there are some big fights out there.
But you know me, I’m looking for the best fights out there. If it ain’t Mayweather, I’m looking for the next, best possible fight, whether it’s Mayweather, Pacquiao, Marquez or any of the other guys.
I want the best fight that’s out there. You know what type of fighter I am. I’m a throwback fighter who wants to face the best to be considered the best.
You know what it is that I’ve taken advantage of the blessings that God has given me and not complained about the bad things. It’s just been about looking at the positives and taking advantage of the positives.
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photos by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]